For brothers James and Henry Pearse, Canterbury Cup and Show week is most definitely Pig Week. As the founding members of the Boar Breeders Association (BBA) they have a very busy schedule for the week, it’s also a full-on time for Augustus and Hammstein, their precious boars who are entered in the show and competing for the coveted Rammstein Memorial Trophy given to the boar judged best commercial boar across all the weight classes. The brothers and friend Sam Brown are known as the Pleasant Point Mafia and are just one of a host of syndicates entered at the Canterbury A&P Show, united in their goal of winning best in show for their prized pigs.
Pig showing has seen a big revival at the Show in recent years and while he is very modest about it, self-confessed pig fan James is at least partly responsible for starting off this revolution. A born and bred Pleasant Point local, James’s family are deer farmers with no history of pig showing. After graduating from Lincoln with a degree in Environmental Management he spent some time in Canada working with a hunting adventure company. James’s boss was a fellow pig enthusiast and spent a lot of time talking about the pigs he had entered in local county fairs in the USA and James’s interest was sparked and when he returned back to farming in NZ he decided to give it a go.
In 2014 James and Henry entered their very first pig – Rammstein – in the Canterbury A&P Show. They purchased him off the pig competition judge, “we figured that was a pretty good place to start looking for a good pig” James explains. Rammstein took away top honours that year but James was surprised that there was only one other pig entry at the show, and it had been like that for a few years. Apparently commercial pig farmers don’t often show pigs at events due to a high risk of exposure to disease and infections to their animals, hence the low turnout of pigs. “It’s different for people like us in the syndicates as we just have one or two pigs so there’s no risk to us.”
2015 saw James compete with one of Rammstein’s offspring (Frankenstein) while a friend of James’s competed with Frankenstein’s brother. Everyone enjoyed the friendly rivalry and the Boar Breeders Association was conceived. Word of mouth spread and James’s friends and associates organised themselves into syndicates, found themselves a quality pig with the aim of entering the show and maybe winning a prize or two. “All of our friends tend to go to the show anyway and this is a great way to hang out together and have a bit of banter.” There’s no official membership and everything is done via their Facebook page, as James modestly puts it “we just like talking pigs and the BBA helps promote the showing side of it and helps people out on the path to showing their pigs.” Their Facebook page puts a more down to earth spin on it “a bunch of great people who love talking hogs and drinking rum”!
The BBA has certainly put pigs back on the map at the show, showing numbers have surged in the last two years, last year there were 44 entries and this year there are 53 potential pig powerhouses. There are even syndicates travelling down from the north island to compete with their pigs. Last year pigs were given their own showing arena for the first time and 2018 brings the first celebrity results announcer; The Topp Twins were on hand to give out the honours to the prize-winning pigs and owners. As a nod to the success of pig showing and its popularity, this year the Show also has a bar named in honour of the BBA – The Boar Boar Bar. In addition, the Show is organising a lunch for all the pig entrants, be they BBA members or traditional pig breeders. “We always try to be respectful of the established breeders who may not be BBA members and this lunch is a great opportunity to just talk pigs.”
Another standout event in the BBA calendar has also returned this year, the BBA Ball. This was the third year of the Ball and again it has modest roots, starting out as just a gathering for James and his friends. However just like the BBA concept, it has taken on a life of its own and this year over 300 people attended and next year they may well need a bigger venue. James is surprised himself at the popularity of the BBA but he believes people enjoy the competition and the friendly banter around showing. For spectators it is also pretty amusing with lots of witty pig names; Hugh Grunt, Donald Rump, Justin Beboar and Rocky Boarboa are all on show this year. The syndicates also enjoy putting some fun into showing off their pigs – dressing up in costumes or snappy suits with quirky names like The Streaky Strokers or The Pork Pullers. It’s definitely a new twist on an aspect of A&P showing that is normally more traditional and conservative.
It’s not all fun and games for the pigs or the syndicates however, and there is a bit of work in getting the pig to the show and winning top prize. The Pleasant Point Mafia have been working hard to get both Augustus and Hammstein in top condition for the competition. Augustus weighs in at an impressive 208 kilos and is a son of Rammstein, a Hampshire/Large White cross and Hammstein is a pure Large White. Diet is obviously key to the optimum size and the pigs also have to have a social disposition to be able to show. Last year due to popular demand a commercial class was started with the aim of eliminating any breed preference in judging. This class is purely focused on finding the best eating pig based on size and conformation and the meat in all the right places. Methven based butchery and Ruralco Card Supplier Drycreekmeats are sponsoring the class this year, offering $500 to the winning boar, so the stakes are definitely high and there are 37 boars competing to take the prize money as well as the Rammstein Memorial Trophy. Rammstein himself is actually still alive and a very successful breeding boar in Blenheim, he now weighs in at a whopping 350 kgs. This year he is returning back to James’s farm to potentially sire the next prize-winning pig.
In terms of future plans, it can be very different outcomes for the owners versus the pigs. According to James, roughly half of this year’s competitors may well end up on the BBQ during the festive season before the search starts again next year for the next competitor. Due to the BBA success at Canterbury A&P Show, other A&P Shows are now beginning to introduce pig classes which is obviously a testament to the great work of the BBA and the syndicates. “Sure, I might have been the one to start it but it’s all the great people who have come after me and jumped onboard is what has kept the momentum going, we’ve got a good bunch of members and I hope it continues” says James.