Spots are a family deal.
It’s been that way for three generations, and enthusiasm of the breeders indicates the tradition will continue much longer.
That’s the Spot hog business for Larry and Sheri Wehner and their son, Joe, at Wehner Farms near Rossville.
“My grandpa, Clyde Miller, raised Spot hogs. I showed Spots in 4-H, and it’s just continued with our sons, Hunter and Joe, showing the home raised Spots, too,” Larry Wehner said.
“I’ve always really enjoyed the hog business, and have a prejudice for Spots,” Wehner added. “There aren’t that many purebred Spot operations around, but Joe seems to have the bug for them like I do and my grandpa did.
While, there were a few years when Wehner was out of hogs, he emphasized, “I always knew I’d get some more. After I got my job with the power company (now Westar) in 1992, we got back in with my granddad, and then went on our own when we got this place 14 years ago.”
Foundation herd came from top breeders in the Midwest. “We have 10 sows now. There are six Spots, three crossbreds and one Chester White. Joe is starting a Chester herd,” Wehner noted.
Crossbreds and Chesters are mated artificially to top boars of their respective breeds.
“We use our own Spot boars naturally on the purebred Spot sows. It means more to us than mating to outside boars. We’ve had really good success that way,” related Wehner, noting that their older breeding Spot boar was produced right on the farm.
Seed stock produced by Wehner Farms has been in demand by other hog breeders, however, Wehner explained, “This is primarily a show pig operation today. We sell a few boars and gilts for breeding, but there just aren’t that many swine operations left anymore.”
This spring will be the eighth year Wehner Farms has joined with C&L Show Pigs to have a prospect sale at Holton.
“This is Joe’s last year in 4-H, so he’ll get the first pick of two barrows and two gilts, and the rest of the top half of the spring litters will sell March 30, at Holton,” Wehner commented.
“We’re also consigning four pigs to the prospect sale at Allen County Community College in Iola, where Joe is attending on a livestock judging scholarship, and lives on the college farm. That sale is a fundraiser for the judging team,” Wehner said.
Contrasting to some purebred breeds, the Spots are very prolific and maternal. “These Spots are heavy ‘milkers’ and have excellent temperaments. Sometimes, we’ll take pigs off the crossbred sows and put them on the Spots, because they have so much milk,” Wehner related.
Producing two litters per sow annually, Wehner said, “We have sold some summer show pigs into Oklahoma and Texas, but most of them go to commercial feeders. We feed some hogs, too, and have good demand to sell the processed pork.”
Wehner Farms have collected numerous championships at Kansas county fairs. “One of the ‘funnest’ times was when I got a call from a girl in Morris County last summer. I’m superintendent of the Shawnee County Fair, and was busy getting classes into the ring. She was so excited that the Spot she bought from us was just named grand champion, and then I was excited, too,” Wehner smiled.
Supreme Breeder in the Spot show at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson on several occasions, Wehner calculated, “We’ve shown there for 21 years. There aren’t nearly as many hogs as there used to be, but it’s a great time getting together with all of the other breeders.”
Also regular exhibitors at the national Summer Type Conference and Fall Classic events, Wehner Farms have sold their Spots for top prices on numerous occasions with buyers from throughout the country.
Noting changes in hog fads, Wehner evaluated, “I like the type we’re moving to now. The super lean, super muscled pigs aren’t as functional as these pigs with more frame and more cover. They are easier to feed and produce a more palatable end product for the consumer.”
Acknowledging that expensive feed additives are sometimes used in producing successful show winners, Wehner said, “I’ve used them, but most of the time a corn, soybean and mineral ration will cost a lot less, and pigs will grow just as good.”
Involved in leadership of show pig circuits, Wehner admitted, “Showing pigs makes people crazy, and I’m one of them. It does cost a lot to get pigs, fit them and haul around to all of these shows. But, to put it in perspective, just think what some families spend going to all their softball tournaments, and the like.
“It’s whatever you prefer, and I’ve always liked the Spot business. Joe is about as crazy as I am, too. He’s running for a position on the board of Team Purebred (national youth swine group) and plans to continue in the Spot business after college,” Wehner concluded.