A lot of kids spend their summer outside in the pool or on the couch in front of the television, but the Ison brothers, Zane and Tanner, spend their summer vacation feeding and training their show pigs in hopes for a blue ribbon at the Mercer County Fair and Horse Show.
What they thought was going to be a hobby grew into a passion and thriving business. The duo started when Zane was 11 and Tanner was just 8. After helping Mike Jones, who recently retired from Mercer County Senior High School as one of the ag teachers, he encouraged the pair to start showing. They started out with one pig each and now their operation has grown to 40 pigs with 12 making it into the show ring.
“Competition in the pig industry has grown a lot,” said Zane. “Each year it improves, so we have to improve. We have to move with the trends and work to make sure our quality is the best it can be.”
They start each morning early making sure all their animals are fed. Around noon they check on them and spray them down to keep them cool. Once the heat has broken in the evening, the boys exercise each of the show animals leading them individually around the yard while practicing their showmanship skills, conditioning their skin, checking their feet, cleaning their pens, putting them to bed and preparing to start over the next morning.
Preparation for show season starts in April and then they hit the county fair circuit in June, but the boys always look forward to showing in their hometown at the Mercer County Fair and Horse Show.
“Our county fair is on the top end,” said Zane. “Several show up and it’s really good competition. We are lucky to have nice banners donated as prizes and it’s always good to take home one of those banners.”
Along with the competition, showing in Mercer County gives family and friends the opportunity to see the boys in their element.
“To see family come out is great, especially so they can see how hard we work and how much we care about the pigs,” said Tanner. This time around he is working toward winning the showmanship award. He is taking advice from his older brother, who has already won the award, to work with his pig to make sure it has stamina in the ring and is as clean as possible for the best presentation.
The two have sacrificed a lot of fun time during their summer break to make sure their livestock make the best show possible. After the Mercer County Fair they will head to the Kentucky State Fair in August and finish up the season at the North American Livestock Show in November.
“It’s a whole summer full of work to show for 20 to 30 minutes in the ring,” said Zane. “It’s nice to see family and friends support us at the Mercer Fair, it shows they appreciate everything we’ve put into it.”
The Isons will show their market hogs Saturday, July 30 starting at 9 a.m. in the livestock arena.
Other livestock shows for the week include: sheep show on Wednesday, July 27 at 6 p.m. at the livestock arena, on Saturday July 30 in the arena is the goat show at 1 p.m., the rabbit show is noon at the floral hall and the open beef show will be held Monday, Aug. 1 at the livestock arena.