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Swan song: Senior preps for final SEYF Show

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Brown to present swine, heifer

Story by Becca Frechette -- Riverland News

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Editor's Note: The Southeastern Youth Fair will be from Feb. 23 to March 2. During the next few weeks, the Riverland News will feature youths participating in the event, which will be at the Marion County Livestock Pavilion at 2232 NE Jacksonville
Road in Ocala.

Whether it’s showing up to early morning meetings or spending your valuable school days off working with your show animal, this will be the last time it happens for senior Madison Brown.
This is Brown’s seventh year in Dunnellon’s FFA program and her fifth year participating in the Southeastern Youth Fair. Brown began showing pigs at the fair as an eighth-grade student in Dunnellon Middle School’s FFA chapter.
“My first time at fair I said, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to do this next year,’” Brown said. “It’s been fun ever since.”
Brown will show her pig, Otis, as well as the chapter heifer, Loretta.
“I wanted to try something new by showing Loretta, because it’s my last year,” Brown explained.
As for Otis, he tugs on her heart a little more than her other pigs, not just because he will be her last one, but also because of his dedication to her. “I’ve never had a pig that acts like a dog and follows me around,” Brown said.
FFA is important because it teaches you life skills, she explained.
“It’s different than just getting a puppy,” Brown said.
Brown said “she really did have no clue how to raise a pig” the first time she attempted it.
“I thought it was just like dog food or something,” she explained. “But then you have to pick up poop and make sure it has shavings on cold nights and make sure it is getting exercise.”
Brown does not plan to pursue farming in the future. She is currently leaning toward cosmetology school after she graduates from Dunnellon High in June.
“You have to work with your animal, especially a heifer, or they won’t want to move and be bothered,” she explained. “It’s different than a pig because you can’t just feed it and leave. You have to work with this animal and know what you’re doing.”
Brown still feels like raising an animal for the fair was a valuable experience. “I’ve learned …  how to not just take care of myself but something else and learning how to do this in middle school was a huge step,” said Brown. “It’s a very sad experience also seeing it grow and knowing it’s going to be someone’s dinner. It’s sad, but it’s life — the farm life.”
The pigs cost between $175 and $300 and the students get them around the first of November. In addition to the initial cost of the animal, there’s the food and other necessities.
“It’s kind of expensive too, but you get your money back with a good buyer,” Brown said, adding “that’s why you should get your buyer letters out” referring to letters the students send each year to invite people to bid on their animals at
auction.
“I remember one year I was freaking out cause I thought my piggy wasn’t going to make weight at weigh-in,” Brown recalled. “I had so many nerves and that feeling when they say, ‘you’re good, it’s 225’ or whatever, it’s a huge weight lifted off your shoulders cause then you’re not looking for someone to buy your pig and all that stress and money loss.”