Pictured, left to right, Megan Van Haur, Northwest FCS Insurance Specialist; Kari Lewis, Glacier County Extension Agent and Grant Applicant; Katelyn Suta, Project Leader; Colleen Gustafson, Northwest FCS Customer-Member and Grant Applicant; Maggie Miller, Northwest FCS Credit Officer; and Lethea Kuka, Northwest FCS Insurance Specialist. 

It was a swine jackpot show in Great Falls over a year ago that sparked the idea for Katelyn Suta’s 4-H Teen Leadership project. Katelyn noticed that due to their show ring design and panels, the swine show went very smoothly and there were relatively few hogs pushing at the exit gate trying to return to their home pens. After helping set up and tear down the show ring at the Marias Fair last year which included wiring wire mesh hog panels on the inside of cattle panels to make the ring secure, Katelyn determined a redesigned show ring could help alleviate numerous challenges. She thought the redesign would increase the show efficiency and reduce the need for volunteers’ time setting up and tearing down at the fair, along with increasing the safety and competitiveness of exhibitors. 

In October 2021, Katelyn approached the Marias Fair 4-H Livestock Committee with the idea to purchase multi-species panels and swine holding pens for the fair show ring. This would reduce set-up and teardown needs throughout the fair as one ring could be used for all livestock shows. In addition, it would make the shows and the sale run smoother. The committee encouraged her to formulate plans and research costs for their January meeting. “I wasn’t sure how it would go, but I figured let’s ask the committee and go from there,” the sixteen-year-old Glacier County 4-Her said.

With the committee’s encouragement for her idea, Katelyn developed plans for the redesigned show ring with the guidance of fair board member, Andy Van Haur. In January, Katelyn returned to the livestock committee meeting with designs and price quotes. The committee agreed to purchase the swine holding pens but encouraged her to fundraise for the new multi-species show ring panels. 

The swine holding pens will allow for pigs to be individually penned next to the ring while they wait their turn to enter the show or sale. Katelyn believes this will be less stress on the animals and exhibitors, versus 8 or 10 4-Hers and pigs all waiting in an alley together. In addition, it will allow the judge to see each animal enter the ring one at a time, providing the judge a better opportunity to evaluate the pigs. 

From January through May, Katelyn focused on fundraising by meeting with 4-H clubs and councils to explain the project and applying for grants. “The Montana 4-H Foundation People Partner grant required plans, information on community partners, and what youth would be involved,” Katelyn noted. 

“The Northwest Farm Credit Services grant required describing the project, explaining the benefit to the local community and a letter of support from a local customer, which Colleen Gustafson did,” Katelyn shared. Both grant applications were fully funded, with $500 coming from the Montana 4-H Foundation and $5,000 from Northwest Farm Credit Services. 

“I was expecting the project to take two years, so it was a huge surprise that I was able to get it funded in one year,” Katelyn noted. Between the two grants and the generosity of 13 4-H Councils, clubs, and individuals $10,745 was donated towards the panels. 

The project has not been without its challenges, however. The panel prices increased $40/panel from when Katelyn first secured quotes, increasing the project cost and fundraising needs. Katelyn noted that finding and applying for grants was a challenge as well. Lastly, supply chain issues have caused disappointment with the supplier only being able to secure 11 of the needed 25 panels by this year’s Marias Fair.

Through this teen leadership project, Katelyn said she has learned how to obtain project quotes, complete grant applications, and has honed her public speaking skills. “I was a little nervous presenting at the first livestock committee meeting, I wasn’t sure what to expect,” she said. “But it got easier after the first meeting,” she noted. Since then, she has given project updates at each of their following three meetings this year.

Katelyn will be displaying her Teen Leadership project at the Marias Fair July 20 – 24 in Shelby, in addition to participating in the market swine and welding divisions. Katelyn has been feeding and training her Hampshire cross hog since March in preparation for the fair. “It’s a lot of washing, walking, pushing the feed or dieting them, and doing hide care such as clipping and brushing,” Katelyn explained. She noted that pigs have a fun personality and that her passion for the project comes from how enjoyable they are to work with. 

Last year Katelyn was the Grand Champion swine showman and exhibited the Reserve Champion market swine as well. While she’s had some challenges with this year’s pig gaining weight, she has still set the goals of receiving a purple ribbon in her market class and reaching the grand drive for showmanship. 

Katelyn would like to thank the Livestock Committee for purchasing the swine on deck pens ($7,995) and the following donors for contributing to panels ($10,745): Andy & Megan Van Haur, Arnie & Linda Johnson, Clever Clovers 4-H Club, Dylan Johnston, Glacier County 4-H Council, Jess & Stef Leach, Johnson Cattle - Ralph & Raenell Johnson, Lance & Heather Stokes, Liberty County 4-H Council, Longview 4-H Club, Montana 4-H Foundation, Northwest Farm Credit Services, Robert & Sahm Winkowitsch, Ryan & LeAnne Winkowitsch, and Walter & Charlotte Barry. 

The Marias Fair swine show will be Thursday, July 20, 2022, beginning at 7:30 a.m. in the Seewald Barn. The 4-H livestock sale will kick off Saturday, July 23 with a 1 p.m. Pre-Sale social and the auction at 3 p.m. in the Seewald Barn. Please see the related story for more livestock sale details.

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