Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude and want determine how well you do.” Those words, adorning a motivational sign in the Butterfield family’s barn near Oxford, Ohio, have been undeniably effective.
Matt Butterfield’s 280-pound market barrow, named “Repeat,” was grand champion at the 2018 Ohio State Fair. The pig was so named because Butterfield’s previous pig, “Hollywood,” was grand champion at the 2017 fair. It was only the second time that someone had won back-to-back Ohio State Fair grand championships with pigs.
Showing at the Butler County and Ohio State fairs is a family affair for the Butterfields, who are members of Butler Rural Electric Cooperative. Nicole and Mark Butterfield, their son, Matt, and daughter, Lauren, are all involved in the kids’ 4-H projects.
In 2017, after Matt won the first championship, the family joked that maybe he would win a second. His grandmother, Patricia Butterfield, suggested naming one of the pigs Repeat, just in case. They pinned the name on the one for which they had the highest hopes and were rewarded for their optimism with win number two. The same conversation came up again this year, and Grandma Butterfield said, “We don’t want a ‘Three-Peat.’ But how about ‘Why Not?’” The name stuck.
Matt won’t make too much of the name before the competition because he doesn’t want to be overconfident. He likes winning, but even more, he likes the hard work and the fun of preparing for the fair and the fact that the whole family is involved. But will he try for another win?
“Anybody would want to,” he says. “We have fun with it. It’s a family thing. It teaches you a lot, and your family is together, so that’s what matters most to me about it.”
Mark and Matt bought Hollywood and Repeat from Moyer Show Pigs. Though the pigs had different sires, they had several similarities. This year, the Butterfields bought seven pigs from Moyer, a few more than usual. Matt graduated from Talawanda High School last spring, so this is his last year as a part of 4-H. Lauren is also going to show pigs and sheep this year.
The Butterfields look for structure when they select their pigs. “There’s one that looks nice to us,” Matt says. “I walk all of them a couple of times, and he looks the best. He walks square; he’s got a good structure on his body; he has a lot of muscle, and when he puts his head up, it emphasizes how his body looks. He looks close to what the past two (Hollywood and Repeat) were.”
Besides hard work and fun, doing well at the fair involves a lot of planning. Matt and Lauren’s dad, Mark, is the expert on feed, Matt says. Mark helps his kids decide what their animal’s final target weight should be. They want the animal to grow at a certain rate of gain, Mark says, because growing too fast causes structural issues. The Butterfields adjust the protein, fat, and lysine levels in the feed, relative to how the barrow is developing.
“At the beginning, when we buy them in March, we weigh them every week. We’re adjusting the feed every three weeks maybe,” Mark says. “Once we get close to the fair, we’re adjusting the feed maybe every two to three days. We chart them and graph their average daily gain. Starting in late June, we weigh them every day. We monitor their growth rate, their rate of gain, and compare that to what we’re targeting.”
Matt has an added challenge this year, beyond the target weight. Lauren, a couple of years younger than him, has won five grand championships at the Butler County Fair, most for showing sheep. This year she’ll be showing barrows at the Ohio State Fair — competing against Matt.
Whatever the outcome, Matt is already moving into his next phase. He’ll attend the University of Northern Ohio, studying diesel technology and agribusiness, in the fall. He’s farming 361 acres of his own this year with a goal of turning that into 2,000 acres someday. He’s got the motivation to do it.