Recently we were told that the use of Paylean would eventually be banned . Paylean, also known as Ractopamine, has been used by commercial farmers for some time; it also made its way into the 4-H world.
My family started showing hogs at the county fair 20 years ago. The fair was a highlight of our summer. We did well sometimes and other times we had our hats handed to us — that is life. Something changed a few years later; we started seeing our projects start to seemingly be less competitive.
One year after another low performance, I asked a hog farmer’s wife to take a look at that hog and tell me what was wrong with her. She simply told me, “Harold you can’t compete up here unless you use Paylean.” I went home and started doing some reading and was shocked to find out what was being used in these animals.
I talked it over with my daughter and we decided we could not put this drug into our projects. We took our lumps but in her last two years she placed second and first; she cried when she took that first-place ribbon. We knew that the best way to win was to do what was best for the animal and the market.
My daughter and I would watch as the market hogs would come in on Tuesday night of the fair and we could see the hogs that had been exposed to this drug — they would limp in barely able to move at the knee joints. We would wonder why people would do this for a plastic ribbon. What lesson does this teach our kids? 4H is supposed to be for the kids’ and animals benefit, not that of over-competitive parents who seem to have little concern for the animal.
Our senior fair board made a decision to not ban its use for this year’s fair. I know they believe there is probably no way to enforce the ban; however, I believe they made a mistake. We can do better than this. It is time to get back to the basics of 4-H, back to the real market, a market that we can be proud of and use without fear.
Harold S. Roark