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Bringin home the bacon
Twins trying to sell 4-H pigs to raise funds for college education
Calla 4-H member Michaela Pauley is pictured bottle-feeding two-week-old Abby, one of six pigs they raised for the 2013 San Joaquin County Fair. Only one of the pigs was sold at auction at the fair. Michaela and her sister are now trying to sell the remaining five animals, with the proceeds to go to their college fund. - photo by Photo Contributed

LATHROP – Six adorable pigs went to market. One big pig made the grade and was picked up at auction. The other pigs failed to hit the scale mark and screamed “whee, whee, whee” all the way home.

The market in this slight re-telling of the well-known nursery rhyme is the recently concluded San Joaquin County Fair. The animals in this case are the Calla 4-H swine projects of Lathrop sisters Michaela and Melinda Pauley. The teen-age twins have literally grown up with Calla 4-H, the oldest 4-H club in California. And every year for the last nine years, they have raised swine as market animals for the club which they brought to the fair.

For eight straight years, the 19-year-olds limited themselves to two pigs each year which they always sold at auction at the fair. Whatever money they generated from all that effort went into their college fund.

This year, they raised six market pigs for the livestock exhibit. As it turns out, five of the six did not make weight and were brought back home.

“(The) minimum weight for market pigs at the fair is 215 pounds. They came in about 5 to 10 pounds short. They now weigh approximately 230 pounds (each),” explained Theresa Pauley, the girls’ mother.

Since the sisters were unable to sell the five animals in the auction at the county fair, they are now doing the marketing themselves with the help of their family via flyers and even a posting on ebay. They are asking $400 for each animal, which is “less than $2 per pound,” Theresa said.

Two of the pigs are barrows, and two are gilts. A barrow is a castrated male pig. A gilt is a female pig that has never been pregnant.

“They are all Hampshire cross and Duroc cross and were born the last week of December. To raise an average pig, this year’s cost was approximately $525 which includes food, worming meds, and the animal itself,” a hopeful Theresa explained.

Anybody interested in purchasing any or all of the pigs may call (209) 814-3781 or visit

‘What is not to love about 4-H?’

The sisters who grew up in Lathrop have been “interested in all types of animals for their entire 19 years,” their proud mother said.

In addition to the two pigs that they raised each year for the fair, they have had cats, fish, hamsters, finch, a cockatiel, a goat – which was trained like a dog – and a horse.

“4-H has led the girls in the direction of their future careers,” Theresa said, talking about the importance the club has played in the life of her daughters.

“What is not to love about 4-H? It is not just a club; it is a family. There are not many organizations like 4-H anymore,” she added, singing the praises of an organization that has shaped the lives of thousands of youths in nearly a century.

“4-H is run completely by volunteers – parents, grandparents, extended family members, and just people from the community who want to help. They have projects such as swine, steer, sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens, as well as arts and crafts, sewing, archery, shooting sports, gardening. If a member likes a project that we are not offering, it is as simple as finding a volunteer to lead the project and pass the background and fingerprint-check and attend a short training session. Each project has at least one junior or teen leader as well to be mentored and eventually be able to run project meetings. We are taught to be great leaders. You get to meet a whole bunch of really nice people, and youth members often return as adult leaders. There are some three-generation families in Calla 4-H, grandparents and parents as leaders and youth member.”

The Pauley girls have participated in several 4-H projects, but swine is their favorite.

“Swine are considered one of the top 5 most intelligent animals in the world, right up there with elephants and dolphins,” Theresa pointed out.

One Calla 4-H member, in fact, even taught his pig to “sit for the reward of a marshmallow,” she said.

Raising swine, though, is not that easy as Theresa explained.  To begin with, a member has to purchase “a quality hog” which she then raises for at least three months during which she also has to prepare the animal to participate in the Market and Showmanship event at the county fair.

Her daughters put in a lot of sweat equity into the project. Every day during the fair, the girls went they once and sometimes twice a day to clean the pen, making sure it’s “clean of all feces,” and to make sure the animals have plenty of fresh water and food. During those visits, they also take time to work with the animals, training them showmanship pointers that will help them win awards.

Michaela and Melinda did something different this year in their swine project. First of all, they raised three times the number they usually take to the fair. They also brought the pigs home when they were just two weeks old, so the sisters had to bottle-feed the animals for several weeks before switching them to regular pig food, and moving to the farm under heat lamps. Once the pigs were large enough and the temperatures warmed up, the lamps were removed and the plastic sheet on the outside was removed and replaced with shade cloth.

By the time the fair arrived, the animals were consuming 400 pounds of food a week – that’s $120 a week just to feed them. They also spent about $30 to worm the pigs twice during this time to make sure the buyer will be getting a healthy animal, Theresa explained.

“Pigs also get sunburned easily. They must be kept shaded and cool at all time. They do not have a cooling system like humans. They only sweat on the tip of their snout and the bottoms of their feet. We even had to keep fans on them at the fair. At home, a nice mud puddle usually does the trick,” she added as she enumerated all the work that went into the raising and showing of the animals.

Melinda, who goes by the moniker Mindy, is in the process of going to school to become a registered veterinary technician. Sister Michaela is currently pursuing a career teaching young children. Both attended Lathrop Elementary School and graduated from Lathrop High. In fact, they were members of the first freshman class of the newly opened – and Lathrop’s first ever – high school west of Interstate 5.

At Lathrop Elementary, the Pauley twins were active in the school choir and performed in many concerts. They were also members of their 8th-grade graduation committee that planned activities and helped raise money for the activities.

At Lathrop High, the sisters had the distinction of becoming the only two out of six students that were in choir for the eight terms. Besides 4-H, they belonged to FFA. They were also active in sports. They played varsity tennis for three years, and Michaela played freshman basketball. Mindy was advertising director for the high school yearbook for two years, and Michaela did the same thing for a year.

The two sisters also took part in four Relay for Life events – three in Lathrop and one in Manteca.