Each time Taylor Schuerman shows a pig, she keeps the quote “Dream big because dreams do happen” in mind.
Her father, John, has always told her to never give up on anything, so the quote means a lot to her.
On Aug. 10 during this year’s Indiana State Fair, one of her dreams came true. After earning reserve grand champion gilt at the 2014 fair, she took the top honor — grand champion gilt — this year.
There were 2,500 hogs entered into the fair. Schuerman’s 297-pound crossbred gilt, Little Mouse, won its class and division and was named champion crossbred to earn a spot in the 4-H Grand Drive at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
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That competition consists of the overall grand champions from swine, sheep, meat goat, heifers and market steer departments.
“When they pick you as the class winner or division or champion crossbred, (the judge) will explain to you about what they like about them, what they don’t, and he didn’t say anything bad about her out of all three divisions, so that was a pretty good thing,” said Schuerman, 16, a junior at Brownstown Central High School.
Still, she said she was nervous going into the final competition.
“We were Division II, and usually, the winner comes out of Division IV,” she said, noting the divisions are broken down by weight of the hogs, with Division IV being the heaviest.
“Last year, we were in Division IV, so I really didn’t know if he would use something from Division IV,” she said. “We had kind of high hopes.”
When she showed Little Mouse for the final time and they were announced as the winners, emotions ran high among the Schuerman family and the man who bred the pig, Chad Decker.
“Her dad started crying, and he’s not a man to do that. They were definitely tears of joy,” Decker said. “It was definitely quite the honor for me as well as for her to have won that. It’s a big deal for her. It’s a big deal for me. It’s a big deal for everybody.”
‘The nerves and the rush’
Taylor Schuerman said it took some time for the win to sink in.“It’s still really a huge accomplishment,” she said. “We were actually the first family to have the same breed for two years in a row. That’s how competitive our state fair is, so that was a huge thing when they told us that, too.”Decker said reaching the final show in the coliseum is a big deal.
“She was reserve grand there last year, and I think she was just as nervous, if not more nervous, this year going into the coliseum to show,” Decker said. “The nerves and the rush … I think that’s why a lot of people do it is because it is a rush.”
Decker said the Indiana State Fair is the most competitive in the country, especially in the hog world.
“A lot of it is really just the heritage of raising hogs in Indiana,” he said. “There’s a lot of farm families that raised hogs for years, and they kind of transitioned a little bit maybe from production type stuff. … Now, a lot of families still love the hogs, and they choose to show them as opposed to trying to raise them.”
Schuerman grew up on the family farm working with pigs and sheep. She is in her eighth year of 4-H, and she said she has become more serious about it within the past five years.
“We’ve done a lot more showing,” she said. “This year, we went every weekend to open shows. The jackpot shows, what we call open shows, are actually really fun getting to know new people, and you’re showing against anybody in 4-H, out of 4-H, so it’s competitive.”
‘Really a team effort’
Along the way, Decker became friends with the Schuerman family and sold gilts to them. He breeds pigs at his farm in southern Bartholomew County and sells them all over the country.“We’re fortunate enough that the Schuermans buy some hogs from us, and we love that because they are a great show family,” Decker said. “That helps us tremendously having your good pigs go to homes that take care of them and do a really good job with them, and take them out and show them. It’s really beneficial to me. It’s kind of really a team effort.”The Schuermans bought Little Mouse’s mother two years ago, and Taylor did well showing her. This year was the first opportunity for her to show one of that sow’s daughters.
“She knew that gilt was really good, and she wanted daughters out of it to show, and it turns out they were right,” Decker said.
Preparing the animal for shows was easy, Schuerman said.
“She doesn’t fight. She just minds really well,” she said. “… She always held her head up from when she was a baby until now. Out of all the pigs, that was main thing that we try to work on is keeping their head up because it always looks better.”
During the Jackson County Fair, Schuerman won grand champion gilt for the third time in four years. She said that was a nice accomplishment considering it’s one of the most competitive county fairs around. She also won grand champion market lamb for the second time.
She then went to the state fair for the fifth time.
“We’ve really hit it hard up there,” she said. “After I had won the county fair once for the gilt and the barrows, I think I wanted to compete at a higher level and see really where I stood and how much harder I would have to work to get to this spot.”
‘More eyes on her’
When she worked her way up to the show in the coliseum last year, it inspired her to work even harder.“Getting there is the most awesome feeling ever,” she said. “You want to be there, so it makes you want to work like 10 times harder.”At this year’s state fair, showmanship was Aug. 7, and showing was conducted the next two days.
“Getting out of my class and getting out of my division was a huge thing, so after Saturday (Aug. 8), I think the nerves had calmed,” Schuerman said. “But then Sunday night going into Monday, they had really picked up again.”
Since Schuerman won her class and finished as reserve grand champion last year, Decker said, there was some pressure on her this year to take the overall title.
Now that she has that title, there may be a little more pressure next year.
“A lot of people in the pig world are starting to recognize her for something, and there will be more eyes on her next year,” Decker said. “Whether that really translates into pressure on her end or the family’s end, it’s hard to say. But I think she’ll be fine.”
Schuerman said Little Mouse will go back to Decker’s farm, where he’ll breed her for baby pigs for next year. She said it would be nice to work with one of those pigs next year.
“I like showing pigs because it teaches you responsibility, respect, builds character,” she said. “I like it because you can meet new friends, meet new people, and you know them for a lifetime. It just teaches you a lot of aspects of life.”
The Indiana State Fair recognized the top competitors at the 4-H Grand Drive on Aug. 10 in the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
Exhibitors named grand champion with their animals will be honored at 7 p.m. Sunday during the Indiana State Fair Celebration of Champions in the coliseum.
Grand champion gilt: Taylor Schuerman, Jackson County
Grand champion supreme heifer: Becca Chamberlain, Randolph County
Grand champion market lamb: Taylor Busenburg, Fulton County
Grand champion meat goat: Sammi Brewsaugh, Decatur County
Grand champion barrow: Bradley Newhouse, Grant County
Grand champion market steer: Bryceston Hoover, LaPorte County