RIVERDALE — Unleashed, the normally laid-back centerpiece of a growing business at Loeffelholz Farms north of Riverdale, was in an uncooperative mood on a beautiful June morning.
Not obstinate, but not wanting to stand in a certain way to have his photograph taken.
The approximately 700-pound, 4 ½ -year-old crossbred boar — a whole bunch of stuff — sires all the pigs the family sells to 4-H’ers planning to show swine at county and state fairs.
During the past 10 years, one Loeffelholz-produced pig was grand champion at the Nebraska State Fair and others have earned grand and reserve grand championships at county fairs, Ron Loeffelholz said.
“We’ve had a bunch of reserves here (in Buffalo County),” said his son, Dusty, who manages the show pig business.
“We haven’t cracked the grand,” Ron added.
Ron, who has served on the Buffalo County Agricultural Association (fair board) for more than 10 years and been a 4-H leader, Buffalo County 4-H Council president and Extension Board member in the past, said Dusty focuses on the swine while he oversees production of corn, soybeans and alfalfa on the place where Ron’s grandparents farmed and his dad was born.
Ron and Dusty also have a cattle production business with approximately 90 cow-calf pairs.
Sign up for Kearney Hub daily news updates
Want to read more local content like this? Subscribe to the Kearney Hub's daily headlines newsletter.
While Ron grew up as a member of the Pleasant Hill 4-H Club and continued to volunteer at the Buffalo County Fair before he had a family, his children — Jason, Dusty, Hannah Tripe and Logan — were members of the Hope Hill 4-H Club.
Dusty and Logan started raising their own show pigs while still in 4-H. They showed a couple of reserve champions at the Buffalo County Fair during the years, Dusty said, “and one year we had five division champions.”
Now, he produces potential swine show champions for other young 4-H’ers.
Unleashed was purchased from Morgan Genetics in Iowa.
When asked what traits Unleashed brings to the show pig business, Dusty said: “Muscle for one. He’s got tons of muscle. Big boned … and good growth.”
Pigs from 25 sows are born in early January, with most sold at a Loeffelholz Farms live sale at the Buffalo County Fairgrounds in Kearney the last weekend in March. There are 150 or more Loeffelholz pigs being shown this summer by 4-H’ers at county fairs and the Nebraska State Fair in September.
“Usually they’re separate,” Dusty said about the pigs exhibitors have for county fairs and those that will be shown at later, larger competitions. “You can show three at the county fair and they get some others to show at the state fair.”
There also are private treaty sales to buyers from Colorado, Wyoming and other parts of Nebraska.
Most sows are crossbreds, but Ron said they have a couple of Berkshire purebreds because the state fair has purebred classes for swine.
A newer part of the show pig business involves a second summer breeding.
Pigs born in August are sold to buyers in Texas and Oklahoma. “They kind of show all year-round there,” Dusty explained, because of the warmer weather.
He sold 30 pigs in that region last year and hopes to sell 50 this year.
He has bred only half of his sows for that market so far. “I hope to breed them all for down there, too, and send 100,” Dusty said about his goal to build sales in the southern Great Plains show pig market.
Almost all of his replacement gilts come from his herd. All breeding is done using artificial insemination.
Service also is part of the show pig business.
“The thing about Dusty is he follows the kids (who buy his pigs) and goes to their events,” said his mother, Kathy. “He helps some get started.”
The Loeffelholz business includes selling four or five show calves a year. “We kind of do the calf thing for fun,” Ron said.
His love of 4-H has kept him involved for decades beyond his competitive years. It was the main reason he decided to run for a seat on the fair board, which oversees management of facilities for all the different events year-round at the Buffalo County Fairgrounds.
When asked if he has any specialties as a board member, Ron replied, “I guess the 4-H or the Extension side are my main interest, because we (his family) were in it so long and so dedicated.”
He transitioned directly from 4-H exhibitor to fair volunteer. “So I’ve never been out of it. With grandkids now, I may never be out of it,” he said with a smile.
More recently, he felt an additional call to community service by running for a seat on the Buffalo County Board.
“I guess I wanted a voice from the people to be heard,” Ron said. “I had no agenda going in, just an interest overall to serve the community ... It’s been very educational.”
So how does he find the time to serve on two time-consuming boards?
“That’s a good question once in a while. You just make time,” he replied.
It also takes a lot of time to operate a row crop and livestock farm.
Ron said he was expecting to see at least one of his kids come back to farm. Dusty was the one he least expected.
Dusty earned a degree in agribusiness from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, where he also played football. Then he came back to farm. “His love is the livestock,” Ron said.
Both men will have a lot of interest in Buffalo County Fair activities next week, especially the 4-H Swine Show. And many other things to do.
“On the 4-H part, I’ve just been in it so long and believe in the program so much,” Ron said. “I want to give back and be sure it’s successful in the future.”