Learning the Diet of a Pig
Scott Belts’ dad, Paul, grew up in Rogers, Ark., but always considered himself a “country boy.” Scott's granddad, Paul’s dad worked for the railroad, and in the summers and on weekends Paul would ride the train to his grandmother’s house one mile outside of Hiwasse, Ark. Eventually, Paul moved to his grandmother’s homestead and started MapleLaw Farms in 1939 with purebred Hampshire pigs he bought in Sarcoxie, Mo. The farm would later include Yorkshire and Duroc hogs, Hereford cattle, a dairyand chickens.
These days, Scott and his family continue to raise a variety of animals including chickens, sheep, cattle and pigs on the family’s 70-acre farm his dad Paul founded.
Scott worked side-by-side with his dad for many years and said he learned about the agricultural business from Paul.
“Dad is a really smart hog man, and he tried to teach me about the business,” he said. “We have always had a good relationship, and I have enjoyed working with him.”
When high feed prices and low markets forced the Belts to downsize their hog operation, Scott started raising chickens for Peterson Farms in 2003. He and his wife Kelli now have four barns and house about 110,000 chickens at a time. However, Scott will tell you their real passion is pigs. Scott still has 50 sows he uses to produce show pigs for his two children, Brooke, 11, and Blake, 8, and other youth.
“Pigs are just a great project for any age,” Scott said. “They are less expensive than cattle, smarter than sheep and are easy to care for and show.”
Scott said he has been around pigs his whole life but really didn’t know how to feed a show pig until 2001 when his daughter started showing. He now knows what a difference it can make.
“You can take an average pig, feed it right and beat a lot of high dollar pigs,” Scott said. “Just the same, a lot of good pigs are ruined because they aren’t fed properly.”
Scott said one of the tricks is to start with a good feed.
“You have to ask around and then try stuff out for yourself,” he said. “You can’t learn or get better in this business without asking a few questions.”
After a banner year at the 2007 Arkansas State Fair, it seems that Scott’s questioning and hard work have paid off. Brooke showed the grand and reserve grand champion market hogs and the champion and reserve champion commercial gilts, and Blake showed the champion Hampshire gilt and the champion Hampshire boar in the junior show.
“The kids continue to do really well at the show, and Kelli and I are proud of them,” Scott said. “We believe their work ethic is a product of their Christian raising.”
Scott said he artificially inseminates about half of his sows and pays close attention to the type of sows he breeds.
“A lot of people look only at the boars,” he said. “You can use the best boar on a poor sow and not get good results, so it is important to look at both the male and the female. When you start with good genetics on both sides, it is easier to produce good pigs.”