Brothers Conner and Dalton Palarino want young exhibitors to have the chance to hit the ring
Connor Palarino’s father Danny always had a few cattle, and Connor was really into sports when he was young, playing both basketball and baseball.
However, Connor’s grandfather, Lonnie Mack Tolbert, had always welded at the fairgrounds and wanted Connor and his brother Dalton to show. One day Connor and his grandfather struck up a deal. If Connor cleaned the lean-to workshop, he would take the boys to Oklahoma to buy their first set of three show pigs. Connor was 9 years old at the time and jumped at the chance. They took the trip and bought two cross gilts, one blue butt and one belted, as well as a purebred Duroc. Dalton wasn’t much interested and didn’t want anything to do with the pigs, but in time Dalton did show because, like many brothers, he and Conner did everything together. As adults, the brothers recently started a show pig operation.
Last year, their first year, the brothers had four litters. They now have 10 sows. For a few years, Connor attended the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Then he hurt his Achilles tendon, forcing him to stay at home.
“I just didn’t go back and now the coronavirus has made returning a bit of a problem,” Connor explained.
The brothers breed by AI, with Connor doing all the breeding, a skill learned from watching his grandfather and County Extension Agent Cindy Ham, who has since moved to a different location. Using AI, a Duroc sow has recently been bred to a registered Duroc boar. The brothers decided to buy pigs from a successful producer and take his advice on which boar’s semen to use.
“AI makes a lot of sense because Arkansas Youth Expo and Arkansas’ showing season are in the fall, while Oklahoma’s major showing season is in the spring,” Connor said. “AI allows us to control the breeding cycles better. Piglets are born in late February and early March and sold 8 weeks after that, so they will be ready to show in the fall. We’re also planning on having one litter for the Oklahoma market.”
The biggest challenge for the Palarino brothers is developing a market. Their marketing strategy is geared toward finding a return customer base. The Palarino brothers believe broader exposure with online marketing will help expand their Oklahoma market, while perhaps adding other areas. The Palarinos sold all of their show pigs in their first year of business, a much better result than they anticipated.
Connor believes most people don’t understand the time and care needed to raise quality show pigs. Nutrition is an important part of that care. The Palarinos have established a good health protocol, with particular attention paid to PRRS virus, a reproductive and respiratory illness prevented through vaccination.
“The coronavirus hasn’t had as much an impact on us as it has on others,” Connor said. “One show gets canceled, and two or three more pop up. The National Western was canceled, but then the Stockman’s Showcase in Chickasha, Okla., popped up and offered another show venue.”
Overhead has to be kept in control in these early stages. The brothers sold a large trailer and recently bought a six-pen trailer that, according to Connor, “beats what we had in our homemade trailer.” The sows currently remain outside until the new business can afford to build a barn. Connor and Dalton both work off the farm, with Connor working at the Farmers Co-Op in Ozark and Dalton teaching financial literacy and coaching basketball at Pea Ridge Junior High.
Dalton’s distance from the family farm eliminates him from helping on daily chores, though he comes over most weekends. In addition, brothers talk all of the time, planning and making decisions together.
Their father is still raising commercial calves and has a herd of 20 females bred by an Angus-influenced bull. Connor and Dalton have the beginnings of a cow/calf operation and plan to use Danny’s bull. At his last birthday, Connor received four 18-month-old open heifers, and Dalton’s father-in-law gave them five Angus-cross heifers. While their focus currently is on show pigs, both brothers love and enjoy working in agriculture and are just getting started.
“Our current goal right now is to give kids an opportunity we didn’t have,” Dalton explained. “I learned through experience and watching others that to be successful, you have to work hard and grind it out. Having show pigs for those kids will provide them with that kind of opportunity and experience.”