BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO)– Excitement is building in the SDSU Animal Science Arena as showman have been hard at work preparing their livestock to hit the green chips at Little International (Little “I”) coming up March 26 and 27.

Although the event will look different this year, exhibitors are still excitedly awaiting the big day.

“Things really pick up once we get into the month of March, as we get close to the Little “I” week here,” Jacob Rausch, this year’s Little “I” Manager, said. “Now being a week away, things start to get a little bit crazy, but the equipment staff has been busy diligently working to get the arena prepared.”

This year, the event is open to ticket holders only.

Rausch said the exhibitors have been doing an excellent job adhering to the social distancing and COVID protocols to keep everyone safe.

“I really do commend them, they’ve been doing an excellent job,” Rausch said. “And they have still found a way to have some fun with it at the same time.”

Other than having to call the veterinarian out to the goat facility one day, practice has been going well for the participants, Rausch said.

“It’s a little bit muddy out at some of the units with this last snowfall that we had, so that’s presented an extra challenge” Rausch said. “But hopefully that is a memorable piece of their Little “I” experience.”

Dairy, beef and horse exhibitors have been able to work with their animals since the first week of March, Rausch said. Pigs, goats and sheep showmen started working with their livestock at the beginning of this week.

“From what I can see, everybody has been doing excellent,” Rausch said. “The pigs are learning how to respond to the show sticks and the sheep are looking good.”

Showman are able to come out and spend as much time with their animals as they would like, Rausch said.

Jaycen Timm, junior Ag Science student at SDSU, is showing a horse in the experienced division of this year’s Little “I”. She said that so far it has been going well, she has been enjoying getting to know her horse.

Because she is showing a horse, Timm was allowed to start working with her animal the week before spring break and then was able to resume practicing after break.

Photo courtesy of Jaycen Timm

“It’s a little different with the horses because they’ve obviously been around and been worked with, so a little bit lower maintenance, as far as getting out there, you know, putting the halter on them, checking their hooves and grooming,” Timm said.

With the horse show, they participate in a showmanship event, where they perform different patterns, without riding the horse, Timm said. During practice sessions, she has her horse do small patterns and makes sure that the horse is going to set up nicely when in the show ring.

Photo courtesy of Samantha Schoenbauer, Little International

The horse division also has a fitting contest, where judges will look at the grooming and fitting of the animal.

During her freshman year, Timm showed a beef bull. Last year, she was planning on showing a dairy heifer, but due to the event being cancelled, she wasn’t able to show.

This is Karly Schaunaman’s first time showing an animal in Little “I”.

Schaunaman, a junior Business Econ student, began practicing with her pig, Chorizo, on Monday.

Photo courtesy of Karly Schaunaman

“They have been kind of moody,” Schaunaman said. “So that’s been interesting to get them to actually cooperate and want to be worked with. I think they are all coming into heat actually, so they are kind of just not in the mood, they don’t want to be messed with.”

Schaunaman says her pig has actually been doing pretty good in practice lately, even though the first couple of days the pig didn’t want to be worked with.

“That will be exciting when she actually wants to leave the pen and not just sleep and eat all day,” Schaunaman said.

Photo courtesy of Karly Schaunaman

A typical pig practice session for Schaunaman consists of walking the pig around the arena and then if the wash rack is available for cleaning off her pig.

Schaunaman is used to showing cattle, so it is a a lot different to train a pig to keep their heads up. She is also working on being able to keep control of the pig in the ring.

Normally, when showing in a normal livestock show, competitors would get months of working with their animals, but for Little “I” the contestants only get days, Schaunaman said.

As it gets closer to show day, Schaunaman will get her pig fully washed and clipped.

For double the fun, Kayla Weinzierl, junior Agricultural Science and Animal Science student, is showing both a goat named Lilly and a pig named Hank.

“My goat has been having a little bit of an attitude, so we’ve been doing some bonding, trying to get her more relaxed,” Weinzierl said. “The pig has been pretty fun, I’ve never ever showed pigs in my entire life, and it’s been kind of fun just seeing like how their personalities do come out, it’s been fun.”

Photo courtesy of Christine Moening, Little International

Weinzierl has been going at least once or twice a day since getting her animals on Monday.

A typically goat practice for Weinzierl includes catching the goat and sometimes tying it up and brushing it so the goat gets used to being handled by her. Then, she walks the goat around to get it used to the halter. After that, Weinzierl will put the goat in a head stand so it gets used to standing still.

For her pig, Weinzierl she takes the pig out of the pen and walks it around the arena, using marshmallows to train it to keep it’s head up and encourage it to keep walking.

Showing pigs is something Weinzierl said is completely out of her element, but she is very excited for the opportunity.

Photo courtesy of Christine Moening, Little International

“Pigs are one thing that you can’t like actually physically control them, like we walk around with them. So, I think it will be kind of fun and like new to just to see how he will actually react and how I will react showing a pig,” Weinzierl said.

During her freshman year, Weinzierl showed a beef bull.

To watch Little International over livestream or learn more about the event schedule, check out the organization’s Facebook page and their website.