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Hog wild and pig crazy
Newton High School student working with farm animals for program

COVINGTON - When 10th-grade Newton High School student Jacquelyn Leissa isn't practicing with the cheerleading squad, you can find her on the farm with her baby pigs.

Leissa is taking care of the baby pigs, along with their mother, Priscilla, as part of an agricultural project for the Governor's Honors Program.

"This is my first time being with the farm animals," Leissa said.

She first became interested in the agricultural program at Newton High School after her brother was in agricultural teacher Ryan Talton's class.

"My brother wanted to show a cow, and I was excited to get one," she said. "I saw how much fun he was having, and I wanted to do it, too."

When she found out Priscilla was pregnant last year, she decided to take on her and her baby pigs as a project.

"I helped deliver one of the babies," she said. "I clipped their tails, and I clipped their teeth because they're razor-blade sharp."

Now she helps take care of them and keeps them entertained.

"I just feed them to try to make them big because they're not big enough to go to the slaughterhouse yet," she said.

Leissa said that's the hardest part of the project - having to give them away.

"I'll get attached doing my project, so that will be hard," she said. "But I haven't gotten to that part yet. I just enjoy being around them because they are funny to watch, and they are so cute."

The pigs have to be between 200 and 250 pounds to be able to go to the slaughterhouse, which should be by the end of the year, she said.

For the Governor's Honors Program, she will feed the baby pigs with two different types of feed to find out which is best.

Talton said he chose her for the program because he chooses students who are interested and do good work.

"She's interested in becoming a vet, and that program has a lot of things geared toward that, so she'll find out if she wants to do that or not," he said. "It's always good to see if we can get them to do things like that, instead of waiting until they get into college."

If she's chosen for the state level, which is decided in March, she can go to Valdosta to spend time with a vet scientist.

Next year, she hopes to showcase a cow and a pig - as long as she can find the time.

"It's hard because I'm in so many things at school," she said. "I'll have to talk to my coach about cheerleading."

She said the agriculture program at the school is mostly filled with males, but she hopes more females will get involved.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.