Brutus hopes to weigh in next year

Marv Rietema of Sioux Center and Owen Sandbulte of Carmel own Iowa’s potentially largest hog as Brutus tipped the scale during the Iowa Pork Producers’ Virtual Big Boar Challenge mid-August at a whopping 1,356 pounds. Brutus has to wait till 2021 to hopefully take home the official top prize for the Big Boar Contest.

SIOUX CENTER — Potentially Iowa’s largest hog calls Sioux County home.

Brutus, a 4-year-old Chester White crossbreed, tipped the scale during the Iowa Pork Producers’ Virtual Big Boar Challenge mid-August at a whopping 1,356 pounds.

Marv Rietema of Sioux Center and Owen Sandbulte of Carmel teamed up to raise a boar for the 2019 Big Boar Contest for the Iowa State Fair at which time Brutus weighed 1,188 pounds, claiming second place.

With the 2020 Iowa State Fair being a no-go this year, Brutus has to wait till 2021 to hopefully take home the official top prize for the Big Boar Contest.

“We thought we’d give the contest a try one year,” Rietema said. “We were tickled to death we got second in the first year we ever tried this and thought we’d try again this year. We didn’t know it was going to turn into a three-year project. Kind of seems like most hobbies, you start with good intentions and they go on longer than you planned. We sure hope it makes it another year.”

Though protein made up most of Brutus’ diet this past year, feed rations also include glucosamine for joint health.

“That’s a lot of weight he’s carrying around; we want to keep him healthy, but part of what makes him a good fit for a big boar is his legs — they’re massive, like tree trunks, that can hold him up sturdy,” Sandbulte said.

The duo joined together on the venture about two years ago.

“I’ve maybe missed the state fair twice in the past 50 years,” said Rietema, 71. “One of the biggest things I’ve enjoyed has been looking at the livestock at the fair over the years. I’ve always been intrigued by the big boar. I made up my mind to add that to my bucket list of things I wanted to do in my life.”

Not having a housing facility himself, Rietema knew he’d have to talk someone into helping him with such a project.

“There’s not a lot of people you can talk into helping with something like that, but I made some phone calls,” Rietema said, after finding a hog with solid legs he felt could handle the “big boar” kind of weight. “I used to have pigs at Owen’s place. We’ve maintained a friendship over the years. I didn’t really think he was going to say yes when I asked him, but he did.”

The rest of the year involved lots of good feed and care.

Sandbulte, 60, admits he didn’t really know what he was getting into.

“I didn’t know what a big deal it was,” he said. “Only in the past couple of years have I even gone to the state fair, but I said yes because I love animals. I’m a competitive guy. I was up for the challenge. I didn’t question it so much as it sounded like an adventure to me.”

Brutus continues to love marshmallows and watermelon rinds; he’s also added Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups to that list of favorites this past year. He also enjoys a good back scratching.

“I thank Owen from the bottom of my heart; he not only spent a lot of time with Brutus, he gave up a part of his barn for this pig during the winter when he could have had cattle in here,” Rietema said. “He was dedicated to my crazy dream, then we held on for this year and now we’re going to try again next year. We’ll just have to wait and see.”