"Good job," Gianna Ricci said, tucking her 255-pound hog into its pen at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds Saturday morning.
The fair-skinned porker, sporting a mild sunburn, had brought in nearly $3,700 for Ricci, a veteran swine exhibitor at age 17 who said she's not in it for the money.
"I love showing animals," said Ricci, a member of the Live Oak 4-H Club of Petaluma and an incoming senior at Justin-Siena High School in Napa. "I'd do it for nothing."
But on a cloudy and misty Saturday morning in the wood chip-covered swine auction ring, Ricci's hog, named Bam-Bam, was first on the selling block as the supreme champion, judged the best of the 276 swine involved in the fair's 2013 Junior Livestock Auction.
"God, this is so exciting," Dale Ricci, Gianna's father, said just before the bidding began.
"This is a good hog, right here," auctioneer Bruce Campbell told the prospective buyers, seated at long tables under a canopy.
Campbell started the bidding at $10 a pound, dropped down to $7.50, got his first bid at $5 and then coaxed it up to a winning price of $14.50 a pound — a bit more than twice the $7 a pound paid for last year's supreme champion hog.
The buyers of Ricci's hog were LaPrenda Vineyard Management, The Cliff House, Ricci Vineyards and Wilbur Ellis.
On Saturday, the 276 pigs fetched an average of $6.22 a pound for their 4-H and Future Farmers of America exhibitors, compared with the sales of 296 hogs for an average of $5.80 a pound at last year's auction.
A Yorkshire hog exhibited by Davis Crawford of the Forestville FFA sold for a record price of $35 a pound, costing the buyer, Team Ghilotti, $8,148.
The previous record was $32 a pound, set in 2005.
All auctioned livestock goes to the butcher block, and buyers can either keep the meat, donate it or resell the animal to the fair at the current market price and pay the difference.
In the swine barn, Gianna Ricci described her affection for pigs, having raised 16 of them since joining 4-H at age 8.
"They're smart; they're super friendly," she said. "Kinda like a dog."
Bam-Bam weighed about 50 pounds when she got him in late March, and it's taken nonstop "tender loving care" to propel him to the pinnacle of the show, she said.
The pig was fed twice, at 6:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., as well as washed and groomed daily. At dusk, Ricci brought him out of the barn for training on show ring demeanor.
Bam-Bam was kept out of direct sunlight to avoid burning his alabaster skin, which has black patches. The idea, Ricci said, is maintain the hog's skin and hair in flawless condition, free of scratches, scars or sunburn.
In the show ring, however, Bam-Bam picked up a little pink flush from the sun.
"It's so much work," Ricci said, "but it's the good kind of work. I've learned so many life lessons; I think responsibility is the big one."
Watching her daughter gain knowledge and confidence from years of animal husbandry "makes our heart swell," Dayna Ricci said.
Campbell, a retired sheep rancher who's been running local youth livestock auctions for 35 years, said that he — like many other exhibitors — put himself through college with his earnings.