This past Sunday, I somehow found myself sitting on the floor of Carole Soule’s pig pen, squirting blue Gatorade from a baby bottle into Pink 2.0’s mouth.
It was pretty dang cute. With morning sunlight streaming through the open shed doors and highlighting his little bristly hairs, Pink 2.0, plus his seven brothers still living at the farm, jostled and bumped me with their wet noses. They gently chewed on my boots, my jacket, and, after Soule told me to hold out my hands, they sucked on my fingers.
“This is the joy of raising pigs,” she told me.
You may be thinking, why Gatorade? Soule said the pigs were experiencing some minor stomach upset in the beginning stages of being weaned from their mother, Sarah, and receiving their first small amounts of grain. The sports drink helps replace lost electrolytes.
In between sips of Gatorade and chewing my clothes, the piglets bounced around their little pen. Pink 2.0 bumped into the little electric fence Soule has set up in there to prepare him and the others to go outside. He squealed, hid in the corner, and then reemerged, giving the wire a wide berth.
“He’s learning,” Soule said.
This warm and fuzzy scene was a fun alternative to our original plans, which involved castration. Soule moved up her schedule to castrate the male piglets, including Pink 2.0, to Tuesday. She does it at about six weeks – holding the piglets by their hind feet to let the blood rush to their heads, and then making a swift cut – in order to avoid “boar taint” in the meat later on.
“It tastes like sweat,” Soule said. She said the castration is not supposed to be too painful for the piglets, aside from the cut. Though the process is unpleasant, Soule said if her piglets aren’t butchered by the four to six month mark, they become fertile, too. “I don’t want any unexpected pregnancies,” she said.
Pink (2.0) Facts Week 5
Age: 4 weeks
Weight: 20.5 pounds
Cost at this point: Previous cost ($71.42) + electricity, bedding + labor + sow feed = $98.42
Note: Costs calculated the previous four weeks were incorrectly higher due to mistakes in labor and heat expenses. Those have since been adjusted.
(This article is part of an ongoing, six-month project by Ag & Eats blogger and Monitor staffer Elodie Reed, who is documenting “Pink 2.0” to see how locally raised pork is cared for, processed and eventually, consumed. Have questions or Ag & Eats news tips, events or recipes? Elodie Reed can be reached at 369-3306,email@example.com or on Twitter @elodie_reed.)