Over the next few months, I’ll be posting weekly pig updates at The Washington Post, and cross-posting them here. This is the first of them. Over there, my editor Tim Carman called it “String Theory.” That’s the kind of thing that makes me happy to be writing for the Post.
It’s like that silly joke. What’s a henway? Oh, about four or five pounds.
What’s a pigway? I haven’t the foggiest idea.
We’ve had our three pigs for two months now, and we figured it was high time we checked on their progress. The way to go about doing that, however, wasn’t altogether clear.
For starters, it’s hard to check progress when you don’t have a baseline, and we didn’t weigh the pigs when they got here. All I can say for sure is that they were much smaller than they are right now. Our best guess is that Spot and Tiny each weighed about 20 pounds, and Doc about 30. We could be off, but probably not by more than five pounds either way.
We didn’t weigh them because it’s hard to weigh a pig. They don’t like to be picked up, and when they squirm and squeal and kick up a fuss, it’s hard to hold on to them long enough to stand on a scale and get a reading. Besides, what did it matter whether a pig was 18 or 22 pounds? We wouldn’t be doing anything differently.
So, weighing a pig seemed a lot like teaching it to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.
Weighing doesn’t get easier as the pigs grow, and I figured we’d just eyeball them until they seemed like they were 220 pounds. But it seems we’re not the only people who want to know how much their pigs weigh but don’t want to have to get them on a scale. And some clever pig farmer somewhere figured out a better way.
It turns out that you get a fairly accurate approximation of your pig’s weight if you know two of its measurements: length from ears to tail, and girth just behind the front legs. Then you multiply length x girth x girth (in inches) and divide by 400 to get weight in pounds.
No scale! No heavy lifting! No porcine outrage! All you need is a piece of string and a pig that’s willing to stand still long enough for you to measure it. Then you follow the directions of Sugar Mountain Farm’s Walter Jeffries.
The key to getting a pig to stand still is snacks, so we mixed up some fish scraps and basil stems (it actually looked pretty good) and headed down to the pen. Kevin spread the fish in the long trough we use for treats, and I took the string into the pen. Since the pigs are used to our invading their personal space, they didn’t mind me at all. I got the measurements and was out before they’d finished jousting for the last of the scraps.
Here’s how they came out:
Spot: length = 33.5, girth = 30.5, weight = 78 pounds
Tiny: length = 34.5, girth = 30.5, weight = 80 pounds
Doc: length = 38, girth = 33, weight = 103 pounds
That means that they’ve been gaining about a pound a day, which is at least in the ballpark of appropriate. Although our pigs have seemed happy and healthy since we got them, it was something of a relief to have a milestone that wasn’t quite so subjective.
It got us thinking, though. Would that formula work for people? We used the same string to measure each other, crown to tailbone and girth around the armpits. I weighed in at 90 pounds and Kevin was 147, which was about 50 pounds short for each of us. So, either the method doesn’t work for humans or we should lay off the … um … bacon.