Bubbles ears are frostbitten. They look awful, but they don’t seem to be bothering her at all.
There is a strip along the edges of both ears that ranges in width from 1/8″ in some spots to as much as 3/4″ in others. The frostbitten portion has turned a sort of brown which, from what I have learned, is a sort of demarcation between the healthy part of the ear and the bit that has suffered in this tremendous cold.
In an effort to determine the best way to deal with this, I googled “What to do when your pig’s ears are frostbitten.” As you might imagine, there was not an avalanche of information out there. The few hits I did get, however, didn’t make any sense at all. I encountered such suggestions as, “Rub antibiotic ointment on the affected area twice daily, ” and “bring the pig indoors, avoiding the cold as much as possible.”
Now, while I’m sure Bubble and Squeak would have a rousing good time charging around the living room, upending the dining table, and devouring the sofa, I couldn’t imagine that this advice was meant for me.
Upon further exploration, I discovered that the pigs to which my search results referred were of the pot-bellied variety and are, apparently, a totally different creature altogether.
Putting the cap back on my tube of Neosporin, I continued trying to figure out what to do. This was when I thought of the Sugar Mountain Farm Blog. Dave and I have been reading Walter’s blog since before we started keeping pigs. It is the most thorough, consistent source of pig-related information we’ve yet to encounter and, as luck would have it, Walter is kind enough to include a “contact” link on his page. I decided to send him an email asking what I should do. I figured if anyone had run into frozen pig ears before, he’d be the guy.
He answered my email within minutes of my sending it and suggested that perhaps the reason Bubble’s ears were bitten was because of the notching in them. He posited that floppy ears are more prone to frostbite and excessively deep notching might interfere with vascular flow, making them more susceptible still.
This was a reasonable explanation, and one that would explain why Squeak’s ears are totally fine.
Bubble came to us notched. Ear notching is a practice employed by Bernie the Pig Farmer, from whom we’ve always gotten our piglets in the past. He notches as a means of identification when he sends his pigs out to be processed. It’s a simple way of knowing that he’s getting back the same pigs he sent out.
Since we process our pigs right here on applewood farm, we don’t need that sort of system. Moving forward, the piglets born here won’t receive such adornment.
The most important thing is that Bubble seems fine. She is untroubled by this particular malady and is going about her business as usual. Typically, when an animal seems fine, the animal IS fine. Still, I just wanted to check.
One more email to Walter garnered this response, “Don’t worry about it. It will heal up.”
So, that’s good news.
To celebrate, it seemed like the perfect day to break out the last of this autumn’s apples.
Throughout September and October, I collected a bucket or two of apples each day from the ground around our tree and emptied them into a three-foot by five-foot water trough in our cellar. Before too long, the trough was almost overflowing. It was nice to know that the pigs would have the increasingly rotty apples to enjoy throughout the winter.
Honestly, I didn’t expect them to last as long as they did. We didn’t give them apples very frequently; they served to be more of a treat when the ground was covered in snow and there weren’t enough kitchen scraps for them to enjoy.
Today, they received the very last of them.
Bubble was exceedingly pleased with this unexpected treat and literally climbed right into the bucket to more easily devour the bounty. She has horrible manners and eats with her mouth open, making revolting noises–in this, she’s a lot like my oldest daughter.
The important thing was that she was happy.
It took Squeak a few minutes to be roused from his midday slumber, but eventually he joined in on the feast. I left them feeling good about the life they get to live, be it with frostbite or winter apples, Bubble and Squeak have it pretty good.