Two pink pigs lay snuggled up together in a bed of sawdust, looking for all the world like they had come from the movie “Babe.”
But there were few “oohs” or “awws” to be heard at the Benton County Fairgrounds on Sunday. Instead, people inspected the 28 creatures with practiced eyes, ignoring the wagging tails in favor of appraising body structure.
It was the 20th annual Oregon State University Project Pig Sale, and most of the animals would be leaving with new owners to be raised as 4H or FFA projects.
The pigs were used in college courses on sheep and swine industries.
“We raise them,” said Matt Kennedy, OSU swine unit manager. “A lot of these pigs have been used in our classes.”
Students immunize, castrate and notch the ears of the pigs.
“They did everything,” Kennedy said.
The piglets ranged in age from 1 to 2 months old. The heaviest were about 40-45 pounds — a far cry from their fair weight, which will be around 280 pounds.
Danette and Danielle Enos, 17-year-old twins from Glide, were looking for animals to live up to their last pigs.
The sisters purchased pigs from the OSU sale last year, and each earned blue ribbons.
Their FFA advisor, Kristina Haug, said last year’s success was part of the reason they made the trip to Corvallis again; they also like that it’s a university program.
“Nothing better than supporting your ag program that really supports the kids in the long run,” Haug said.
Lauren Martin, 15, came to the sale from Washington.
“Somebody recommended it to us,” Lauren said.
She raised pigs when younger and now, as a freshman in FFA, is getting back into it. She planned to buy two animals at the sale.
Lauren’s mother, Roxanne Martin praised the OSU students working the sale, who helped Lauren figure out which animals would be at optimal weight for her local fair.
Lauren said she was looking for an animal with a longer body and muscle, “but I’m not an expert,” she quickly added.
Maybe she wasn’t an expert, but her criteria fit with what Kennedy said a good project pig would have: a long, extended, muscular body.
“Kinda built like Arnold Schwarzenegger a little bit,” he said. “Toned up a little bit, I guess you could say.”
The starting bids for most pigs was $125. Money goes to the OSU Livestock Judging Program, but it’s not exactly a fundraiser.
“Really our goal is to break even,” said Keely Oswald, a graduate student in animal science. “Since we’re an educational institution, we’re not trying to profit.”
Unsold pigs will go back to the OSU barn. The best will be raised and shown at the state fair. The others will be sold.
In the past, the sale was a live auction, but this year it was a silent auction.
The change is meant to help the intended buyers, 4H and FFA kids.
“We want to make sure that they’re the ones making the decisions,” Oswald said, “whereas at a live auction, it can be pretty intimidating.”
But that didn’t mean the day was totally silent.
When bidding closed, if there were several interested parties, a live bid-off was held.
Danielle Enos and Lauren Martin got into a fast but amicable bidding war over one of the youngest piglets that Oswald said was a class favorite.
Enos was all smiles after she made the high bid. Oswald admitted she had hoped that particular pig would be returning to the OSU barn.
Clearly, these animals were more than just pieces of meat.
“Each one of these babies, they all have their own personalities,” Oswald said.
“If I’m having a bad day and I walk into the barn, they make me feel so much better.”