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DeGasperi family pigs overcome hardships to win top titles at fair

Pigs Harry and Eloise are very close friends. They adore spending time together, enjoy getting their bellies scratched by owners Kolton and Todd DeGasperi and especially love being fed marshmallow Peeps.
Eloise, a crossbred pig, was named Grand Champion Market Hog, and Harry, a purebred Yorkshire, won Reserve Grand Champion Market Hog, during this year's Carroll County 4-H & FFA Fair. But their journey to becoming winners wasn't easy.
Kolton and Todd never thought they'd have the opportunity to even show the two pigs like they had shown the mothers and grandmothers of the pigs at previous fairs.
Eloise was the runt of an eight-piglet litter from mother Ice Cube. Harry, also a runt, was the only pig to survive from a litter of five from his mother, Delilah.
"When he was four days old, his mother [Delilah] had a brain aneurism and died," 11-year-old Kolton said.
The family, determined to save Harry, rubbed a towel on Ice Cube and her eight piglets, including Eloise, and then rubbed Harry with the towel.
"A lot of times it doesn't work," said Shelley DeGasperi, mother of 13-year-old Todd and Kolton. "We were hoping she wouldn't kill him because he smelled differently."
Luckily their plan was a success. Ice Cube initially noticed something was different about him, but still accepted Harry as one of her own.
In addition to Grand Champion, Eloise won Heavyweight Champion and Champion Crossbred. Kolton, who showed her, won Champion Junior Showman and Grand Champion Bred and Owned. Harry, shown by Todd, won Champion Yorkshire.
Taking care of piglets isn't an easy task, but the three litters born to three different mothers in January were even more challenging than usual. For the first couple days after being born, piglets have to be watched at all times to make sure they don't get squashed by their mother, Kolton said.
The third mother, Ellie, had 12 pigs and lost her milk production. The family had to pan-feed her piglets for two weeks and then sold Ellie's piglets to a local veterinarian. Some of those pigs were shown at the fair this year, as well.
The DeGasperi boys would show Eloise and Harry at other livestock events before this week to get them ready for the fair.
"To train them to walk right, it takes a lot of work," Kolton said.
On Friday, Harry and Eloise were sold at the livestock auction. Eloise was auctioned for $23 per pound, or approximately $6,000. She was purchased by a pool of buyers.
Harry was auctioned for $10.50 per pound, or $2,919. He was purchased by Terry's Tag and Title.
While Kolton and Todd are sad to see their pigs go, they understand that's just the way things are.
"It's kind of sad because after you raise them since they were born, it's kind of sad to let them go," Kolton said. "But that's how it is with animals."
The money the boys receive for the pigs will go into their savings accounts. Last year, their pigs were sold for $4 per pound. Harry weighs 270 pounds and Eloise weighs 266 pounds.
Todd has taken part in 4-H activities for five years while Kolton has taken part for three years. The boys also show other animals at the fair, such as heifers, goats and rabbits.
Everyone who walked by Eloise and Harry's pig pen at the fair could read a sign that explained their story. They could also view pictures of the two pigs as babies.
Shelley said what happened with the family's three litters of piglets this year was unusual, but she is happy the pigs thrived and did so well at the fair.
"We just wanted to keep them alive, that's all," she said. "Every pig is valuable. They're like pets."

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