Why pigs at all? That's simple - MEAT! In the journey to self sufficiency, we desperately want to be able to provide food to our family that we know has been grown/raised free of chemicals and "junk food" like GMO corn and soy. When considering adding pigs to our homestead, there were some things I had questions about. First of all, I had always heard my Dad, and pretty much everyone else that had ever been around a pig of any sort, say that they stink, they root up everything, they're mean and will "eat you alive," the boars will make the sows abort just to be able to breed them again, and they also eat too much (expensive to feed). All of that sounded horrible, but I couldn't believe there weren't solutions to all of that. After all, how did pigs survive for sooooo long if they were such horrible, needy animals? I started asking around in a few pig groups I found online and people suggested putting rings in their noses to keep them from rooting. They also suggested iron clad fences and separation of boars and sows. I was still not going to accept that those were the only options, but again, that's what everyone was claiming.
The Kunekune Revelation
After much searching and reading and question asking, by some miracle, I heard about Kunekune pigs - a smaller (300lb max) "lard" type pig that doesn't root, is extremely docile, "spits out babies like butter," and are herd animals so the boar is part of the family unit and doesn't purposely try to make the sow abort just so he can breed again. Their meat is also excellent - gourmet even. We have a winner!
As I'm typing this we are going on almost one year of owning this awesome breed of pigs. Guess what? I have no complaints! They are everything and more than I expected them to be. We actually had to dig them a mud hole (pigs need to get muddy, especially in hot weather) because they don't root! We've also had one litter of piglets from our first sow and are expecting 3 more litters, due any day now. They really do act as a family unit! What have we fed them? Grass and fruit/veggie scraps when available Spring - Fall, hay and sweet potatoes in Winter, and a small amount of Non-GMO feed (about a handful per pig each day).
Rare Breed Conservation
As an added bonus to owning this breed for meat, in doing so we are helping to conserve a rare breed of farm animal, which is pretty awesome. Our children take great pride in telling people about our efforts in rare breed conservation of both our Guernsey goats and our Kunekune pigs. The American KuneKune Pig Society gives a concise look into the start of breed conservation for this amazing animal:
"In the late 1970's the breed was 'rediscovered' and at that time it was estimated that there were only about 50 purebred KuneKunes left in New Zealand. From purebred base stock of only 6 sows and 3 boars in 1978, the KuneKune conservation program was created by wildlife park owners Michael Willis and John Simister. These two gentlemen single handedly saved the breed from extinction. Once more herds were established in New Zealand, it became clear that exporting of the breed was important. They were afraid that if disease or other natural disasters struck in New Zealand this would wipe the breed out completely. In 1992 the first KuneKunes left New Zealand to go to the UK. Additional stock was sent to the UK in 1993 & 1996.
All KuneKunes in the United States go back to either direct New Zealand or UK imported stock. There have been five importations of KuneKune pigs into the USA occurring in 1996, 2005, 2010, and 2012."
How can you be "conserving" a breed if you kill them for meat? Good question! It doesn't really make sense upon first thought, but think a little harder...
Basically, since our primary goal was to have meat for our family and we chose to purchase Kunekunes for breeding (creating meat), that means that there will be A LOT of piglets born. KKs have 6-8ish piglets in each litter, and they are able to have a litter 3 times each year. We have 3 sows. You do the math! Ok, I did it for you - it works out to be about 72+/- piglets a year. First of all, we don't have that much freezer space. Secondly, this is where breed conservation comes in. Part of conserving and preserving a breed is in breeding animals that are of the best quality and most similar to the original Kunekunes. Breeding animals that carry characteristics not shared by the originals is getting away from conservation, not toward it. So, pigs that do not "conform" to these original standards that make the Kunekunes special are harvested for meat or sold as pets or "feeder pigs," meaning that the person buying it intends to feed it until it is old enough to harvest for meat for their own use.
Own Your Own Kunekune Pigs
As mentioned above, we have a lot of piglets born each year. If you are interested in making Kunekune pigs part of your farm or homestead, we'd love to share our experiences and our amazing animals with you. There are 3 options for purchasing piglets:
1. Purchase a "Breeder" - An animal of the best quality that will carry on attributes of the original Kunekune
2. Purchase a "Feeder" - An animal that may or may not carry the original attributes of Kunekunes and is sold for the sole purpose of living long enough to be big enough to harvest for meat.
3. Purchase a Pet - An animal that may or may not carry the original attributes of Kunekunes and is sold for the enjoyment of its new family. This is tricky, and an option that I'm not a fan of offering. First of all, "pets" are often purchased because they're cute and kids love them. Then they grow up, kids don't like them anymore, and they are often neglected or unwanted and at that point are serving no purpose at all.
For more information and options to purchase your own Kunekune from our beloved drift (the snazzy word for 'herd of pigs'), please contact us by phone at 256.333.0504 (leave a message, please) or via the form located under the Contact tab at the top of this page.
We've been eagerly awaiting the birth of all our little goat babies for what seems like forever. Lulu (a first freshener Toggenburg) was due to kid first. Her estimated due date was June 1, but she gave birth to beautiful boy/girl twins on May 30th. She was nice enough to hold out until I went out to feed. She ate her feed and we all went through our morning routine as usual. As had been the case for the past couple of days, I checked to see how Lulu's tail ligaments felt, not because it benefited her any, but I was curious to know if I could possibly tell when she might kid. I checked and I could feel NO ligaments. They were all soft and ready to go, so I though, "Yay, she shouldn't be too much longer, maybe tonight or tomorrow." Then, as I was walking around, taking in the scenery and checking this and that, Lulu comes up to me and just had a different demeanor. She wanted me to pet her and be near her, which she typically doesn't care one way or the other. Then she practically led me to the hay filled stall of the barn, where she started breathing heavily. The other goats couldn't resist seeing what we were doing, so they joined in as well, but I could tell that she wasn't keen on having them around. Then I saw her backside open up to the size of a baseball and I knew this was the real deal. I know I don't want an audience when I'm giving birth, so I removed all the animals to the back pasture so she could have her peace. When I returned she pushed and the amniotic sac bulged out. I was beyond excited that she let me (and even seemed to want me to) be part of this experience, as I missed our first goat kidding last year so this was a first for me, although not my first birth by any means. I've been a doula for birthing mothers and I've had two children of my own, with the last being unassisted (yes, on purpose). Even so, birth never gets old and is always exciting!
I'm in the goat groups on Facebook and I see everyone posting about how they "saved" the day (and their goats) by shoving their hands where they don't belong and pulling out babies like prizes in a grab bag. No thanks! Not because I'm squeamish or I think I "couldn't" do it, but because BIRTH IS NATURAL - human, goat, pig, etc. We did not get here by being afraid of birth or by not instinctively knowing how to do it. Just as women don't need interference during birth, neither do animals 99.99% of the time. This just seems stupid to have to say, but I suppose mainstream thinking has effectively brainwashed everyone into freaking out about birth. Maybe Lulu knew I would be her moral support but wouldn't interfere needlessly so she trusted me, who knows. Lulu progressed quickly and the increasingly harder pushes brought her to her knees. She looked to me for support and I just squatted beside her and rubbed my hand down her side between contractions. She relaxed as I did this and then tackled the next contraction. Soon enough she decided that standing would be a better position for her, so up she came. At this point I decided to get a video of the birth. I could see what looked like a foot and a mouth with baby's tongue out. I admit that the tongue out scared me for a moment, but I looked (no hands) a little closer and clearly the baby was moving. I also noticed there were two feet that looked to be pointed in a favorable and easy birthing position. I knew she had this, even though she was only at the beginning. The first baby (a boy we named Tumbleweed) came tumbling out after several hard pushes. He hit the ground, but not as hard as I expected, really. I knew this wasn't a bad thing and that he was fine. I did help get his head unfolded after he was out just because it didn't look that comfortable.
The pause between babies is necessary and important. Mom gets a little break from contractions and is able to lick and bond with the first baby. Doing so stimulates more Oxytocin to flow through her body so she is ready to push out the next baby. I'm assuming they may feel a "birth high" similar to that felt by natural birthing human mamas when they have accomplished such an amazing feat all on their own and have all those wonderful birthy hormones flowing. Lulu definitely looked energized and ready for the next baby as she felt the first of her second set of contractions return. She lifted her head and paused for what looked like a moment to regroup and focus, then she began pushing again.
And Then There Were Two
The birth of the second baby was much faster than the first and seemed easier for Lulu. Although, the second baby, a little girl, was much smaller than her BIG brother. Lulu probably only pushed three times before baby Annie was out except for her back legs. If you look closely, you can see that little Annie was alert yet still between two worlds, with her back legs still inside her mother. Lulu needed a little rest before Annie came out completely, but that was fine. No need to interfere. After several minutes of being stuck between two worlds, Lulu stood up and Annie was completely earthside. And then there were two - Higher Ground Queen Anne's Lace (Annie) & Higher Ground Tumbleweed.
Give Birth a Chance
Lulu is a Toggenburg (Swiss breed) first freshener (FF for short), meaning that this is her first time to kid, or give birth. She rocked it! She did not need me, but fortunately for me she let me be a part of her special day and even seemed to appreciate my quiet, hands-off presence. Thank you, Lulu!
From experience as a birthing mammal, myself, and my experience helping other birthing women, I knew that a hands-off approach was best. Rupturing the sac would've made labor hurt worse as there would be no cushion between baby's hard, bony parts and mom. Pulling at any point could've caused more harm and stress than good. Stress in labor/birth sends nasty chemicals soaring through the bloodstream that work as an antagonist to naturally occurring Oxytocin. Overall, birth is natural, so just let it be, give it a chance to work out, and only interfere if it is blatantly obvious it is needed. Otherwise you just may cause the issues you're so afraid of to begin with.
Just your average ex-medical scientist turned herb loving, natural living, homeschooling mom, wife, and homesteader who values common sense, real food, real people, primal instincts, and self-sufficiency.
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