Why Use Microchips?
The obvious reason to me is one of vanity. Honestly, I don't want my pricey, registered pig to have an ear tag, and I figure those purchasing registered pigs from me wouldn't like it either. Also, you get to know your breeding stock well. You can pick them out by their looks, personality, even the way they brush up against you sometimes, so needing a visual ID isn't necessary on breeding stock, in my opinion. Another reason, that is actually of more importance, is the fact that if your pig is lost or stolen, you know it has that microchip behind it's ear and you can prove that the pig is yours when you find it. Ear tags can be removed, but microchips are not likely to be suspected in the first place.
Who Gets a Microchip & Who Does Not?
Microchips, get your microchips! Wait just a minute. Not every pig needs or should even have a microchip. Breeding stock, yes! Pigs to be grown out for meat, NO! It is not recommended, because of food safety issues, to microchip "feeder" pigs, as the microchip could end up in your meat and then you'd be microchipped. I do my best to avoid such things, personally! Also, the visual ID of an ear tag on non-registered and feeder piglets is actually very useful. I will do a blog post on ear tagging soon where I'll tell you why.
I decided to go with the NanoCHIP microchips for a few different reasons. They're 6x smaller (smaller needle, smaller chip), for one. They can be read by all ISO compliant Universal readers. They come pre-loaded. They don't completely break the bank. Also, comparably priced microchips I found online weren't boasting very favorable reviews regarding longevity of the microchip. Pigs can live into their teens and 20's, so a microchip that only lasts a few years isn't going to cut it. Finally, Secondary Registration is free. That means that I, as the breeder, can register each piglet I sell and it will always and forever be traceable back to me as a secondary contact, regardless of whether or not the new owner chooses to complete the Primary Registration (www.fetch-id.com is one example). For a video overview of this microchip system, click HERE.
Bells and whistles are not important to me for this task. I need a reader that will effectively scan the microchip and display the correct number. I found the Animal ID scanner that does just that and is rechargeable via USB on Amazon (affiliate link below) for a reasonable price. Some microchip scanners are upwards of $200-$300, which is ridiculous, in my opinion, but this one works well and is only around $60.00. For a video overview of the Animal ID scanner in action, click HERE.
You Are Making An Investment
When purchasing registered Kunekune pigs, you are making a wise investment that will pay off, likely after the first litter, in the form of pork and/or profit. However, when making such an investment, you want to make sure you have the support you need (or don't yet know you need) to ensure your success in choosing, raising, butchering and even selling these animals. The single most important choice you will make on this journey is choosing a breeder you can be friends with, that you're comfortable asking questions, and that you feel will be honest, able and willing to help you succeed in your goals for these animals.
When you contact a breeder are they forthcoming, friendly, easy to understand, and thorough? Do they use complete sentences that don't leave you wondering or do you have to pull information out of them? Do they only answer your questions with short replies or do they go into more detail and bring up things you may not have considered? Do they share their experiences, both good and bad, so you might avoid making their same mistakes? I've dealt with many breeders since getting into Kunekunes, and some are painful to try to communicate with. I felt like I was having to lead them, poke and prod them, just to get basic information, much less get extra information. This is not saying that those breeders don't have good pigs, but it is saying that when you have a question later on, it is not likely to be any easier talking to them at that point than it was initially. It is saying that you will quite possibly have a learning curve that these breeders aren't going to be able or willing to help you overcome. Communication is key from the beginning to the end!
The contract outlines expectations of both the breeder and the buyer. Contracts are good things that tend to keep people honest, and let's face it, the breeder world (of any species) may be a less than honest realm. With good initial communication and a contract suitable to both parties, you are well on your way to a positive purchase experience. Both of these things are good indicators of the future of your relationship with the breeder, and ultimately the ease in which you are able to find your way with raising these pigs. But what's next?
If you're purchasing a piglet, chances are that you may have to wait several weeks before picking up your precious piggy. In that time your piglet will be growing fairly quickly. Your breeder should be monitoring the piglets closely and noticing things like piglets that may not be growing quite as quickly as others, those that seem less hardy, those that show signs of aggression, those with rumps that look like toothpicks, etc. As a breeder, it is hard to tell someone that the pretty piggy they selected in the beginning may not be the best choice. It's hard to tell someone that the cutie with the fat wattles is hardly as big as a pork nugget while his siblings are leaving him in the dust. A good breeder will do just that, though. If you get a message saying you may want to consider choosing a different piglet, count your blessings because that breeder is trying to spare you heartache in the long run. It's also nice to get good news updates, including milestones like doing well eating solid food and grazing, developing rounded hams, having DNA sent to the lab, getting the results back, getting micro-chipped, etc. Those are the updates I like to give people! Are you getting updates from your breeder, even if it isn't always sunshine and roses? Communication isn't always good news, but good communication can triumph over bad news.
Getting Your Long Awaited First (or 31st) Piglet
Today is the day! You're finally going to get your new pig! "What about all the registration details? What do I do now?" Don't feel like you're in the dark after the deal is done. I've experienced feeling like the process was incomplete on occasion simply because I was expecting some sort of reassurance that the remaining tasks would be taken care of and in a timely manner, that I had all the correct information for my registered pig, etc. Does your breeder provide you with written information about your new pig, including registered name, registration number, identification (micro-chip) number, sire and dam information, date of birth, DNA case number, what your pig is used to eating, helpful tips on feeding and housing, etc.? No, of course this isn't required, but it is a nice touch and it does put people at ease. It helps to ensure you, as the buyer, leave with information that will guide you in the right direction in caring for your new investment.
We provide this information and more in our New Owner Packet:
1. A full-color brochure that describes our mission, our holistic and sustainable approach, the importance of registration, history of the breed, current imported bloodlines in the US, registry options, attributes of Kunekunes at a glance, and a butcher guide. True, the basic information is available online if you search, however, we think providing it in a nice little packet at your fingertips makes for a sense of comfort and a quick reference.
2. Fetch ID micro-chip registration card. Fetch ID offers 24/7 lost pet alert, lost pet posters, $1,000 vet bill assistance, $500 return flight and free profile updates.
3. Detail sheet which includes registered name, registration number, date of birth, sex, color/# of wattles, dam and sire information, DNA case number and micro-chip ID.
4. An "About the Breed" sheet detailing housing and feeding options.
5. A copy of the Swine Parentage and Genetic Marker Report from UC Davis.
6. A copy of your signed contract.
7. Our business card on the front, in case you have an emergency question you may call at any time.
After you leave with your new piggy, rest assured that registration will be completed in a timely manner. Often the paperwork is submitted (online) that same day!
**Thanks goes to The American Kunekune Pig Registry (AKPR) for the butcher guide and attributes at a glance graphics**
After The Sale
Owning breeding stock is a far more in depth adventure than owning pigs only intended to butcher at a certain age. With breeding stock comes feeding year-round, housing year-round, inclement weather both in hot and cold months, dealing with possible health issues and at the very least, health maintenance, attention to nutrition for health instead of "fattening" a feeder pig, farrowing, piglet processing which may include litter notification, DNA submission, registration, ear tagging or micro-chipping, castration, and even nursing less thrifty piglets, and caring for full-grown breeding stock that may require tough decisions and creative handling in certain circumstances. Do you feel confident that your breeder would be able and willing to answer questions you may have about these things?
Let's Be Friends!
Finding a good breeder goes beyond trusting that you won't get "drug through the mud" by someone. Finding a good breeder means making a friend in the Kunekune world that you feel comfortable going to with whatever questions you may have along your journey. Are you friends with your breeder? No? Let's be friends! We have piglets available year-round and would be happy to walk with you on your journey with Kunekune pigs.
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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