Choosing Kunekune Breeding Stock
There has been a lot of discussion surrounding choosing breeding stock - what to look for, what makes a pig "breeding quality," etc. There is a breed standard that we look to to guide us in choosing pigs to utilize as breeders, and if you go by that, you're definitely on your way to success, in my opinion. However, there are a few more things that I place a very high value on that are not part of the breed standard, so I evaluate things slightly differently than most breeders I know. I figure there are things more important to some people than others, and that's part of what makes each breeding program unique. Knowing what you want is important, but sometimes very tricky, especially in the beginning when everything is still so new, you have little to no experience with Kunekunes, or pigs in general, and you really may only have a vague idea of what you want. For example, you may want gentle pigs that are good mothers and don't root, who maintain body condition easily with a mostly pasture diet. That was my starting point. Those were the only things I knew I wanted, but what I didn't know is that there are other very important things to consider. Is that where you are? If so, this post is for you!
For the sake of keeping this post concise, we will assume that we are talking about DNA tested, Registered Kunekune pigs, as those are the only ones that should be considered if they're being used as breeding stock in the first place (more on that topic in another post). To find breeders of Registered stock, check out the American Kunekune Pig Society (AKKPS) and/or the American Kunekune Pig Registry (AKPR) for breeder lists and more information.
I'm going to be sharing several links here because there's really no point in reinventing the wheel when talking about breed standards as there are already great resources for this. We will look to the breed registries both in the US as well as in the UK for this information.
Concise Overview of Breed Standard (AKKPS)
In-Depth Description of Breed Standard (AKPR)
Video - Selecting Kunekune Breeding Stock Using the Breed Standard (BKKPS)
Beyond Breed Standards
The breed standard is a baseline, in my opinion. Yes, all pigs should fall within the standard and be sound animals. HOWEVER, equally important to me is having pigs that go beyond breed standard! What do I mean? How in the world can a pig even go beyond breed standard? If they meet the standard, aren't they all the same at that point? NO. Just because a pig meets the breed standard for physical attributes, that does not mean it is automatically a breeding quality pig in my book. When purchasing piglets, these things may not be quite so evident so you'd look at their parents to see if there is a history of desirable, non-physical attributes.
So, what am I talking about?
There shouldn't be a history of significant illness and they shouldn't be sustained on de-wormer or other medications.
Have they been sick at all since birth? If so, with what? For how long? What actions were required to get them over it? Did they bounce back completely? Were there any lasting effects? Were any medications used? Which ones? What are the possible effects of those medications? Do they get worms easily or seem to keep them? Are chemical de-wormers used? If so, which ones, how much and how often?
They should appear robust and healthy without breaking the bank to feed them.
Do they seem to eat more feed than others but stay on the smaller side, or are they feed efficient for their size?
They should lie down slowly and carefully and not plop.
Did their mother farrow unassisted, in a "smart" area (not in the middle of a mud hold during a monsoon)? Did she squish any piglets by being careless? Did she have plenty of milk for the litter?
EASE OF KEEPING:
They should not escape sufficient fencing, root or cause trouble.
Do their parents root? Can you easily manage their parents to get them where they need to be? Are they aggressive at all with people or other animals?
These attributes are common in the Kunekune breed (as are the physical attributes in the breed standard), but no one typically measures them. Rather they just hope for the best because "a Kunekune is a Kunekune." Not so much! If you saw a Kunekune who had a sharply pointed, long snout, narrow head, beady narrow eyes, long legs, no hams to speak of, no wattles, and splayed legs, open toes, with a sway back, would "a Kunekune be a Kunekune" at that point? Heck no! So why assume that these other non-physical attributes will automatically just fall into place because of their breed alone? That is where we see people begging for answers to how they can keep their pigs from rooting, how they can prevent whole litters from being squashed under the mother, and how they can help their chronically ill-health pig with endless worms, failure to maintain weight, etc. While we can't catch every single non-physical attribute when choosing pigs, as BREEDERS (now I'm speaking to the ones who should know this, but obviously do not or this wouldn't be such an issue), these things should also be noted within the herd and culled against. Every Fall I choose pigs from my herd that are closer to the bottom of the list for whatever reason and they become meat for the freezer. So, I like to think that every single year our program progresses and gets better and better.
Simple Test for Breeding Quality
And I saved the best for last. It's probably the sole reason you're here in the first place - THE TEST! I created a simple "traffic light" test to be an aide in helping people determine whether or not a pig should be added to the breeding line up. Kunekune breeders can use this test in evaluating their piglets to determine who gets to pass on traits and who gets to be passed at the dinner table. It can also be used by buyers, new to the Kunekune scene, to determine whether they should buy a particular pig or not. It's based on an average score, where an average of 1 is a RED LIGHT - Stop, do not breed! An average of 2 means SLOW DOWN (yellow) and consider all points seriously before deciding to proceed. An average of 3 means you have the GREEN LIGHT on an excellent breeding quality pig according to the criteria listed.
Feel free to download and customize this test to meet your expectations of the "perfect pig." I have included typical breed standard points as well as a few things important to my breeding program. You may choose to pick out the things most important to you and fill those out first so you have a good idea of how the pig stacks up in the areas most important to you before scoring the rest. I hope you find it useful!
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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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