Monday, March 27, 2017

Breed Profile #6: Kunekune Pigs

I pulled the spiles from our maple trees today...we were still getting two or more gallons of sap a day, but we figured we'd had enough for the season.  I have a bit more syrup to strain and can and a bit more sap to boil down, and then that's it until next year.  It's been a fun experiment, and I'm glad I gave it a try!

Today I figured I should finally do a breed profile on the Kunekune pig...I bet the piglets in the photos below have tripled in size by now - it's already been more than two weeks since I visited Grazing Hill Farm in Conway, NH.

The Kunekune sounds like quite an interesting breed!  Probably Asiatic in origin, it was likely brought to New Zealand in the 1800's by whalers, where the Maori people traded for them.  Docile, fairly small, and not inclined to wander, they made excellent village pigs.  

The boars keeping warm together.
The breed almost went extinct by the mid-1900's, however.  In the 70's, a conservation group used a handful of purebred pigs to begin rebuilding the breed.  

About a week old.
The conservation society was successful, and Kunekune pigs are now widespread in New Zealand, and have been exported to other countries as well.  They're still uncommon in the U.S,, though they're gradually becoming more well known.

Apparently the Polynesian word "kunekune" means plump - and that fits these pigs well!  They're not very tall, but they're quite rotund, and they have really short legs.  They have a short, upturned snout and wattles that hang under their chin.

A couple things really set this breed apart - first, its temperament, which one of my sources describes as "delightful."  They're friendly and docile; in fact, they actually enjoy human company.  They don't have a particular interest in wandering and won't challenge fencing.  (The pigs I met were definitely super chill!)

The second thing that sets this breed apart - and makes it particularly suitable for the small homestead - is that Kunekunes rarely root up the ground - instead, they graze.  They can thrive and grow fat on pasture, which is highly unusual - and helpful for someone who, like me, may want to use rotational grazing and doesn't want the ground all torn up.

Kunekune meat is said to be very good eating, with an excellent ratio of meat to fat...although, with the prices quoted to me, I think it would be very expensive pork unless I got into breeding the pigs myself!  

I'm kind of glad that I went on a very cold helped to temper the adorableness of the piglets with the reality that conditions will be challenging at times.  For example, this little cutie above lost all of her siblings - the sow hadn't shown signs that she was about to give birth, so the owners did one final check, then went to bed.  The sow had her piglets in the night, probably while walking around the stall, leaving babies in every corner.  By the time the owners checked on the pig in the morning, all the babies but one had died from the cold, or perhaps from being stepped on.

Lol, it's so amazing to think that that teeny tiny little peanut will grow up to be the size of her mother - in around a year!

So...this is a pig breed that actually appeals to me, although I admit that I went there thinking that they're kind of ugly.  :P  I like the sound of "friendly" and "docile," and I also like the idea of having  a pig that won't root up all of my pastures.  (And there's also the advantage of having a breeder who lives so close to me!!  :P )  I'll definitely keep researching, but I can potentially visualize a few of these guys grazing the pastures of Butterscotch Farm someday!!

My sources:

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