For the past several years, we’ve worked diligently to optimize our herd for pork production. Our goal weight range is for pigs to be 175-200 lbs by a year old.
This year, we’re meeting this goal in almost all of the retained breeding stock we’ve been growing out. It’s not been easy. It’s been a learning experience, because genetics doesn’t always give you what you expect. It’s as much about informed breeding decisions as it is chance. I repeat- it hasn’t been easy. I’ve thrown my arms up in frustration many times.
I’ve always strived to help others and be transparent here, because I believe that if someone is obtaining results, it’s smart for them to share how they do it for the greater good. I believe in the greater good and that we are all better off, the breed included, when there’s a free flow of information.
I’ve written a lot over the past few years about what we feed our pigs and how we get the results that we do. This post is a continuation of that.
I hope this helps you in your journey with this breed!
First, some feeding laws to live by…
1. Kunekune pigs are omnivores, not ruminants.
2. Your growing pig needs more food and nutrition than your adults.
3. Your growing pig’s body condition it’s first year of life should be pleasantly rounded, but never overweight.
4. Growing pigs absolutely need a complete feed with the necessary levels of vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
5. Growing pigs need protein supplemented higher than 16% for optimal growth.
6. The goal is not fat pigs. The goal is pigs with a healthy growth rate.
7. Feed your pigs a variety, don’t overdo fruits or grains or dairy.
8. Eggs can be given a few eggs per week, per pig. Raw or boiled. Eggs are a treat here.
9. Whey is wonderful, in moderation. Our pigs are treated to whey on occasion.
10. Bread should be fed in moderation and not a main food source.
11. Avoid sweets.
12. There is no set magic amount that you should feed your pig. Pigs are all metabolically different. You should feed to condition. Start off with a set amount and watch your pig’s condition. Too heavy? Cut back. Too thin? Increase.
13. This photo doesn’t include things like acorns, wild grapes, bugs and grubs or other forest/pasture goodies that a pig might come across.
With that said, here’s some more details about the items in the photo. These are in no particular order, and aren’t fed all at once or year ’round. This photo shows EXAMPLES.
Your core diet for your Kunekune pig should consist of a complete balanced feed, high quality hay, pasture/produce/alfalfa pellets or cubes, fodder, etc.
We feed a combination of Nutrena Country Feeds 16% grower pellet (we don’t have access to non-GMO at an even remotely reasonable price here in the Southeast so this post will not address that), along with a local (Oakway Farm & Garden) grain mash with added vitamins, minerals and increased lysine. This gets soaked. Piglets up to 9 months of age have their feed top dressed with Southern States 40% protein supplement, to bring their protein to approx 18-20%. (this requires some math, and you’ll need to figure that part out!).
Fresh produce is given as available.
Fruits are limited.
Eggs are an occasional treat.
Alfalfa cubes, alfalfa hay, alfalfa pellets are used when pasture is scarce.
All pigs get high quality horse hay as bedding.
Beet pulp is great as a filler, to add bulk and fiber to the diet of a pig who you want to lose weight without feeling hungry. Small amounts of soaked beet pulp can be given to all pigs, if desired.
Whey is wonderful and is a treat.
None of this is a a guarantee for hitting your goal weights, but it is a start. I find that Kunekune pigs eat more than most are led to believe that they eat. Our younger pigs eat heartily, especially for their first year. They are not overweight, nor are they structurally strained.
Kunekune pigs vary in size and growth rates and there are no guarantees that a piglet out of fast growth parents will also be fast growing… but there’s an increased likelihood especially if properly and amply fed.
How much to feed? Our youngsters up to 4 months old get around one 12 ounce scoop of food per day. This is a standard pet food scoop, for reference. We watch them from this starting point and adjust the group as a whole. 4-8 month olds might eat 1.5-2 scoops. I’d say that adults eat around 1-1.5 scoops per day when in optimal condition. This is just an example- it’s not gospel. You need to sample various feed rates with your own pigs based on what you feed… but most of all, feed your pigs to condition. Healthy condition, not fat.
Do I believe that adults can subsist solely on COMPLETE pasture? I do. But I also know that most people don’t have that year round, or even part of the year. I also know that pigs are omnivores and appreciate variety.
In closing, I don’t harvest pigs ideally at a year old. I want them to be around 225-250 lbs at harvest, usually somewhere between 14-18 months. Sixteen months, I feel, is the sweet spot.