(Originally posted on Facebook 12/8/18)
I often get asked via PM “What advice do you have for someone new to Kunekunes, wanting to do pork production?”
To that end, I can only offer advice within my realm of experience! There are certainly others more experienced than I am, but I like to think I can offer a unique and “in progress” perspective, of someone who has learned the hard way and made a lot of mistakes. 🙂
My biggest suggestion is for anyone interested in this breed to focus on pork before piglets. What I mean by this is… always have pork be your main goal! Everyone needs to eat… pork sells. Sausage sells. Bacon sells. If you dedicate yourself to your pork production, you’ll always have a steady and growing stream of pigs of all ages to offer as suckling pigs, roasters, half or whole hogs, or hogs for retail cuts. Selling pork relieves the pressure to constantly have to sell piglets. Which brings me to the next talking point…
If you’re interested in raising Kunekune pigs just to sellSELLsellSELL piglets, go back to my first point… PORK and read that again. You should consider that your absolute best piglets will be retained for your own production herd’s improvement and development, as well as a small percentage for registered breeding stock. The majority of the piglets born on your farm will be… FUTURE PORK. 🙂
With that in mind, I urge you to buy the best registered stock you can afford, from breeders you’ve researched and developed a relationship with. Look for breeders who are also raising Kunekune for pork! These are the folks who are working hard to secure the breed’s future for pork production.
Remember that piglets represent genetic potential. All piglets grow at varying rates and growth rates can stall or take off. Yearling sizes can vary drastically. The development of your Kunekune herd for pork production will be a challenging, but rewarding project that may span many years and you’ll constantly be setting new goals for your farm.
Don’t limit yourself to following just Kunekune pork producing herds on social media. Consider following other farms working with rare breeds, or lard pigs. There’s much to be learned from other farms that are on the same journey that you are.
Be prepared to do a yearly herd evaluation and decide who stays and who goes. A pig you’re done working with, or have retained offspring from can be a valuable starting pig for those new to the breed, or just wanting to produce homestead pork. If you have pigs that are troublesome, or not good breeding prospects- consider processing them for your pork inventory.
Don’t get distracted by the tendency of the Kunekune community to fixate on bloodlines, or the belief that more bloodlines is better. Look at individual pigs conformation, size and growth rate first. Then consider bloodlines. We discarded the notion that more bloodlines is better… a while ago. We are working with fewer lines and striving to do our absolute best with those lines.
Don’t get distracted by the popularity of certain colors. Conformation is key. I’d rather have a herd of black and white pigs with incredible size and growth rate… than a herd of flashy banded Tapeka trait pigs with marginal conformation. Choose form over flash. Always.
Do your research- don’t rush into it!
Communities of folks raising pure breed animals tend to be incredibly passionate and it can become consuming. Initially, I spent a lot of time in kunekune groups, but recently I have found myself disconnecting from those groups because my goals with this breed are so different than what the groups tend to focus on (selling piglets, sharing cute piglets, selling, selling, selling). It’s become a big turnoff for me personally, when other breeders are focused on selling tons of piglets and I don’t see any pork being produced or sold. I don’t take those breeders seriously when they are just about selling as many piglets as possible. The breeders I DO take seriously… are the ones that have been working with this breed for a long time, and the ones who are working towards pork production.
And lastly, all piglets are cute… it doesn’t mean that all piglets should be registered. I prefer to buy older or juvenile pigs, or young adults above and beyond young piglets. It’s always fun to own young piglets, but Kunekune piglets change so incredibly much! Most breeders producing for pork production will retain many pigs throughout each year, for observation purposes. We often retain 2-4 piglets per litter, and then will decide around 6 months who to register. Then around a year we’ll do another round of cuts and often at that time will have our second or third place picks for sale as registered breeding stock, having chosen our top pick.
Don’t get discouraged… Kunekune pigs have a lot of variation in their genetics and it’s only through hard work, time, dedication and developing a consistent breeding program that you’ll see long-term results. Stay on course and enjoy a lot of delicious, home-grown pork in the meantime. And if you need to raise another breed alongside your Kunekune, to supplement your meat herd (As we do with the Meishan/Kune crosses) – do it! Do what you need to do, to make things work for your farm and your situation.
Have fun with it. This is an incredibly fun breed to raise!