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Pausing on pigs

A week ago we decided to press pause on raising pigs at our farm. We really wrestled with the decision to rehome and/or sell most of our herd. We were sad, but knew there were several reasons why it was the wisest choice.

Drought - What farmer hasn’t been affected by the drought? KuneKunes are grazing pigs, meaning they get most of their nutrition from grazing in open meadows and underbrush in wooded areas. In the two and a half years we’ve had the breed, we’ve never had such a difficult time finding places on our 21 acres for them to graze.

Cost of feed - Like everything else, the cost of feed has risen over the past year or two. And because we’re in a severe drought in our part of the country, we’re having to buy more feed than normal to make up for the lack of tall grass and leafy vegetation.

Size of herd - Going from nine to 15 pigs was more challenging than we expected. Initially, we just fed Maggie extra since she was nursing the babies. But within a month or so they were eating grain and vegetable scraps just like mama. Once they were ready to graze alongside her, we had to make sure we had a safe area for them to graze in, which leads me to the last reason…

Infrastructure - With the help of our son McClendon and daughter-in-law Yessika (who had been the primary caretakers of the livestock until my husband and I moved to the farm full-time), we realized we need to beef up our infrastructure in order to give the pigs the best environment possible. Portable electric fencing is great, but not completely reliable in our experience. After we moved Maggie and her litter out to an area with portable fencing, she kept getting out of the enclosure to go look for other food. That left her babies alone and vulnerable.

Once the decision was made, we rehomed mama Maggie and dad Rupert that day. Earlier, we sold four of the new piglets in a 12 hour period. Two gilts (female pigs that have not yet nursed a litter), named Ginger Spice and Reba McEntire, were picked up on Sunday and two boarlings (young, intact males) - Ricky Martin and Michael Bolton - will go to their new farm on July 24th. Just boarlings Ed Sheeran and Willie Nelson remain from this litter.

We’ve decided to keep our barrow (a castrated male that acts as a companion pig) Nigel and two gilts from the previous litter. We’ve recently named them Nicole Kidman and Lucille Ball because of their strawberry blonde and red coats. This way we’ll still have KuneKune pigs to share with folks on farm tours. It will also allow us to resume breeding pigs in a year or so when we have the infrastructure in place.

This piece first appeared in Sherry’s column, Finding Myself in a Small Town, in the Corsicana Daily Sun.

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