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Piglet Surprise

Tuesday morning we woke up to find nine new piglets latched onto Lucille Ball, AKA Lucy, our three year old Kunekune pig. We had just found out a few weeks earlier that she was pregnant. It was not planned.

We were intrigued when we were first heard about Kunekune pigs, a heritage breed from New Zealand. The breed almost died out in the 1980’s before a conservation program was begun. Then, in the 90’s the first Kunekunes arrived in the United States. What’s so special about these pigs is that they are true grazers. Think of them as goats that don’t jump fences and you’ll not be far off. They’re also very friendly and interact well with children, something that was important to us. And their meat is red and marbled.

Our Kunekunes have been a big part of our farm for over four years. We carefully chose purebred stock from reputable breeders, with the intention of producing live pigs for sale, as well as processing some of them for meat. We had a breeding pair and did our best to ensure they bred at a time of the year that would allow a spring litter. We had two successful litters. Lucy and her sister Nikki (AKA Nicole Kidman) are from the first litter. When we downsized our herd in the summer of 2022 due to drought conditions, we kept the two of them, as well as Nigel, a castrated male (a barrow). We always planned - planned being the operative word here - to breed the girls. We even had a friend’s pedigreed boar lined up to come for a conjugal visit last year, but postponed it. 

Fast forward to three weeks ago when we were awakened by incessant barking. I opened the door to our RV and there stood Nigel at the bottom of the stairs. Houston and I got Nigel and Lucy - we still hadn’t located Nikki - down to their grazing area toward the front of our property. While they followed Houston, who was carrying the grain bucket, I noticed that Lucy was breathing heavily and lagging behind. At first we joked that she was really out of shape. But as we began looking at her more closely, it became obvious that she was pregnant. We were shocked, wondering when she would have gotten off of our property to be so far along. (Our livestock guardians have always done an amazing job keeping wild hogs off of the property.)

Less than an hour later the smaller gilt Nikki showed up outside our RV. Houston went out to move her back to her pen. That’s when he noticed that she’d obviously been bred by a wild hog. She didn’t appear to be in any pain at all, but the evidence was there. Nikki seemed to take it all in stride, grazing lazily like nothing was up. So in approximately three more months Nikki will be delivering as well.

We’ve made no secret that we’re new at everything on our farm, learning as we go. We leaned heavily on those who were more experienced. We thought we had a plan and that things were going well. You might think we’re negligent pig farmers, and maybe you’re right. But if you’d walked in our shoes the past couple of months, you might not have noticed either. 

The practical takeaway for us is the need for reinforced fencing. But even more important than that is the reminder that we’re human. We mess up and our animals clearly mess up as well. 

This piece first appeared in Sherry’s column, Finding Myself in a Small Town, in the February 29, 2024 edition of the Corsicana Daily Sun.

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