We have been raising kunekunes for over five years now, and I must say that it has been quite the journey. I can honestly say that I never knew how this small heritage breed of grazing pig was going to enrich my life the way they have. They are just so friendly, easy to handle, docile, and comical; what is not to love?
I will never forget all the discussions I had when I was researching the breed, nor how I felt when I brought home my first piglet. My first litter was also a memory I will never forget. I get just as excited today as I did back then with my first litter. To watch a birth is to experience a miracle right in front of your eyes. Can you tell I am head over heels in love?
What you do not hear a lot is the commitment that you make when you are raising livestock of any kind. The hours of work, the loss of sleep, and the 365 days a year that the “job” entails. Most pig farmers — unless you are a large scale commercial farmer — also work full time. It is a tireless job to care for the animals, but so worth the joy that it brings. Caring for our farm and animals is very therapeutic for me.
During my first several years of our kunekune breeding program I managed a Marriott Hotel full time (and then some). My husband also worked full time. It is hard to stay up all night delivering piglets and then go to work the next day, however we managed to do it. Luckily, two years ago, I left the hotel world to begin my own home-based business. It is a decision I still do not regret, as it gives me the flexible schedule that I need to be on the farm and watch over my animals even better.
The joys of raising livestock are very many! The accomplishments are great! The hard times are hard! I am a very emotional breeder, as I truly love each individual pig for different reasons. When you have a litter and unexpectedly lose a piglet, it is very difficult; I will cry each time. I go above and beyond to save each life that I am responsible for helping to bring into this world.
When you go through a heartache, you question why you put yourself through it. When you work all day and spend three hours cleaning up poop and giving fresh water daily, you question yourself on why you do it. When you stay up all night delivering piglets while everyone else is sleeping, you wonder why you do it. When you cannot go on vacation or visit with friends/family due to a litter coming or young piglets on the ground you are trying to save, you wonder why you do it. When your friends are inviting you to go places and you can’t, you wander why you do it. I could go on and on …
So, why do I do raise kunekunes with all the sacrifices that I make to be a pig farmer? I do it because I make a difference in their lives and they make a difference in mine. I love to watch our pigs out grazing. I love to save a piglet despite all the odds stacked against us. I love to walk out my door and have them all come running for my attention and affection. I love to be involved with the miracle of birth. I love to watch piglets play out in the farrowing yards. I love to watch a mother pig sing to her babies while they are nursing. I love to get photos of our piglets in their new homes and watch their piglets be born on new farms. I love to help my buyers by mentoring them and assisting them on their own journey through the kunekune world. I love how, if I had a tough day, I can go out and feel renewed after spending time with our pigs.
So the sacrifices are many, but, oh, the joy outweighs them.