FAQs About Kunekune Sows, part 1

These are three of the most common questions I get about gilts and sows.  Along with this article, I’ve also posted a video on our YouTube channel that covers the same information, and I will post a link to that at the bottom.  If you have any additional questions, definitely feel free to comment or email me; I’m always happy to help answer any questions that I can!


QUESTION 1:  “How long do you allow between pregnancies?”

Here at our farm, we allow sows to get bred back whenever their body deems it time.  For the most part, there is most often a general time frame of about 12-14 weeks, or roughly 3 months, between her farrowing date and her first heat cycle afterwards.  Here is the breakdown of that time frame:

* From the time a momma farrows, she will naturally nurse her piglets around 10-12 weeks.  During this time, her body will most likely not have a heat cycle.  I’m not saying it’s impossible, but in all the years on our farm, we’ve never had an actively nursing momma go into heat.

*Once the piglets are weaned (whether naturally, or by us), a sow will typically have her first heat cycle 2-3 weeks after that. If she is exposed to a boar, she may become bred back at this point.

If you do allow your sows to do it this way, you can get a maximum of 2 litters every 11-12 months.  If you prefer to allow more time to pass between pregnancies, or if you want to ensure that you have only 1 litter per year, that is no problem at all.  The only thing I always suggest is that you allow your sows to have at least one litter per year.  This is because with Kune Kunes, if a sow goes too long without getting bred back, she will become infertile.  Her body will still go into heat every 18-21 days, and a boar will still mount her, but she will never get pregnant.


QUESTION 2:  “If a first time momma rejects her litter, does that mean she is going to be a poor momma with future litters?”

No, not at all.  First time mommas are always a wild card.  You can’t predict based on their personalities which ones will be wonderful mommas, naturally, and which ones will be nervous and scared.  If a first time sow is nervous, she will be somewhat spooked by all the piglets trying to nurse and crawl around her.  She will continually walk away from them, not allowing them to eat.  If you don’t remedy the situation, it’s very likely that the entire litter will die.  The remedy is a simple one, though, and has a good chance at working.

If you find yourself with a nervous momma, simply pour some beer into her water bowl.  She will drink it, and it will calm her down enough to lay down and let the piglets nurse.  Usually after the first few times that the piglets nurse, her nerves vanish, and she will do just fine caring for the piglets.  Unconventional?  Yes.  Sounds like a suggestion from Grampa Joe?  Yes.  But does it work? Yes.

Now, back to the question at hand:  does this mean she will need help with her future pregnancies?  No, it doesn’t at all.  The nerves typically only effect first time mommas.  After that, they will most likely be just like your typical kunekune sow: wonderful mommas.  


QUESTION 3:  “How soon do Kune Kune gilts go into their first heat cycle?”

If you search this out online, you’ll likely read that a gilt can go into her first heat cycle around 12 months.  The key word here is ‘can.’  It’s definitely not the norm.  Out of all the gilts we’ve raised over the years, we’ve only ever had it happen one time that a girl went into heat that young.  By a long shot, it is FAR more common that a gilt has her first heat cycle closer to 15 months old.  So when your girl is reaching the 11-12 month mark, you should definitely keep a light watch on her.  But if a couple months passes beyond that point, and you notice that she hasn’t had a heat cycle, it’s definitely no reason to worry or be concerned.  99% of the time, she won’t get it until around 15 months or so.


Here’s the link to the YouTube video that covers all of this, with examples from our farm!

23 responses

  1. The most obvious sign that farrowing is very near is when a sow begins to build a nest area. She will pull leaves, pine straw, or whatever is around her to do so. Her vulva will also become VERY loose and elongated.

    admin says:
  2. Absolutely! I would strongly encourage you to do so, and keep them separated until the piglets are good size, and not in danger of getting laid on/crushed.

    admin says:
  3. I don’t know of any way to help with dead teats, I’m sorry. As far as bottle feeding, it can be very tricky for piglets. I would just advise you to be very careful to feed them with a nipple that doesn’t give a heavy stream. Piglets can asphyxiate very easily early on. I would also encourage you to get them pan feeding as quickly as possible, for the same reason. You should be able to find a milk replacer at your local co-op or TSC. Fresh cows milk or goats milk can also be used.

    admin says:
  4. I wouldn’t say there is a hard and fast rule for how long; really it would be most dependent on factors like her vigor and overall health as she aged. But my oldest sow currently is 10 years old, and she is showing no signs of slowing down! She recently gave me a beautiful litter of 9 piglets.

    admin says:
  5. If you’re confident that she is bred back, then I would say you may just be mistaken on when she actually took. Perhaps it was the following heat cycle that she got pregnant? Without more details, I can’t say for sure, but kunekunes are very predictable within a day or two, as far as gestation goes. Their heat cycles last 2-3 days, and they are pregnant for 116 days, so you can confidently predict when they will farrow if you know when they got bred, within a few days.

    admin says:
  6. So I separated my sow a week before farrowing and the piglets and mom are doing great. How long after birth do you let them all run together again? Poor daddy is lonely and just hovers outside of their enclosure!

    Katie says:
  7. My girl is eight day late first litter no milk comming from nipples should I be worried

    Chris says:
  8. I understand that a healthy sow can live for 20 years. How many of those years could she be fertile?

    Donna says:
  9. i have a kune kune pig ready to give birth. In the past, her teats don’t work very well, if at all. only 1 or 2 work. is there something i can do to get them working??? if not, do you recommend a specific bottle, or food for the piglets?? thanks.

    lori says:
  10. Should you separate your pigs when the piglets are born ? I’ve got one now that I think is in heat and she’s only 11 months.

    Janet Carolan says:
  11. ฅ^•ﻌ•^ฅ… What are the indications that they are ready to farrow? What type of signs of labor do they exhibit?

    Cynthia says:
  12. Hello! Congratulations on your new venture with kunekunes…it’s sure to be a fun and rewarding one! Here is a video from our YouTube channel that you may find helpful. It is all about ways to know your sow is in heat. Best wishes!

    admin says:
  13. Just a curious question here. We jumped in the raising of our beautiful babies with both feet. We got 2 sows that are about 16 months and then 2 more sows and a boar that are now just over a yr old. All 5 stay together. We never separated the boar. I have seen him try to mount 3 of the 4 sows at different times but not sure if he is big enough for our two older girls. He has tried to breed that I have seen several times a few weeks ago and now is trying again with our oldest and biggest sow. Any problems with them staying together and how can we tell if the sows are in heat? I mean any visual cues for me to look for? Thanks so much for all that you’ve done for us newbies.

    Darrel Hall says:
  14. Hello!

    There is no problem with keeping them together. When your sow is a few weeks away from farrowing, I would strongly suggest separating her at that time. But before then, there is no problem keeping her and your boar together. And as far as knowing when she is pregnant, the best indication is if she misses her next heat cycle. So, once you notice her in heat/being mounted, keep an eye on her 18-21 days later. If she doesn’t go back into heat, she is very likely bred back. Other than that, there are tools you can buy (we have PregTone II Plus), but they aren’t cheap. So, without investing in something like that, keeping a watchful eye is the next best thing! Best wishes!

    admin says:
  15. Hello! I’m considering keeping our sow and boar together (I know some people don’t recommend this).

    First- what are your thoughts on letting the two run together (we want to keep the operation small without getting 2 additional companion animals)?

    Second- if we do this, is there a way to know when the sow/gilt is pregnant? Or do we assume she is from the first time she goes into heat and is mounted?

    Elizabeth K says:
  16. The first thing that comes to mind is a possible inner ear infection. This can result in your kunekune walking “wobbly” or unbalanced. You may want to give an antibiotic, just to be a boost of help for him. If it is an inner ear infection and it is left untreated, it will likely go away on its own, but leave a lasting impact on your piglets gait. It’s possible that he will always walk with a noticeable difference in his gait, but will otherwise be perfectly healthy.

    Other possibilities include things like dippity pig, for which there is no cure and must just work itself out over a few days time. But normally this doesn’t effect piglets that young.

    Also, be sure that your piglets don’t have access to salt blocks, because they can be toxic to pigs. And of course, be sure that they have access to plenty of water.

    I hope this is a help, and that your little guy pulls through alright!

    admin says:
  17. It’s my pleasure!

    As far as your sow’s age, without her being registered, there isn’t really any way to know for certain. However, if she has had a single litter, you can get a general idea (unless she was kept separated from a boar when she first started going into heat). Typically, a kunekune gilt will go into heat around 15 months old or so. Of course it can be sooner or later, but 15 months is a good average. So, based on that average, and the fact that kunekune gestation is close to 4 months, then you could guess that she may have been somewhere between 19 months and 2 years old when her litter was born. This is just a rough estimate, of course, but could be close enough to give you a general idea of how old she likely is.

    admin says:
  18. Thank you for all your helpful information about kunekunes! I got a kunekune sow from a friend and I’m not sure of her history. Is there any way to know her age? She had a litter and lost them all right before we got her. Thanks!

    Daniel says:
  19. We have 2 kune kune s 1neutered male one female that are 8 weeks old.This morning when feeding the male was wobbly and disoriented. We took to vet and they gave him a cortisone shot for possible inflammation. But did not know what was wrong. Pigs have heat lamp and water all day. They are feed pig feed Am/Pm. With hay. Do you have any other thoughts of what could be going on our causing the problem? The female had no issues and barn is very well maintained. The both are fully vaccinated and wormed.

    Lori says:
  20. We would love to provide you with your very own kunekune!!

    admin says:
  21. Yes, that is very likely the issue. If kunekune sows/gilts go too long without being bred back, then they will very likely become infertile. However, because it doesn’t just absolutely always happen that way, I would definitely suggest giving your girl several more opportunities, just so you know for sure. It’s not uncommon for a perfectly fertile sow to need several months/opportunities to finally “take” and get bred. Best wishes!

    admin says:
  22. I have acquired a 3 year old gilt. She has been with our boar for 4 months. He mounts her every month but is about 3 inches shorter than her. I haven’t seen him complete. But if I am out there long they stop and come to the fence for attention. I assumed she hadn’t become pregnant because he was short but could the problem be with her being 3 and never bred before? thanks

    susie marvin says:
  23. Very Interested in KuneKune Piglet

    Tracie says:

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