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!