It’s probably one of the most commonly asked questions by new kunekune owners: “What are the most important things I need to be sure and have for my kunekunes?”
To be honest, there’s not a very long list to give, but what few items there are prove to be very important. The rank of ‘Most Important,’ if you were to ask me, must be shared between two things, and I will get to those in just a minute.
But in a nutshell, here are my recommendations to any new kunekune owner who wants to be as prepared as possible for their new herd:
**Sound fencing. This is particularly important if you have young piglets arriving to your farm for the first time. You want to make sure the area where you will house and initially keep them is escape-proof. If there is an opening, a piglet will find it, and until they have learned to call your place home, there’s no guarantee that they will return if they get out. Now, once they have learned their new home, then if they get out, it’s not nearly as worrisome because kunekunes always come back to sleep in the same area at night. So what I suggest to people is to have a super secure area around the housing where they want the piglets to sleep every night. Leave them in this area for several days, up to a week or so, before letting them out to your pasture/yard area.
**Adequate water supply. Of course the ideal situation here is to allow your kunekunes access to a pond or running creek. But if you don’t have that, be sure to provide adequate water sources; this is especially critical during the summer months and for pregnant mommas (any time of year). A pregnant momma who gets dehydrated will miscarry after only a couple of days without water. A nursing momma who gets dehydrated will die after only a couple of days without water. There are lots of options for watering systems, with pros and cons to each, but that is a topic saved for an article all its own.
**A farrowing pen. This is only a concern when your kunekunes are old enough to breed and farrow, but it is incredibly important for new piglet survival. A farrowing pen MUST consist of the following requirements to be effective:
Shelter from the elements. For maximum piglet survival, your farrowing pen must provide an area that stays dry and out of direct wind, with the ability to hang a heat lamp during the winter months. (Piglets can get deathly sick from a sudden temperature drop with direct wind blowing over them, even if they are dry. But if you add rain to the mix, it’s almost certainly going to be fatal. For us here in Alabama, the time of year for this is April, when we will have several days in a row of warm weather and then, out of the blue, have a night in the low 30’s. That is extremely difficult on newly born piglets if they are out in the open.)
Full feed bowl. This is particularly important during the days leading up to, and directly following, farrowing. If a momma sow gets hungry, and she’s surrounded by day old, or two-day old piglets, she will eat them. And it doesn’t have to be because she is malnourished. She could be a fat, healthy sow that just hasn’t eaten all day and is very hungry at that moment. She could be one of your best mommas, and typically takes very good care of her piglets. Hunger will trump all of these things. So be sure your new mommas never have an empty feed bowl.
Separation from other kunekunes. This is, again, most important in the first week or so of new piglet’s lives. Boars are not aggressive towards piglets, but they aren’t particularly careful around them either. Also, sows have been known to eat the piglets that are being born from other sows. This could be a result of hunger, or maybe they are spooked…It doesn’t happen all the time, but it can happen often enough that it makes it worth the effort to ensure separation.
No bedding. Bedding=entrapment for piglets, which results in higher rates of them being crushed by momma when she lays down. Crushing is inevitable when it comes to piglets, but the occurrence of it is greatly reduced with the absence of bedding. If you’re concerned about the warmth of the kunekunes, use heat lamps, not bedding. And if you absolutely must use bedding for some reason, I always suggest pine straw over hay, as it’s easier for piglets to maneuver through.