Never in a million years would I have thought that pigs could be so cute and unique with their own interesting personality. Yes, that’s correct, interesting personality! We have two more additions to our ranch family - Michelle and Hillary, purebred KuneKune pigs and they are a delight! KuneKune pigs in and of themselves have a fascinating history. They are originally from New Zealand and were on the brink of extinction. After careful breeding and exportation world-wide, it’s safe to say, these pigs are here to stay!
KuneKune pigs may not be as well known as the pot-bellied pig but are fast becoming family pets as well as tasty pork chops and sides of bacon. They are known for being friendly and easily bribable with a tasty pear or apple. Michelle and Hillary free-range for about 70% of their diet which means they LOVE grass, fresh fruits and nuts; all of which are found naturally in our fields! Unlike a lot of pigs, they are content at eating whatever they can find out in the fields which means it takes a bit longer for them to reach butcher weight. Even so, it’s a lot easier to help them be organic and costs less to feed in the long run. (Feeder pigs can take about 4-6 months to achieve full butcher weight whereas KuneKune pigs need about a year to 18 months to reach optimal weight.) Livestock raised on organic, natural diets tend to have a richer, earthier taste with slightly less marbling. They aren’t fed corn supplements to artificially increase their body fat quickly. We only have to supplement their feed with organic protein feed for the remaining 20-30% of their daily required nutrients. We have their pen surrounding our orchard because they’re gentle with the trees themselves but do a fantastic job of eating the fallen fruit and keeping the orchard ground clean while fertilizing the soil for the trees.
Michelle and Hillary will not become bacon for the Barr family. These two girls are lucky and will soon have their very own stud. Their offspring will hopefully become a source of income and food on our plates. We have a family rule that the livestock that is to become food does not get named affectionate names however, all breeding livestock can be named and befriended. Hillary and Michelle are warming up to us now and seem to enjoy a good back-scratch or ear scratch. For me, I found it surprising at how hairy they are! They have course hair all over their bodies and I had always assumed pigs were smooth without hair. Their grunts are unique and can actually communicate a lot about how they’re feeling. Their sounds are different when they’re communicating with us vs with each other and it’s fascinating to listen to them and try to imagine what they’re saying.
More often than not, you’ll find these two girls down in the orchard area munching happily away under the cool of the shade of the trees. They may or may not acknowledge you as you walk over to them depending on if they think you’re bringing them a tasty treat or not. Their lives are simple and relatively stress-free. Bathing as desired in their own spa or resting comfortably under the arms of the trees. The goats tend to stay fairly close but seem relatively uninterested in their hairy pig friends. Two of our dogs would love nothing more than to chase them around and play while our German Shephard Freyja would love to herd them around. The chickens live in harmony with the pigs, keeping bugs at a minimum for everyone. One of the girls (Hannah assures me it’s Michelle) has become particularly attached to Mackay and will climb up in his lap looking for a snack and belly rub.
One of the side benefits of having all these animals are the unexpected family bonding moments. The other day all four of us were in with the pigs and Joshua and Hannah were able to practice with their pocket knives cutting pears slices. It was just before dusk and we could start relaxing together and simply talk. They listened attentively as their daddy patiently explained how to best use the blades to slice small hunks of fruit. They each had a pear to practice on, a slice for the pigs and one for us. They’re learning how to safely handle their pocket knives under supervision, learning a practical skill they’ll need for the rest of their lives. They’re learning how to care for the animals, to interact with them and love on them and provide for them in practical ways. And yet, this time goes even deeper than caring for the animals, it’s family time together. Time we can be ourselves, learn, laugh, eat and fellowship together. These are moments that while they may not specifically remember in detail when they are all grown up, but helps build a lifetime of happy memories and positive feelings they can draw upon when they need it later. Simple teaching moments that help build trust and open lines of communication, sitting together as a family talking; enjoying the here and now together…
I'm a wife, mom of 3 wonderful children, homeschool teacher and loving ranching. After Mackay and I married, we've been steadily pursing our goals of having a self sufficient life and teaching others along the way.