I was really beginning to wonder at the end of last week if Coco was ever going to farrow and then look what I was greeted with when I went to feed her on Saturday morning ... 10 gorgeous piglets, less than a few hours old and already up and about. What a perfect treat for guests who arrived later that day with their 3 year old son. Last year when they came they were 2 weeks too early!
10 is a large family (previously Coco has had 3 and 8) but a pig has 14 nipples and so there should be food enough for everyone. They are small, but then newborn piglets always are small and do their growing once they are born. One is particularly little, the runt, and was probably the last born but he (I think it's a boy) is holding his own. He is second from the right below although not quite as small as the picture seems to make him!
We often get asked why we have piglets now, in late autumn, when surely most animals are born in spring. It was a bit of an experiment we tried last year and it worked well for us. The breed of pig we have is an old New Zealand breed called Kune Kune. They are not a large breed and also do not grow as fast as the commercial breeds that now supply most of the pork products we eat. However on our smallholding a smaller breed suits us but it does mean that if we had piglets born in early spring they would only be 9 months at slaughter time and quite small. Having them born in November means they have 3 months more growing time, although we do have to feed them a bit more over winter. It works for us though.
The Kune Kunes have other advantages too. They are very friendly and love nothing more than a good back scratch which makes for great interaction with our gite guests. Also, if anyone were to go into one of their pens when we were not there, they would not get bitten, just slobbered on! Most pigs are diggers but Kune Kunes will graze grass and not dig anything like as much as most other breeds so we can have them in our fields in the summer and they won't turn them into a mud bath. In fact two of them were still out in a small field until yesterday when they decided to escape ... they could have stayed out even longer but it felt like the best time to confine them to more secure winter quarters rather than have them escape again and it was getting rather muddy in the gateway! Finally, they are a hairy breed which makes them very hardy so if we do get cold weather they are able to cope with it well. All in all then the best breed for a smallholder and gite owner like us.
Mind you we do get quite a few comments from our younger guests who expect all pigs to look like this one!