Caring for your Pig
Pigs are smart animals, have been known to learn quicker than dogs, and believe it or not are pretty clean pets, they can even be trained to use a litter tray. Therefore they make great pets. Many pigs love to play with toys like balls, and also love to bathe in paddling pools, or a mud pit.
Choosing your pet
There are various breeds of pigs, and crossbreeds are developing. Kune Kune’s make great pets and are very smart, Potbellies are also popular pets. Other breeds include Landrace, Large White, Duroc and more. When choosing a pig you will need to think about what it needs, a Large White for example will need plenty of shelter as it is susceptible to sunburn. Most pigs love company, so you need to consider if it will get on with your other animals.
Male or female?
It is best to have the male castrated, otherwise sows or castrated boars are ideal pets, and having two pigs together to keep each other company is ideal.
When you get them home
Make sure your pig has clean fresh water available, and if possible keep them housed for the first night, especially if you are going to worm them, to avoid the pigs contaminating your new pasture with worm eggs and larvae. Make sure they have a warm bed to sleep in and offer them some pig feed. If you are introducing them to another pig, do it slowly, keep them separated at first but so they have a visual of each other, so they can get use to each other first.
Pigs need good shelter, they need to be kept warm and dry while also having good ventilation as they can easily become sick if they do toilet in side and the ammonia smell builds up. Pigs are also inquisitive so make sure there are no exposing wires and any cabinets or cupboards are well locked, especially the path to where the food is kept. They are susceptible to the cold as they don’t have much hair to keep them warm, so there can’t be any drafts in the shelter. You must also provide shade for them, in the sun, as they are also prone to sunburn and are not heat tolerant. In summer especially they will probably love to make a mud wallow to keep themselves cool and keep the flies off. Another ideal thing to use for a pig pool, is a plastic sandpit, they love these. The ideal pig shelter is one that is big enough to hold a couple of adults, a solid floor is best, with shavings, straw or sawdust as bedding.
Pigs can be grazers, so make sure you have plenty of pasture for them. To supplement their feed, the best thing you can buy is a commercially development pig feed, which will contain all of the nutrients that your pig needs. They also love to top up on vegetables and fruit, like apples, carrots and cabbage. Milk is another treat, but make sure you don’t overdo the milk supply as this can lead to diarrhoea.
It is ideal to have a dry surface for the pig to walk on for some of the time, this helps in the maintenance of their hooves, you will need to check their hooves every now an again, and make sure they do not become overgrown. The pig’s foot consists of two primary toes and two dewclaws. Each of these toes is surrounded with a hard nail. There are nerves and blood vessels in each hoof, similar to the quick of our own nails. Be sure to keep this in mind as you start to cut back your pig’s nails. On the bottom of its hoof is a soft pad.
You can begin training your pet pig to enjoy hoof trimming at any age, the best time to start this training is when your pig is a piglet. The first step in helping your pig understand that hoof trimming can be fun is to desensitize the pet’s hoof to being touched and to having pressure placed on its feet. When your pig is comfortable and happy, relaxing for its tummy rub, just play with each of its hooves. Start out stroking and gently rubbing the pig’s feet and legs. Gradually work up to your pig allowing you to place a gentle pressure on its hooves, while holding its foot in your hand. You should be able to progress quickly to using a file or fine rasp to file its nails. Take it slowly. This should be a pleasant experience for your pig and also for you. It is always best to start and end this process with a fun pig experience like a tummy rub or special treat.
As the pig gets older the file will probably not be adequate to take care of its hooves. Since your pet pig is tolerating your handling its feet and knows that you will not hurt it, it is pretty easy to move on to hoof trimmers. With your pig comfortably resting on its side for the expected tummy rub, and with you sitting at its feet with your pair of clippers and file, you should look at the bottom of its hoof. Many pigs have a build up of dried flaky nail underneath. This build up can cause it to not stand correctly. By removing this first you will be able to see exactly where to trim its hooves without injury or pain. Using your cutters or a large pair of non-pinching toenail clippers, you can trim the underside of the nail until the entire flaky nail is gone. You will come to smooth nail. Your goal is to have the underside of the nail flat with or just higher than the pad. After you have finished this, cut back both sides of the nail and blunt the end. Do not clip between the toes on the inside edge. You can then smooth the rough edges with a metal nail file or fine rasp. Just make sure you leave no sharp edges.
After completing the nail trim move up to the dewclaws. The dewclaws can be shortened on the sides, if necessary. They too should be left with a blunt cut and a few file strokes to smooth any rough edges. To help prevent slits, the final step in your pigs hoof care is to rub hoof oil into its hoof, dewclaws and pad. Now that one foot is complete you can move to the next one. Some pigs develop split hooves. If you run into a split in the hoof nail, you can start by cleaning the area with a topical antiseptic. With your file "cut" a shallow line across the top of the split. The split should then look like a "T". This “T” will help keep the split from moving up your pig’s hoof. By using hoof oil regularly and by making sure your pig is supplied a good diet, you should be able to prevent these splits in the future.
Keep an eye on the general appearance and behaviour of your pig. Red eyes may indicate that your pig has conjunctivitis. Keep an eye on its stool and the temperature they are living in. Things such as diarrhoea can be caused by dietary upsets or infections.
Respiratory Diseases – There are a range of viruses and bacteria causing pneumonia, bronchitis, and nasal cavity infections. Rapid or laboured breathing usually means a very serious illness, and needs immediate treatment. Coughing may be caused by bronchitis or pneumonia but may also be due to lungworm infection. Consult you local Vet for treatment
Ringworm – This is a fungal infection common in young piglets – it occurs as crusty area, mainly on the legs. Consult you local Vet for treatment
Lice – Occur mainly in Winter time as lice breed more in cold weather. The lice are rather large and brown and move around when disturbed. The lice lay their eggs on the hair on the sides of the lower neck and at the back of the hind legs, the eggs look like cream coloured spots stuck to the hair. Consult you local Vet for treatment
Mange – Occurring more commonly in summer, mange looks like crusty reddened areas especially around the head and legs. It can be difficult to distinguish from ringworm sometimes. Consult you local Vet for treatment
Worms – There are four types of worms in pigs – intestinal roundworms, stomach worms, lungworms and kidney worms. The most common problem with worms is usually intestinal roundworms in young pigs. Ivomec injection or oral wormers can be used. Adults should be wormed at least twice a year.
Vaccinations – If you have a large number of pigs on your property or a high risk of outbreaks then vaccinations should routinely be given. Consult you local Vet for advice.
The name Kune Kune means ‘fat and round’ in Maori. The Kune kune is smaller than other breeds, but it does have a tendency to become obese if overfed, so you will need to watch that. The Kune kune is a unique New Zealand breed of pig. Although the origin of the breed is not completely certain, as there is a lack of documentation on its introduction and they also failed to differentiate between other New Zealand pigs like the Captain Cooker. But it is thought they were probably brought here by whalers operating in New Zealand waters, and were traded with the Maoris. There are similar pigs in other parts of the world such as Asia, South America and the Polynesian islands.
In early times the kune kune was prized for its placid nature and their tendency not to roam, and it is now that it has found its niche as a pet pig. It has a unique appearance, placid nature, loves human contact, are intelligent, resourceful, affectionate, love food and a good scratch. There small round size that makes it easy to keep. At times Boars can be aggressive to each other or if a sow is in season but mostly Kune kunes are very trustworthy, easy to handle and safe around children.
One of the Kune kune’s physical characteristics is its tassels or pire pire. These are usually about 4cm long and hang from the lower jaw. Although not all Kune kune’s have tassels and some may only have one, but the gene is very strong.
The Kune kunes colouring is usually black, black and white, brown, gold, tan, and cream with various random spots. The coat texture can range from short silky hair to long coarse curls, the coat also varies throughout the year and sometimes in summer they can have extensive hair loss.
All pigs are bossy including the Kune kune and they can also be territorial when it comes to other pigs, if you are mixing strange pigs together do it slowly. Like dogs they have a social hierarchy in a group situation, saying that they are social animals and are best kept in pairs or groups and given the chance will also sleep together on a cold night!
Kune kunes are grass grazers, and will graze quite happily with other types of animals in a paddock. They can cope with a high fibre diet. But as pasture quality varies you should supplement their diet especially when pasture is in short supply. Using commercial rations means that they will be getting everything they need in their diet. So if you decide not to use commercial rations make sure that the other supplement or scraps you use are sufficient. They love cabbage, carrots, apples and basically anything. If supplementing you will need to feed them twice a day and always have plenty of water available for them to drink.