News and Blog
It's fall. Finally, that time of year when the musky smell of decay reminds us that there comes a time to lay up for tomorrow. The first frost has visited Black Valley and there is a chill wind whistling through the eves of our farm house. The barn smells of hay and straw. The creeks that dried in summer are finding their voice once more.
Time has passed too swiftly since our last note to all of you. We have been shaped and moulded by "life" over the last few months in ways we could never have anticipated. Loss has visited our farm. Rucker, one of our most treasured Kunekunes passed before his prime. Our first kidding season of Nubians resulted in unwarranted death and ultimately the disbursement of our entire goat herd. Work focused outside the farm prohibited us from gardening at all this growing season. Change has visited the Kunekune realm both welcome and unwelcome...Change is never easy but after the vibrant emotion of moments has ebbed there is serenity to be welcomed in submitting to things beyond control.
So as we lay up for the end of growth in this year; as familiar smells, and sounds remind us that this is the time to treasure every moment of beauty before life is laid to rest for a short time--Black Valley Farm is quiet. Our minds have cleared like the chill air, laying all the balmy haze of summer aside. The last long afternoons are being spent enjoying the bounty that has been bestowed upon us. As we walk our autumn fields and woods, tidy our barns and coops, stock our feeds and pile our beddings deep we take time to thank our Creator for entrusting us with His creatures...both great and small... human and beast...red and yellow, black and white...they are precious in His sight. And should they not be in ours?
Let us encourage you to contain your life and your emotion and your energies. Harness them unto yourselves in productive, self promoting, all encompassing fashion. No one else can value your lifestyle for you. Only after we render complete compliance to our way of life and the challenges that farming presses upon us and welome them with proud humility--then we will find the strength continue to value the wholesomeness we have decided to dedicate our livings too.
With a song in our hearts, a country song...Black Valley Farm invites you to join us in prepairing for the next season of life as we launch our first CSA. Meat and Greens. Pastured pork, pastured poultry, and seasonal greens. A change...welcome it with us...
Kunekune pork, pastured chicken and turkey, free range eggs, seasonal greens and herbs.
Golden Laced, Silver Laced, and Blue Laced Whyandotte chicks.
Outstanding, Award-winning breeding stock from the Northeastern Regional Coordinators of The American Kunekune Breeders Association and the Editors of the AKBA Quarterly Newsletter.
And this time next year: The largest most diverse pumpkin patch this Valley has ever seen! Fertilized by the most unique breed of heritage pigs this country has ever seen!
A special thank you to a very special woman who, in essence, encouraged the very thought of Black Valley Farm and it's Kunekune pigs, for allowing us to replace Rucker with his full brother Willoughby. Without her mentorship and guidance the evolution of our breeding program would have never soared to the pinnacle of our expectations. She and AKBA will never go without our full-hearted adoration and support.
357 days remaining and OH so much to fill them with!
Too many irons in the fire—don’t count your chickens before the hatch—no use crying over spilled milk—don’t put all your eggs in one basket—between a rock and a hard place—free as a bird—good fences make good neighbors—haven’t got a row to hoe—light as a feather—feeling his oats—little strokes fell great oaks—make hay while the sun shines—many hands make light work…
We, who’ve actually dropped a whole day’s worth of eggs, we wish we would’ve used two baskets. Not everyone has pondered the weight of a feather in their palm. Have any of our acquaintances watched with satisfaction as their calves kick up their heels after a few pounds of extra oats?
This calling, by which physical work can be rendered enjoyable and interesting, requires certain characteristics that may be learned, but that I believe are mostly inborn. –Gene Logsdon, The Contrary Farmer
I was given my Grandfather’s milking pail for Christmas. It was the most meaningful gift of my life…
This year Black Valley Farm can’t help but gamble that all our chickens are bound to hatch!!
<As Regional Coordinators of The American Kunekune Breeders Association we have decided this year to host several Kunekune workshops, we have volunteered to coordinate, oversee, and edit the AKBA Quarterly Newsletter. (You can now subscrib through our website.)
< Convinced that we have a breed of swine that has an unfathomable potential for sustainable farming, we will begin welcoming our first litters of the year in February…
<Anticipating dairy production, and itching to once again see goat kids dancing across our pastures, we will be bringing in our first buck shortly.
< Sausage, butter, pumpkins, zinnas, cheese, sunflowers, apples, raspberries, asparagus, sauerkraut…these have become our dinner conversation topics.
<Clover, legumes, herbs, timothy, and winter wheat wonder through our minds as we extend our pastures.
As our dreams take shape and our seeds sprout and our herds increase we hope to be able to share with as many of you as possible the joys of laughing over spilled milk, knowing that there will be more in the morning!
We invite you to check back with us frequently as our plans for workshops, field days, farm tours, and a tremendous Fall Fest unfold. If you want to hold a piglet, butt heads with a goat, pick a flower, find an egg, or even hoe your own row—we’re right here and willing. We’ll even send you home with a feather!
It is, nevertheless, a fact, that there is no more docile or tractable animal on a farm than a well-bred pig. –Joseph Harris
I think we all as breeders would agree that our foremost goal as members of the American KuneKune Breeders Association is to produce quality breeding stock. I would hope that it is safe to say as well, that anyone considering becoming a registered breeder also holds this goal as priority.
A Breed: A group of animals that is consistent enough in type to be logically grouped together, and that when mated within the group reproduces the same type. –Juliet Clutton-Brock, A Natural History of Domesticated Mammals
Quality: A measure of excellence or a state of being free from defects, deficiencies, and significant variations, brought about by the strict and consistent adherence to a measurable and verifiable standard.
We originally intended for this blog to entail the different approaches to breeding—individual pairing, group mating, and multi-sire systems—as it main focus. After approaching the subject from multiple angles I realized in order to take the subject seriously we must first discuss the motivating factor behind selective breeding in the first place.
To a certain degree, each individual breeder will develop a strategy for the specific combination of philosophies, situations, and goals that are unique to the herd he or she is breeding. One of the most provocative attributes of our breed is the fact that Kunekunes are so easily tailored to such a wide array of enterprises….companion, pastured pork, orchard or vineyard gleaner, and to some simply the opportunity to make an investment in a recovering breed. Once we have taken our personal aspirations within our herds into consideration we will all inevitably fall back on the question “What sets my pigs above all others in my sphere?” In answering this question correctly our Breed Standard comes into play.
The goal of any breed standard is to help breeders visualize characters and traits that should be included as typical of a breed… “Type” is very difficult to define, but includes all aspects that make breeds unique. “Type traits” are those characteristics that set one breed apart from others in the same species. The individual animals of any breed vary in “typiness”, which is the relative degree to which individuals express the type traits, and therefore represent the breed in its uniqueness within its species. Animals that strongly express the breed type are generally referred to as “typey” and are difficult to misclassify into any breed but their own due to their expression of breed-specific characteristics. Typey animals also have a subtle but important overall appearance that stamps them as not simply randomly bred…Breed type is the sum of physical, behavioral, and functional traits, and while these may not always relate directly to functional conformation, they do serve as important indications of the integrity of a breed’s genetic package. –D. Phillip Sponenberg/Donald E. Bixby, Managing Breeds For a Secure Future Strategies for Breeders and Breed Associations
(The AKBA breed standard can be referenced on their website under SUBPAGES on the home page.)
Kunekunes are unique within their species. Black Valley Farm, having no prior experience with swine, is still realizing the validity of this statement. Our breed boasts extremes both physically and temperamentally. There are of course subtle differences within the breed—even within our own herds. As breeding stock matures and piglets are produced each breeder will develop an “eye” for what their breeding program will aspire for.
In our last blog we discussed the history of bloodlines. It is important when discussing and developing our breeding strategy to take into consideration that pairing what we feel to be our superior boar to our superior sow is not always the best option. Just as there are different approaches to the physical act of mating your pigs there are also various approaches to the philosophies of breeding. I’m sure we have all heard the terms inbreeding, linebreeding, outcrossing, linecrossing, and crossbreeding.
Inbreeding: The mating of first-degree relatives. (offspring, parents, and siblings)
Linebreeding: The mating of related animals, but of less close relationship than first degree. (aunt to nephew, grandparent to grandoffspring etc.)
Outcrossing: The opposite of linebreeding. The mating of animals that are not related.
Linecrossing (subcategory of outcrossing): The mating of unrelated animals from within the same breed.
Crossbreeding (subcategory of outcrossing): The mating of animals from two different breeds.
The practices of linebreeding, as well as inbreeding, are utilized to produce genetic uniformity in offspring, which turn produces homogeneity and predictability. When coupled with positive selection and a trained eye, the result is a productive, predictable gene pool. Too much genetic uniformity over time can however, result in loss of general vigor, loss of reproductive performance, and an expression of undesirable recessive traits. This is where outcrossing comes into play.
Scenario: Your herd includes two sows (Jenny/Andrew and Jenny/Te Whangi) and a boar (Andrew/Jenny). Depending on the exact pedigrees, you are either inbreeding or linebreeding. In order to outcross and avoid the pitfalls of breeding too closely you would choose to either bring in a sow (Rona, Wilsons Gina, Rebecca Gina, Aria Giana) or boar (Tonganui, Boris, Tutaki, Mahia Love) of different lineage. There are considerations for either choice.
1. Purchase a Rona sow. You can now outcross her to your Andrew boar and produce either a Rona/Andrew or an Andrew/Rona that could in turn be breed back into your Andrew/Jenny, Jenny/Andrew, or Jenny/Te Whangi offspring.
2. Pruchase a Mahia Love boar. You can now outcross your boar to either your Jenny/Andrew or Jenny/Te Whangi sow. A Jenny/Mahia Love can be retained and bred back to your Andrew/Jenny boar. A Mahia Love/Jenny boar could be retained and bred back to the other of your original sows. By purchasing a boar rather than a sow your immediate options are broader by producing two outcrossed litters simultaneously.
The deciding factor of this decision should be based both on the “typiness” of your present breeding stock as well as your breeding options. Is your Andrew/Jenny boar the epitome of the Breed Standard? Go with the sow. Is your Jenny/Te Whangi sow the image you would like to see stamped on your entire herd? Consider the boar. Whichever the choice, bloodlines as well as conformation come into consideration on both sides.
Bloodlines or strains within a breed are those subpopulations that have been isolated from one another for several generations (usually four or more) with the consequence that they are somewhat genetically distinct from the other bloodlines.—The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy
Now that we are considering more fully the proposition of breeding we will discuss three forms of pairing our pigs for mating… individual pairing, group mating, and multi-sire systems.
Individual pairing: The mating of one male and one female at a time.
Group mating: The placing of a single male to mate a group of several females.
Multi-sire systems: The placing of multiple males to mate either a single female or a group of females.
Black Valley Farm has utilized all of the above breeding techniques.
There has been discussion among breeders whether to attribute Kunekune’s “breeding quirks” to either a breed characteristic or the long term results of close breeding practices. Whichever your personal opinion, I think most experienced breeders can attest that immediate results are not always produced when pairing our pigs. Sows can be staunchly particular about the boar that services them.
Ideally one would be able to place the desired boar and sow together, wait for estrus to occur, witness a breeding and count 116 days for the expected litter. This is not always the case. I have personally shared with several breeders who were unsuccessful in mating their pairs for quite some time. Black Valley Farm has shared in such woes. There does exist within AKBA the experience necessary to assess the situation and offer proven advice for the desired results.
Rather than go into lengthy detail on specific situations I will instead list some of the solutions that have granted successful results.
- Kunekunes are docile in temperament and contented. When housed together from a young age, the probability of complacency with one another does become a factor. Separating males from females for a period of as little as a few weeks can prompt the desired response.
- Certain gilts approaching the age of sexual maturity but not displaying signs of estrus can be encouraged to begin their cycles. An age old remedy shared by breeders and veterinarians alike is a short excursion. Crate her up, take a leisurely drive, and deposit her with the desired boar in unknown surroundings and, odds are, she will be more receptive to his advances.
- In larger herds with multiple herd sires it is common to run boars together when not in use. When introducing new, young, or inexperienced males into the herd environment it is not unheard of for certain boars to be at the bottom of the established “chain of command”. When attempting to pair such a male with an older mature sow ranking high in her own herd she often tends to reject his timid advances. There are several options if this is the case:
- If your dominant sow has become accustomed to being serviced by a particular boar, it is possible to station her preferred suitor on the opposite side of a fence line in the hopes that she will stand for him. While he engages her attention the desired boar will be given the
- Choose an acceptable inexperienced gilt to pair with the boar and she will likely be receptive. After breeding has occurred, and your boar has gained confidence, reacquaint him with the previous sow and he may display more authority.
- opportunity to service her.
- One multi-scenario solution is the placement of multiple boars with an unreceptive gilt/sow. As we all know, swine have the capability of producing multi-sired litters so as a rule, unless producing litters where parentage is unimportant, breeders avoid multi-sire systems. With the strict oversight of AKBA to insure the integrity of our breeding herd, DNA requirements allow us the advantage of employing this system to our advantage. Multi-sired herds put selection pressure on male competition.
Without engaged and dedicated breeders, breeds lose their relevance in the agricultural landscape and risk being relegated to the status of trivial artifacts or face extinction. –D. Phillip Sponenberg/Donald E. Bixby, Managing Breeds for a Secure Future
As registered associates of The American Kunekune Breeders Association each of us has dedicated ourselves to maintaining the integrity of the Kunekune breed, as well as promoting their usefulness in multiple markets. We each benefit personally by this relationship with a reputable breeders association as we are offered credibility and well as additional exposure. Upholding registration requirements that surmount those of more common breeds, maintaining the “set” prices for our breeding stock, and striving to produce quality both conformationaly and genetically, provides us quite a platform for declaring the uniqueness of our breed.
For those of you considering your own breeding program Lori Enright, President and Co-founder of AKBA has outlined the registration requirements for registering litters with AKBA. Anyone purchasing breeding stock from an AKBA registered breeder can rest assured that their purchased Kunekunes have met these guidelines listed below:
1. A Prefix, identifying name or abbreviation, must be registered with AKBA by application and fee.
6. Registration is the sole responsibility of the breeder. AKBA does not recognize paperwork coming from anyone but the breeder
This month we will be doing a two part blog on breeding practices pertaining to the Kunekune pig in the United States. Our opinion is that understanding where our lines originated from is an integral part of developing ones own breeding program. Part two will discuss the various techniques utilized by Kunekune breeders, as well as the requirements of The American Kunekune Breeders Association for varifying proof of parantage for registration purposes. Part 1 and Part 2 will be published in our blog as well as on Facebook. Anyone may feel free to respond with input as well as questions...
Kunekune Bloodlines and their history in the United States…
The first importation of Kunekunes pigs into the United States was in 1995 by Katie Rigby of Abilene, Kansas. They were imported directly from New Zealand, their country of origin, where the conservation of the breed first began. Katie Rigby partnered directly with the New Zealand Kunekune (Breeders’) Association and had the approval of the Elders of the Maori people. At a later time Rigby again visited New Zealand, accompanied by Gwin Stam of Jefferson, Oregon who partnered with her in bringing additional Kunekunes into the country. Rigby retained most of the imported pigs, but some traveled later to Oregon to become the “West Coast Herd.” Mrs. Stam later partnered with Pam Bell of Northern California and together they established a small breeding operation that mostly remained within the Pacific Northwest. This herd has since died out.
From The American Kunekune Breeders Association—Quote:
Rigby, being extremely protective of the breed, was very selective about who would get breeding animals and in more recent years, sold only spayed and neutered pigs to those she considered "qualified.” Ms. Rigby was the founder of the now defunct "Kunekune Registry of the Americas" and "OINK" corporation. In 2007, her herd consisting of purebred Kunekunes, Captain Cookers, Pot-bellied Pigs, and other breeds was sorted into three distinct groups. Breeding Kunekunes were designated to go to two separate locations. One group now resides in New York where Dawn Camp of Camp Skipping Pig selectively breeds and raises "pet" kunekune pigs. The remaining purebred kunes went to "Kunekune Preserve USA" owned and operated by Cyndi Berry of Mt. Pleasant, North Carolina where the breeding program thoughtfully considers the conservation and improvement of the breed.
Thus entered the Tonganui, Boris, and Wairua boar lines, as well as the Rona and Wilsons Gina sow lines to the United States.
In 2005 Lori Enright of Olde Reminisce Farms (at that time USA Kunekunes) traveled to Great Britain and purchased the foundation breeding stock for her future herd. The entirety of the Enright’s first import was purchased from the British herd of Andy Case. These four Kunekunes (two sows and two boars) would be the foundation stock for all breeding pigs sold in the USA until 2009. One of the gilts included in the Enright’s import proved to be infertile and a litter would never be produced out of her line. The Enrights were the first to freely sell breeding stock to the public. Mr. and Mrs. Enright are the co-founders of the official breed registry in the United States, American KuneKune Breeders' Association established in 2006.
Thus entered the Te Whangi and Andrew boar lines and the Jenny sow line.
Cyndi Berry of Kunekune Preserve USA began registering her breeding bloodlines with The American Kunekune Breeders Association in 2009. The same year she and Lori Enright negotiated a trade of pigs between their two breeding herds. This was the first crossing of two closed Kunekune herds in the USA. Cyndi Berry, being very protective of the breed’s future, had previously chosen to sell only spayed or neutered pigs. After careful consideration, in 2009 Berry decided to sell breeding stock solely to breeders registered with AKBA. Black Valley Farm was the first breeder to purchase breeding stock from Cyndi Berry, and in March of 2010 we brought home our Tonganui boar and Rona gilt.
*(Kunekune Preserve’s lines are traced directly to the imports of Katie Rigby from New Zealand and include the Tonganui and Boris boar lines as well as the Rona, and Wilsons Gina sow lines. Olde Reminisce Farms’ (formerly USA Kunekunes) bloodlines can be directly traced to the British herd of Andy Case and include the Te Whangi and Andrew boar lines and the Jenny sow line.)
* Black Valley Farm, in recent years, has personally spoken with Dawn Camp of Camp Skipping Pig, about the possibility of obtaining her only remaining line—the Wairua boar line—that was not duplicated in Cyndi Berry’s herd. Camp, like Rigby, was adamant that her pigs be sold solely as pets. Under no condition was she willing to “contribute” to the “pollution” of breeders (AKBA registered breeders). Camp’s firm belief is that the Kunekune breed should never be used as meat pigs or even be actively bred. In the last few conversations I held with her, she had decided it was her responsibility to let her lines die out. Her concern was that the Kunekune’s fate in the United Sates would duplicate that of the Vietnamese Potbelly Pig.
Since the Berry and Enright trade, and Black Valley Farm’s purchase, a dozen other breeders have developed/begun breeding programs utilizing both Berry’s and Enright’s bloodlines.
In 2010 USA Kunekunes added an additional boar line—Mahia Love, and gilt line—Aria Giana. These two Kunekune were imported directly from New Zealand along with others that the Enrights are working to obtain from the Northern California couple whom they partnered with to bring addtional lines into the United States. This is the first importation from New Zealand since the Rigby imports of the 90s.
In 2011, Susan Drake of Long Island Kunekunes imported (from Great Britain) a breeding pair of Kunekunes. Their sow, being bred in quarantine, farrowed shortly after her arrival home to the Drake farm. Producing the largest litter of piglets to date in the records of AKBA, her Rebecca Gina gilt produced ten piglets sired by her Tutaki boar. Black Valley Farm was the first breeder to have the opportunity to meet Susan and her pigs in person, when in June of 2011 we traveled from Pennsylvania to Long Island to pick up our boar and gilt as well as a boar and gilt headed for Kunekune Preserve.
Thus entered the Mahia Loveand Tutaki boar lines, and the Aria Giana and Rebecca Gina sow lines.
*(If you would like to learn about our visit with Susan Drake and see pictures of her pigs you can visit our blog at www.blackvalleyfarm.com). Some discussion has begun to take place between breeders concerning the size of the Drake imports. Having met Susan’s pigs in person, I can attest that they are indeed significantly larger than the Kunekune population already in the USA. They do however display the normal characteristics of the Kunekune breed—dished face, short upturned snout, and wattles, accompanied by the traditional color variations and coat. Unwilling to challenge the integrity of the British Kunekune Society, AKBA has decided to honor the registration of the Long Island Kunekunes pigs. Black Valley Farm has discussed with various breeders who purchased from the first Drake litter, the conformation of their piglets. Olde Reminisce Farms as well as Good Meadow Farm have decided not to include their Drake piglets as part of their breeding programs. Black Valley Farm has already begun to utilize our Tutaki breeding boar and have plans to breed our Rebecca Gina gilt in February. We feel that the Drake lines have just as much to offer the breed as the lines previously imported to the United States. However, we will advise buyers of the possibility that piglets purchased from breedings including either of Drake’s lines have the potential of maturing at a larger rate and size. For breeding programs utilizing the Kunekune for meat this could be looked at as an asset rather than a drawback; however breeders should keep in mind that Kunekunes are small swine and breeding for larger pigs is not upholding the true characteristics of the breed.
This is a short outline of the history of the Kunekune breed in the United States as well as the bloodlines available. All of the above facts can be elaborated on and different points of view can be obtained from the different individuals mentioned above. If anyone has specific questions about bloodlines listed in any AKBA registered breeding program I would encourage you to contact that breeder directly. As the Enright and Berry lines become more and more entwined each breeder has begun selectively pairing their pigs to produce the conformationally correct Kunekune that is stated in the AKBA Breed Standard.
*Anyone desiring printed copies of the AKBA Breed Standard, for either personal use or distribution to the public, can contact AKBA or Black Valley Farm.
Photos in order from top to bottom:
Solid black Boris boar.
Ginger and black Jenny sow.
Solid cream Rona sow with litter.
Black and white Mahia Love boar.
Ginger Tutaki boar.
Ginger Tonganui boar and solid cream Andrew boar.
As some of you may have seen posted on our Facebook page, we have been inspired by Bobby at Mitchell’s Miniature Farm to begin a monthly column (so to speak) in regards to Kunekune husbandry. We are hoping to get input on topics from fellow breeders, followers on Facebook, and as many Kune owners as we can reach. Each article will be posted as a note on Facebook as well as on our blog at www.blackvalleyfarm.com. To start we will choose one topic per month and elaborate on the subject.
To begin: Why are Kunekunes different than other breeds? We could go many directions with this subject, but for now, we will talk specifically regarding the areas of size difference and their ability to graze.
Size: Kunekunes can range in weight anywhere from 80lbs to 240lb according to different sources. According to the Kunekune Breed description in the book “Beautiful Pigs”—Portraits of fine breeds by Andy Case, boar weight varies between 110-132lbs, and a sow’s between 88-110lbs. Kunekunes are between 18” and 26” high, with an average height of 24” according to “Traditional Pig Keeping”—Carol Harris.
Compared to larger breeds such as: the Large Black, British Saddleback, Gloucestershire Old Spot, and Tamworth (that weigh in between the 300-400lb), Kunekunes are relatively half the size.
Some of the advantages to keeping a smaller pig are; ease of handling, smaller housing facilities, and decreased feed allowances. In the case of the Kunekune pig, the decrease in processed feed allowance is a strong point of interest.
Their ability to graze: One of the characteristics of the breed is their short up-turned nose. This particular characteristic allows the pigs to graze and discourages the tendency to root up the earth. Kunekunes will root somewhat, but nothing compared to the damage the Tamworth, for instance, would accomplish. In our experience most rooting takes place in damp earth and during our wet spring months. Our strategy has been to simply hand rake the upturned area, spread the desired seed over the bare ground, cover lightly with soiled bedding out of our barn, and within a few weeks the new grass has begun to grow. If your pastures are well established and your soil is not constantly damp it is probable that no rooting will occur.
We are currently grazing a herd of 20 odd pigs on approximately three to four acres. Our pastures are well established and have easily maintained our pigs. It would be feasible to estimate that we could double the size of our herd on the same acreage without compromising the life of our pasture.
Kunekunes can literally fatten on pasture alone. If you live in a climate where pasture is not available during the entire year it may become necessary to supplement over the dry or winter months. There are numerous choices to consider such as milk, whey, spent grains form a local brewery… If raising your pigs for meat, the various choices will enhance the individual flavor of your pork. Lori Enright of USA Kunekunes has fed brewery grains and we have experimented with both raw milk and whey. This fall we purchased a Jersey calf with the intention of finishing our future meat pigs on our own raw milk.
Anyone raising livestock realizes the expense of purchasing processed feed. As the price of corn continues to rise, we are all feeling the added financial output. For those of us looking to market pork as organic, the prices are usually double. Our personal goal for next year is to solely pasture all of our pigs from March or April until November, with the exception of pregnant and lactating sows.
This allows anyone looking into the breed whether for companionship, breeding, pork, or even an orchard or vineyard pig a very appealing point of interest. Just think you can keep a Kunekune for less than you can a family dog. (Think of the price of dog food.)
A passion of pursuits... On August 26th and 27th Black Valley Farm had the honor of hosting two events--a Field Day with PASA (Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture), and the 1st Annual AKBA (American Kunekune Breeders Association) Conference. Over the course of these two days the Kunekune Breed took the spotlight... Rebecca Robinson of PASA titled August 26th "Niche Farming in Diverse Times: The Role of Kunekune Pigs on a New Livestock Farm"... People traveled from various regions of our home state, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, New York, and California. The morning of the 26th started with a round of introductions that included what our visitors were hoping to discover about the Kunekune Breed. Why is our breed different? What does it have to offer that other breeds lack? As the saying goes--Seeing is believing... As we spent the day walking our pastures and interacting with our 20 odd Kunekunes of every age, size, and color we began to see others thrill to the opportunities that the Kunekune could offer each of them in their own farming environment. Brian and I purchased our first breeding boar from Texas without even seeing a photo, and here we were, offering people the opportunity to see first hand just how amazingly endless the remarkable qualities of our breed truly are. Ease of handling? Cornelius, our favorite breeding boar roamed the tent while we discussed conformation...Worried about agressive mothering? Ramona grunted contentedly as we picked up and displayed her five day old piglets...Ability to be fattened on pasture? We don't own any skinny Kunekunes. Do they really not root? Our audience will attest to the lack of damage our pasture sustains.
Our goal for the two days was to extend the position that whatever your pursuit--companionship, pastured pork, even the simple ability to turn a profit-- we feel that our breed has a great deal to offer.
Lori Enright, founder of AKBA and the first importer to the United States to freely offer breeding stock for sale to the public, lended authority and passion to the theme of both days. Her passion for the breed, combined with her unchallenged knowledge of Kunekune husbandry, along with her pioneer venture into the meat market allowed her to share with those who were able to attend a wealth of knowledge not easy to come by for new and perspective breeders.
Cyndi Berry of Kunekune Preserve has generously offered the once out of reach lines imported in 1995 to registered breeders accross the country. To honor her commitment to the future of the breed Lori Enright presented her with the Patron of Porcine Award. Having met in person for the first time it was a tender moment for both.
At the end of our time we felt confident that we were able to kindle an interest in a breed that allows the small farmer the opportunity to expand their pursuits in whichever direction they care to follow. As many of you know, the market for pastured pork is expanding, the general public is beginning to show a desire to slowly shift into self sufficiency, hard times are urging us to seek out new opportunities for financial independence... Black Valley Farm encourages you to take a look at the Kunekune breed. (Or in our case we had to take a second look before venturing in.)
We cannot adequately convey our gratitude for those who braved the weather of hurrican Irene to attend the 1st Annual AKBA conference. Our group, though small, demonstrated the mutual enthusiasm of breeders accross the country that we have a breed with potential and are ready and willing to sacrifice to allow others the chance to participate in the rewarding experience of Kunekune husbandry.
Founders Crossing, Deepwood Gallery, Green Harvest, Cove Creek Outfitters, and HeBrews, were my circuit yesterday as I visited some of the local downtown merchants to inquire about hanging posters to let people know about our Field Days in August. I visited my favorite vendor's booth at Founders Crossing which displays various cast iron curios--some of them pigs! At Green Harvest I tried their summer Mango Iced Coffee--YUM--, and met Kim who is helping me choose the menu for the lunch they'll be catering for both of the events. The owner of Deepwood Gallery Oooohhhhed and Ahhhed over the pictures of the pigs on the poster. He LOVES pigs... and declared that he just might come and see our Kunes.
I've lived in Bedford County, with the exclusion of a few side ventures, my entire life. It is refreshing to walk the strees of downtown and see storefronts full of antiques, trendy menus, and attractive galleries. It's also satisfying to be able to contribute to the "modernization" of our county. People's eyes lit up as they looked over the posters that I offered for display. That is what Brian and I are looking for! Yes we're FARMERS...but hey, get that picture of your Grandpa out of your head.
On August 26th it is our plan to share with people, along with PASA, the thrill of finding your niche. It's time for young, enthusiastic, healthy (and yes, it's now hip to be healthy), MODERN people to realize that agriculture is not a pursuit of the past. Take a trip to The Bedford Springs to grab a bite for lunch and see that The Tavern displays, with pride, that Hidden Hills Dairy provided the cheese for this or that dish, and so-and-so produced this or that for that one. Local is "IN"! If elite resorts are looking for local, well--you want to express your individuality? Having a hard time finding that creative outlet? Take a second look at the world of agriculture and the myriads of products it encircles.
August 26th and 27th we would be honored to share with you our farm--Black Valley Farm. We've got big plans for our future, we're on our way to where we want to go. Let us share with you what's made it possible for us to pursue our agricultural ambitions. Come chat with PASA representatives, ask Lori Enright, President of The American Kunekune Breeders Association, the difference between soft and hard fat on a carcass---She just provided a Kunekune to Cochon 555... Want to find out about our breed of pigs and all the directions you can take them? Come and talk to breeders from California, North Carolina, Maryland, New York, and Michigan... Meet Cathy Soult, an amazing woman that runs a raw milk goat dairy solo!
If for no other reason, just come be curious! Hold some week old pigelts, trim some goat hooves, try your hand at juding pig conformation, enjoy lunch from Green Harvest, VISIT the sustainable agriculture of OUR generation.
Visit our Events Calender under our main menu at www.blackvalleyfarm.com for information on registering for August 26th & 27th.
I always wonder when speaking to people how they picture me and my surroundings... Do they think of me as young, can they picture my pastures and my back gate that squeaks, that I so often mention? After a while even though you have never seen a face you begin to feel like you "know" a person. They are assigned a mental image that your mind connects with their voice. You try to imagine what their homes look like as they discribe themselves and their everyday experiences...
I've slowly begun meeting the people I've gotten to know over the last few years with our Kunekunes. I've met Cyndi Berry of Kunekune Preserve, Leslie Bradley of Brandywine Croft, Barb Rossi of Bel Canto Farm, Erica Kuntz of Koru Fiber and Dairy and last Sunday we were able to meet Susan Drake of Long Island Kunekunes.
No mental picture can do justice to the enchantment of Susan, her farm, and her pigs! As soon as we pulled into the yard we were greeted with a sense of welcome and ease. It was the perfect conglomeration of well kept gardens, random outbuildings, and a hodgepodge of miscellaneous chickens of every shape, size, and breed. Susan's husband explained that their hatchery accidently doubled their order of seventy-five birds... And right in the middle of her nine acre strip of Long Island were her pigs! First we met her boar--handsome, HUGE, and masculine in a very pleasing way, her gentle giant is a Kunekune we should all be pround to be breeding from. Sadie (her sow) was adjoining. A slightly plainer solid ginger, Sadie too was tall. Long through the body and surprisingly trim and chipper for having just reared nine piglets she was happy to greet Susan who let her out into the yard to roam with the chickens. She had the most beautiful tail that she swished and curled as she went...
Susan then whisked us off to her kitchen where her husband was preparing "lunch". My husband knows what a fan I am of "breakfast" for lunch and dinner. Well, we had "breakfast" for "lunch". That's right! Blueberry pancakes, hashbrowns, scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, orange juice, fresh grapes and bing cherries... It was divine. Their kitchen (really their whole home) was just as welcoming as the rest of their farm. All of us with children can appreciate a "don't worry about your shoes"! Susan explained that her slate floors were ment to stand up to everyday life. It was so pleasant to sit at her kitchen table and gaze around at her beautiful home and chat about Long Island, Kunekunes, health charts, England, London, and her love of English food. All while her amazing husband was piling pancakes, eggs, bacon, and hashbrowns on our plates.
Susan then insisted on taking the kids for goodie bags from her barn where she sells her own baked goods, old fashioned candies, and organic teas on the weekends. They each got a bag for the road and Brain and I got three monterous cookies and a bag of Honeybush tea. Then we headed off to help the guys load up our piglets.
This turned out to be the most exciting part. Sadie's piglets did NOT want to leave! I mean REALLY! And these piglets are not your normal little guys that I'm used to. Poor Susan and her husband were left to wrestle them out of their fence and into the crates. The last piglet was proving quite a challenge until Susan body tackled him to the ground kicking and screaming while the guys attempted to get ahold of him. Only minor injuries were sustained and Brian asked if she had ever considered trying out for the Giants. In the end everyone settled in their crates on our trailer wrapped in beach towels, surrounded by the kids bikes and wagon and stroller.
Susan and her husband plan on attending our day with AKBA in August and we would love for all of you to be able to meet them. Susan's pigs are going to prove such a valuable addition to our USA herds. They have a look all their own that everytime I look at my pair, they grow on me a little more strongly. Strong feet and legs, upturned noses, curled tails, broad muzzles, SIZE... I can not wait to begin breeding them into our herd.
To everyone else enjoying their Long Island Kunekunes congrats. For myself--I feel as if we are the most blessed. Not only do we have our piglets, we have wonderful memories to go with them.
Well Ladies and Gents, today I did it. I dabbled in dairy. With the decision to downsize our goat herd to strictly Nubians, the freed up barn space and lower feed bill have been prompting my never ceasing mind to "think dairy". Ziva, Zona, and Fable will provide us with their creamy caprine milk by next midsummer but I still can't resist the temptation of a Jersey. As some of you know my Grandfather spent a lifetime milking Jerseys--also prized for their high butterfat content. Don't you think there is just "something" irresistable about keeping a family cow?
So I've jumpped in--to the research phase at least. Brian's training has been sinking in (which I'm sure he's glad to hear)--I'm covering all my bases. Lori of Hidden Hills Dairy who has been supplying our milk for the Kunes, as well as raw milk for our family, has proven to be a wonderful source. In June we hope to visit several of her Jerseys to see what we think.
Here's what I know so far:
I like butter--ok, I LOVE butter.
By milking one Jersey we would have the potential of producing four lbs of butter per day and still have enough milk for our family and the pigs. (Roughly 1 pint of cream/gallon of milk. Roughly 1lb of butter/pint of cream. Roughly five gallons of milk/one Jersey/day.)
I've learned that, if on pasture a lactating Jersey will require about 15-20 lbs of feed per day. She would need about one 40-50lb bale of good quality hay per day when pasture is not available. I've figured on about 180 days of feeding hay... Without four extra goats to feed it will just about equal out!
There are a few things I don't know:
The licensing requirments for selling dairy products to the public.
The ins-and-outs of milking and storing milk.
The equipment I will need.
Whether or not we are ready to commit to milking twice a day.
Today though, as I whipped my very own butter, the satisfaction was overpowering. Skimming the cream from Lori's raw milk, letting it warm to room temperature in the sunlight, then whipping it until the buttermilk seperated, washing my pat of butter, coaxing the last few drops of liquid out, adding fresh dill and lemon zest with a dash of sea salt... It was culinary bliss! Tomorrow I'll add it to freshly sauted asparagus and it will be divine.
Those of you attening our Field Day with PASA know our motto of "Niche Market". There is nothing more fullfilling than taking something you love and pouring your heart into it. Especially when no one else is attempting it. Do you know of any other local, natural, source of freshly made, gourmet BUTTER?
I guess maybe the question then should be WHY NOT?
On a day like today--sun shinning, sprouting green foligage, rushing creeks, a pasture full of thriving animals of all shapes, shades, and sizes-- we say to ourselves, "How can anyone not want to be a farmer? Is the grass greener on the other side of the fence? Let's swing open the gate and go find out..."
We have had a busy spring so far this year. Quite a few new experiences have been added to our "personal resume". Three of our gilts farrowed their first litters elevating them to the staus of SOW. Seven piglets are now being weaned and will soon be departing to their new homes in Missouri, Mississippi, New York, Ohio and beyond. My husband and I now talk of Health Charts, DNA, Brucellosis, and bloodlines like old timers. It is amazing to me the sence of self statisfaction it lends. Everyday it is reiterated more fimly that experience is the best teacher.
New experiences have come hand in hand with new relationships. Some amazing people have become invaluable to us. Lori Enright, Shelly Farris, and Cyndi Berry have freely given advice on every kind of pig crisis that you can possibly imagine--shipping fever, swollen hooves, pneumonia, nutirtion, weaning, breeding, farrowing... Shelly talked me through pulling my first piglet at 2:00 am, over 1700 miles away. Dr. Shawn at Dairyside Veterinary Services in Martinsburg, after several months of begging, has agreed to write Health Charts and travel papers for me. His wealth of knowledge (even though not specificly in the field of swine) is quickly becoming one of our greatest assets. Dr. Anderson who does all of our farm visits and unltrasounds has also proven herself to be indispensable.
Bonnie and Eric Swinehart have been our sounding board, farmhand assistants, and above all friends through every situation. Jessica Frye of Wholesome Living Marketplace deserves commendation for her promotion of our county's local agrarians, as well as all things "whloesome". She has opened up the store to host meetings and at every opportunity works toward connecting local entrepreneurs.
Yesterday we had a wonderful afternoon with the Bradleys of Brandywine Maryland. They came to drop off Charlotte, their black and white Jenny gilt, to be studded to Wendell, our Tonganui boar. It gives us great joy to be able to share with them the chance to participate in the promotion of the KuneKune breed. The Bradleys have, I feel, opened up a new door for us. What is life after all, if it cannot be shared?
This week we will begin breeding back our sows on their weaning cycles as well as Allegheny our Wilsons Gina gilt. The immense interest we have been receiving is heartening! Kunekunes are becoming more widely recognized by the day. As Reginal Coordinators of The American KuneKune Breeders Association (AKBA), it is one of the goals closest to our heart to promote the breed and assure it a lasting future. We will be helping to promote AKBA at The World Pork Expo, June 8-10th in Des Moines Iowa this year. Several of our pigs, including Cornelius, will be on display at the booth. We are excited to be able to discuss various issues with several leading athorities on swine that Lori Enright has persuaded to meet with us after hours at the Expo.
Even more exicting than all the events, past and future, will be the construction of our home this summer. Call me crazy but I cannot wait for the day when we can hang our sign at the end of our lane. Black Valley Farm! Along with our home we will be constructing individual pig houses paterned after the English example. There is quite the challenge ahead of us...Taking six blank acres and transforming it into the vision we have for it. It will require intensive planning for fencing, planting, and placement of structures. We will be taking full advantage my aunt and uncle, Mike and Laura Jackson's wealth of knowledge of indigenous plants, shrubs, and trees.
So as spring progresses into summer, as we homeschool our children, build our home, opperate our Agricultural Undertaking, (all in the midst of Brian working full time) we can do nothing but praise The Maker of all things for the opportunity to bring glory to His Name as we foster a livestyle that is a daily reminder of His power.
Let them praise the name of the LORD, for He commanded and they were created. He also established them forever and ever; He made a decree which shall not pass away. Psalm 148: 5&6