Gary and I were married on a beautiful, sunny day, in 2004. We were married here on our farm, that we love so much. We built a pergola by the canal, and were married there, in the shade of an old apple tree. After we were married, we were ready to see the farm come to life with farm animals. We both have always had a strong love for pigs. Our quest for pigs began with Gary researching small pig breeds. He wanted a small pig that he could keep forever. He had no interest in butchering pigs at the time. He discovered the Kunekune pig. The Kunekune pig is a small, pasture pig from New Zealand. They are completely covered in hair and come in a variety of colors. They have really short, upturned snouts that are perfect for grazing. They are also naturally friendly. In 2005 we purchased our first Kunekune pig. Domino was an older boar. Domino changed our lives forever. He was loveable and followed us around like a faithful dog. Gary would go out and sit with him for hours. We just had to have more Kunekunes. Gary found out that Lori Enright had recently imported Kunekune pigs from England and we were able to obtain more Kunekunes from Lori. Destiny was our second Kunekune, but our first Kunekune piglet.
After we had Domino and Destiny, I was able to convince Gary, that if we were going to raise pigs, I wanted big pigs too. I wanted to raise our own meat. I have always lived on farms and I have always raised my own meat. It is very important to me to know how the animal was raised, that it was loved and cared for. I do not want hormones and excess antibiotics in our food.
Sassy was our third pig, a Duroc. Destiny and Sassy were 2 days apart in age. It amazed us, watching the two of them grow. The size difference and rate in which they grew were completely different. Sassy was super friendly, but a pig does not have a name like Sassy, without good reason. She was also a pistol. She got big and fast. She was a rooting machine and could flat clear ground. Meanwhile, Destiny was small and growing slow, so slow that we were concerned that there must be something wrong with her. She would calmly wander around the pasture grazing grass and not rooting at all.
As our Kunekune herd grew and our big pig herd grew, the difference between the two was like night and day. The Kunekune pigs were so docile and gentle. They would graze contently in the pasture. They did not bother the fences and were easy to handle. When the piglets were born, they had no fear of people and would crawl right in our laps. From day one, the Kunekune piglets were our best friends. The sows did not get upset when we picked up the piglets. In fact, they seemed to want us in with them and their piglets. The big pigs were the exact opposite. They were friendly, because we invested hours in working with them to make them that way. They only grazed the grass when conditions were right. They could root and rip up the ground at other times. They tore up gates and fences; several times a 12 foot gate has been taken right off of its hinges and removed. The piglets were so flighty and scared of people, that they would hurt themselves trying to get away. It did not matter how much time we spent working with them, they remained this way until they were older. The sows were extremely protective of the piglets. We could not even think about picking up piglets with momma close by. We had to walk softly and talk softly when we entered their pens. It amazed us how fast an 800 lb pig can move.
During this time we spent a lot of time reading old pig books. We wanted to raise pigs the way they were raise a 100 years ago. We talked to people all across the country that was currently raising pigs, used to raise pigs and those that wanted to raise pigs. We found that many people would like to raise pigs, but because of their size and disposition, they were not doing it. They all seemed to have one thing in common; they wanted a smaller, friendlier meat pig. This pig that they wanted just did not seem to exist. The Kunekune pig in our opinion is not the perfect meat pig because of their slow growth rate, rarity and expense. An idea began to immerge. What if we could incorporate all the great characteristics of the Kunekune pig like their short snouts, grazing ability, gentle disposition and combine that with the fabulous meat qualities and faster growth rate of our big heritage pigs? We wanted a pig that was smaller in size at maturity but still reached market weight in the standard 6-7 month time frame. We wanted a pig that was pasture based, which meant we needed shorter snouts. We wanted the piglets to crawl into our laps and not run away scared. We wanted the sows to have a gentler disposition. We also wanted to recreate what pigs used to be like in the 1920’s and 1930’s before we as man changed their diets, living conditions, body style and personalities. The Kunekune pigs is a throw back in time, they look like what all pigs used to look like. So our journey began in creating the perfect, pasture based meat pig. We spent thousands of hours researching pig breeds and how they were developed. We found out that it takes a minimum of 3 different pure breeds, 7 generations and of course documentation to establish a breed. We researched which grasses and legumes were best suited for pigs. We researched which breeds were the best for the quality of meat and then we went to work in making it into a reality. We choose the Kunekune pig as the base of our breed; they offer many great qualities to the mix, like their smaller size, extreme short, upturned snouts and excellent dispositions. We also choose the Berkshire breed. They are a heritage pig, known for their excellent meat qualities. They are slightly smaller at maturity than other breeds. They are great mothers and have a gentler disposition. Until the 1970’s the Berkshire had a relatively short snout. We also felt like many breeds originally made up the Kunekune breed and felt like the Berkshire could have been one of those breeds. We choose Duroc breed as our third breed in the mix. The Duroc is known for its great meat qualities, has a fast growth rate, a relatively short snout. They were developed right here in the United States. The down side to the Duroc is that they do not have the friendliest disposition.
We named our breed “Idaho Pasture Pigs”, we call them Ipp’s for short.
I would love to say that everything just fell into to place and I guess looking back now, it did.
Our place was not set up for raising pigs, not the way that we wanted it to be. It is an old farmstead. The fences were falling down. The pasture was one big field that did not produce much. We rebuilt fences, put up new fences, making smaller paddocks, and we replanted the pastures using a mixture of brome and orchard grass, clover and alfalfa. We put in an irrigation system to water the pasture. We had 3 old structures here, a Quonset style barn that was a milking parlor, a loafing shed and an old carport. All of these structures were revamped and stalls were built in them for pigs. We had to take water and electricity to all these structures. We bought a tractor, and a feed mill to grind our grain. We put in a grain bin and bought pig feeders. Gary built huts for the different paddocks. While all these projects were going on, we were working on our breeding program. We had lots of challenges in this endeavor. We were breeding pigs of different sizes, and different temperaments. Kunekunes are extremely laid back and are not the most aggressive breeder’s; big pigs are a bit different. There were times that we had to take two steps back, in order to take one step forward. A new breed of pig has not been established since the 1950’s. I know that many people thought we were crazy to take this on, I know others could see what we were trying to do. We never lost sight of our goals, and kept working towards them, even when it seemed we were getting nowhere. We have tweaked, and experimented with different percentages of the breeds that we are using. Every litter that we produce just gets better and better. I have been adamant about not selling any breeding stock until we had the perfect pig, even when people wanted to buy them, and my husband wanted me to sell them. We started selling breeding stock in 2012. I have been called a “snout snob” and I am. We are critical of the pigs we produce and keep only the best of the best for breeding purposes.
Our farm has grown, we now raise heritage turkeys, chickens, registered Berkshire pigs, registered Kunekune pigs and of course our Ipp’s. We raise our own alfalfa hay. We have raised cattle, goats and horses here too.
The pig we had envisioned in our mind became a reality. What we set out to accomplish with our breed, we had done. Our Ipp’s graze grass like they are starved for it. They are gentle, smaller in size at maturity. The piglets are not scared of us and crawl into our laps. We could not be happier with their conformation. They have erect ears, most have wattles, they have compact bodies and have a nice layer of fat that makes the meat excellent. They reach market weight in 5 ½ to 7 months, depending on the feeding program. They have nice legs and well-rounded hams. They are spotted in color with some being black and white and some red and black. We have several lines available and continue to create to new lines. We have been in uncharted territory through this whole process; no one was doing what we were trying to do. Everything was an experiment, with no guarantee of the results. It has been a long journey but a good one. I realized through hard work and dedication that dreams do come true. Our journey of pigs will continue, and we will continue to change and grow. This is the story of Idaho Pasture Pigs and what inspired them. It all started with one little Kunekune pig named Domino, who changed our lives forever………