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From city slicker to pig whisperer

Faces of Ag: After the roly-poly porkers captured Terri Decock’s heart, she went from hobby farmer to Canada’s second-largest KuneKune breeder

“Babies!” Terri Decock calls. “Come see!”

The blanket door to the red barn lifts. Fifteen ginger and spotted pigs dash into the snowy yard to mill around Terri’s feet and nudge a giggling reporter with their upturned snouts.

They are KuneKune weanlings. The medium-size, roly-poly breed was originally raised by the Maori people in New Zealand, the American KuneKune Society’s website says.

Known for its friendly, docile disposition and its tendency to graze, not root, KuneKunes are touted as the perfect pig for small hobby farms — or for a pet.

A pet was what Terri and partner Devon Woodward had in mind in 2014 when they first tried to buy a KuneKune. They’d seen the pigs on TV.

KuneKunes were rare in Canada, and a breeder told them one animal would cost $2,000 with a two-year waiting period. Terri and Devon looked to American breeders and began researching the arduous process of importing.

“Once you start to realize what’s involved with importing, it’s pointless doing one,” Terri told the Co-operator. “You can add an extra one for very little.”

But it didn’t stop there.

“If we’re going to get two, we should get a breeding pair,” Terri said. “If we get two girls and a boy, then we’re breeding two litters twice a year… then the rationale went to, you know, well then we can’t sell breeding pairs. If we get two breeding groups, we can sell breeding pairs.

“Next thing I know, we have two boars and six breeding gilts… it was a crazy year.”

Four years later, Terri has 15 purebred bloodlines in her stock and is the second-largest KuneKune breeder in Canada. She is the largest Canadian breeder on the American KuneKune Society registry.

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Beg, borrow and steal

Terri grew up in what she calls the “low rentals” of Toronto. In her childhood, her mom sent her to “horse camp” at a local riding stable. The kids got to ride an hour a day. The rest was spent mucking stalls and caring for the horses.

Terri loved it.

One of the larger sows peeks out of her comfy, straw-bale cave.
photo: Geralyn Wichers

She raised her two sons in Winnipeg and worked as a printer. When she brought her family to Haywood in 1996, she realized she could now have whatever animals she wanted. She bought horses and rescued dogs.

They called their 40-acre hobby farm “BBS Ranch” for “beg, borrow and steal” because they started with almost nothing — a broken-down truck and a kitchen table with a 2×4 for a leg.

Terri worked as a trucker for several years, in which she met Devon. In the early 2010s they began raising cattle and pigs for meat and selling them to friends and neighbours.

They began the process of importing KuneKunes in 2014, and the pigs finally arrived in quarantine in Ontario in fall of 2015. Terri and Devon drove down and brought the pigs home.

The sows farrowed in July the following year, a little late. They made a few mistakes and it took a bit of time to get the hang of breeding them.

More than pretty faces

But then, it was also intuitive. Terri did a lot of research and reading, but at farrowing time, it felt like she just knew what to do if a sow was in distress.

“That doesn’t come from experience,” she said. “I just seemed to know what to do to get them through it. Maybe I’m doing it wrong, I don’t know. It could well be. But I haven’t had any sows die on me.”

These days, Terri works on the farm full time and has a part-time employee. She puts in far more hours than she would have working off farm, but she doesn’t mind. The pigs make her smile.

“They look like teddy bears,” she said.

A KuneKune weanling.
photo: Geralyn Wichers

At time of writing, Terri had about 100 pigs scattered across her property in outbuildings lined with comfy, straw-bale caves. She shipped about 70 this fall to various buyers across Canada. Most are first-time buyers getting their first breeding pair. Some are smaller breeders, and others buy the adorable pigs as pets.

She also sells meat weanlings. Yes, these pigs are more than pretty faces. They also taste delicious, Terri said.

She wants to promote the breed in Canada, Terri said. She’s the Canadian representative for the American KuneKune Society. She tries to educate people on the breed and mentor some of her buyers — a luxury she didn’t have when she got started.

Each year, she loans a few of her pigs to Fort Whyte Alive to live on the farm where people can visit them.

“All you’ve got to do is meet them,” Terri said. “They’re addicting.”

About the author

Reporter

Geralyn Wichers grew up on a hobby farm near Anola, Manitoba, where her family raised cattle, pigs and chickens. Geralyn graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in 2019 and was previously a reporter for The Carillon in Steinbach. Geralyn is also a published author of science fiction and fantasy novels.

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