cats or dogs , if not personally, we know of someone and have heard their stories. Our curiosity doesn't stop there though, we like to know what life is like with all kinds of animals. When we stumbled upon Nancy, we knew we found the right person to tell us more about potbelly pigs!
Q - What turned you into a pig person and what made you decide to start breeding potbellies?
My partner, Brian, and I moved from the city to Climax Springs, Mo., in the early 1970's, where we owned 365 acres of land with three other couples. We learned from reading books and asking experienced neighbors about the best ways to get certain farm tasks accomplished. We tried raising chickens and turkeys, renting some of the grounds for cattle grazing, putting up hay crop, learning about farm machinery, gardening, and, of course, raising pigs. Pigdom started much by mistake. A neighbor named Emmett had a new litter of piglets and the runt would not make it without special nurturing. I could not bear to see the little one “done in” and, upon his suggestion, Emmett happily turned the day-old pig over me. I grew up with lots of animals and had even entertained the idea of becoming a vet, so tending to a piglet was right up my alley. Roto was the apple of my eye, a totally special porcine pal. The idea was to raise Roto for the pork of it, but as she became closer and closer to butcher size, it became apparent that this would be impossible for me to let happen.
So, on to Plan B -- breed Roto and raise a litter of piglets. Poor Roto had been on such an extravagant food regimen (as in all she could eat) that she was quite portly; so, the exercise program came to be. I would take Roto on long walks. Over the hills and through the woods to the beautiful Niangua River we would go. Roto would snurdle around in the leaves and underbrush, collecting acorns and other delectable tidbits, as I happily looked at the fauna and flora, always enjoying the surprises and beauty of nature.
Success was attained. Roto was fit for a suitor. Roger Ash, a master-farmer and pig producer, had a manly Hampshire boar that he was willing to haul to the Climax Springs one-pig farm. And after a majestic porcine interlude, the mating with Roto was successful. Three months, three weeks, and three days later Roto delivered the most beautiful litter of eleven piglets, each perfect with their shiny black bodies and crisp, white belts about their shoulders. A truly exceptional litter! We were so proud. We had never seen ANY animal born! This was quite the event. I kept a journal and every detail of the farrowing was recorded. And this is how my incredible attachment to pigs began.
After moving to a more suitable farm in Rocheport, Mo., Brian busied himself learning more about farm machinery, cropping, and so on whilst I took a job in town. After four years, the farm was on it's feet and I was able to quit my city job and stay home and farm.
When the potbellied pigs came on the scene, I felt that this was perfect for me. I already knew practically all there was to know about pigs and the little ones would be so much more manageable -- they would stay small! So in 1989 I bought my first pair of potbellies, Yoda and Jitterbug. I bought them when potbellied pigs were still fetching quite the price and it was pretty tough to commit a large amount of money to what was considered an “exotic” animal.
Well, the rest is history. Jitterbug and Yoda raised their first litter of piglets and I recouped my initial investment and have never looked back. I love my role in the potbellied pig world, both tending to my own stock, and helping others with problems, and just being available to “talk pig” with other enthusiasts.
Q - How many generations of pigs have you bred so far?
Short answer is seven generations. I started out with the breeding pair, Yoda and Jitterbug in 1989. From their first litter I kept back a female for breeding named Agnes of Hog. In September of 1991 Anges produced a female I named Munchkin. Agnes, Yoda and Jitterbug passed away some years ago, but Munchkin (who will be 20 years old 9/11) is still living and her bloodline is going strong in my herd. She produced a daughter named Kiayla, who begat Kayla Claire, who begat Vibeke and Suzy Q. who begat Ellis. So living on the farm at this very moment are five generations who can be traced back to my original breeding pair. I have used other bloodlines during my 22 years of raising potbellied pigs, but the Yoda/Jitterbug line is my best. Over and over incredibly personable pigs are produced that make for the best pets ever!
Q - Where do your pigs live and how many do you currently have?
All my pigs live in the Piggy Palace and Gallery that was built in 2005. Currently there are 17 residents and 7 of these pigs are over 10 years old. Only five of them are used for breeding. We have quite the retirement village here, but that's okay. The pigs are all happy and healthy and enjoy the good life.
Q - You help many of your pigs to find a new home, how does the process of adoption work?
People who contact me receive information that is meant to educate them about responsible pet pig ownership as well as the characteristics of pet pigs, both good and bad. The information I provide discourages prospective buyers who are not up to the challenges of owning a pet pig, from pursuing this adventure further. If you meet my basic requirements (listed below), then we proceed on to a telephone interview. If that goes well, we enter into a contract that includes a deposit to hold a piglet. The adoption is complete when I receive a signed contact with the deposit, proof of zoning, photos of the yard, a reference, and the contact information of the vet who will be caring for the pig. I send clients a Piggy Packet that includes a copy of my book, Potbellied Pig Parenting, another book about the veterinary care of pet pigs, photos of various possible pig room set ups, and other information that will allow the expectant pig owner to get prepared for their new pal.
1. That you own your home or are buying one. In other words that you do not live in an apartment.
2. That you are zoned to have a pet pig. Pigs are illegal is many places. To find out if you are zoned, contact your local zoning commission, animal control, or perhaps ask your Chamber of Commerce to help.
3. That you have a secure, fenced in yard.
4. That you have a vet who is familiar with treating pet pigs.
5. That you have the time and motivation to care for a pet pig for it’s entire life, which is typically 13 years and even up to 18 years.
Q - What should people be aware of when they want to have a pig as a pet? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
Q - Is it easy to train a pig?
Pigs are easily trained and are creatures who thrive on routine. They have excellent memories, so you need to be on your toes at all times. They are good at manipulation. If they vocalize and you give in with a treat, you have just trained them to be demanding. Clicker training is a very successful training method. Pigs love to show off with tricks and are adept at learning to be walked by using a pig harness and lead. It is fun and rewarding to train a pig, but be sure, first and foremost, that your pig understands that you are "top" pig and that you make the rules.
Q - Are you still in touch with the people who got a pig from you?
It's interesting. Some clients love to stay in touch sending photos and stories of their beloved pigs. Others do not. I do enjoy it when families keep me in the loop.
If you want to read more about Nancy and her potbelly pigs, please visit her Pig O' My Heart Potbellies website where you will find a great amount of information and more pictures!
People are waiting to help.