An Interview with Sandra Giannini, from SoCalMiniPigs.com and a Mini Pigs Breeder Co-op Certified Breeder.
How did you get into breeding mini pigs and how long have you been breeding them?
I got a mini pig as a pet and my affinity for pigs grew from there. I was able to train her with ease — she came when called, happily sat for me, spun in circles when asked, and more. I knew mini pigs were something special and found a way to be able to share the amazing amounts of love and affection I felt for my little girl piglet with others. Fast forward to now, when I have a farm of over 25 mini pigs. All of them are my babies, come by their names, and are treated with the utmost love and care. I spoil them and give them as much time as I possibly can. They love affection and thrive on being talked to. Having a mini pig around is such a special experience for someone to have!
What should people consider before getting a mini pig?
First and foremost, pigs grow up! All mini pigs are all born tiny and can fit into a teacup. Some people use the terms “teacup” or “micro” as if it is a breed of pigs. Those are not breeds, but instead are terms. When someone comes to me wanting a mini pig as a pet, I ask, “Are you okay with your pig growing to be the size of an English bulldog?” Some breeders give the impression mini pigs can stay 15-25 lbs. and it’s simply not true! The classification of a mini pig is actually any pig under 300 lbs. Potential mini pig owners need to do their research to know what the commitment they are making.
Please, before any type of heartache occurs, make sure it is legal to own a pig where you live — county, city, township, subdivision and with your landlord if you rent. Many towns classify pigs as “livestock,” thus they are not legal to keep as pets.
Another thing to consider is that pigs are a lifetime commitment; they can live to be 15 years old or more. Before purchasing a mini pig, make sure you’ve secured a good pig veterinarian. Another good avenue is to check with your local feed stores. The folks and customers there have years of experience and usually love sharing all the information that they have learned.
If you don’t have an enclosed yard, you shouldn’t get a pig. Yes, they can go on walks with a harness, but that is not conducive for a happy and healthy pig. You cannot expect a pig to live in an apartment day in and day out, confined to a crate or bathroom, and not become bored and start to find the wrong kinds of things to do.
What should people look for in a breeder?
Someone who is honest about sizing of mini pigs and isn’t asking an astronomical price, as well as someone who weans babies slowly from their mother and ensures socialization prior to sending piglets home with their new families. Please do not be fooled by breeders claiming they have Micro or Teacup pigs that will stay 20 lbs. or less; it’s simply not true unless the pigs are starved. Sometimes these breeders will show you pictures of young pigs and tell you they are fully grown and just “extra small.” All pigs will continue to grow until they are approximately 3 years old.
What is considered a mini pig?
Micro and Teacup are just names people use for pigs, but those are not separate, special smaller breeds. All mini pigs grow to be around the same size and stature. Over the years, mini pigs have been bred down in size through selective breeding and mixing of breeds. Mini pigs are short and very dense. For example, a pig that looks like it weighs 30 lbs. may actually be around 60 lbs.
Mini pigs are not the same as Vietnamese Potbelly Pigs. Mini pigs have been mixed with several different breeds and some have no potbelly genetics at all. Compared to potbelly pigs, mini pigs should be smaller when fully grown, ideally standing 12”-18” tall, with a length of around 20”-25” long. Breeders concerned about animal welfare do not focus on the weight of the pig, but instead pay attention to the height and length of the pig.
What is the growth cycle of a mini pig?
Mini pigs have their fastest growing phase from birth to about six months. It’s a noticeable growth. From approximately six months to one year, their growth will slow, but they will still be growing. They stop growing around the three-year mark, when their weight may double what it was at the one-year mark.
You definitely want to start with a feed that is properly formulated for mini pigs as their main meals. I’m really excited Scratch and Peck Feeds is now offering organic options for mini pigs! Between normal feedings, or as snacks, owners can give raw vegetables or fruit while working with them or training them. Fruits should always be given in moderation because of the natural sugars. Apples, bananas (with peel), strawberries (they like the green tops too), watermelon (with rind), Romaine lettuce, celery, kale, cucumbers, carrots, and grapes are all great. Owners should ensure they are 100% committed to adhering to the pig’s diet. Feed it 2% of its body weight in mini pig food daily, supplemented with plenty of healthy vegetables daily. And lots and lots of unlimited water, because pigs are not great at keeping themselves hydrated. I love that the Scratch and Peck feed can be fermented, because in addition to the increased nutritional benefits, it’s a great way to sneak some more water into their diet.
Are there any foods that should not be fed to mini pigs?
Mini pigs should not be fed any food that is high in carbohydrates or sodium. They’ll eat sweet potatoes, for example, but those are high in carbs and therefore can lead to an overweight pig if fed too much. Pigs should not be fat. Large jowls doubling their face size, rolls of fat or immobility, and not being able to feel their hips are all signs your mini pig is overweight. In fact, mini pigs are more slender-bodied. Overfeeding a pig can be just as detrimental as underfeeding. Pigs also have salt toxicity issues, so owners should never feed pigs salted items such as potato chips, salted nuts, or salted popcorn.
In general, do mini pigs prefer to be inside or outside?
Mini pigs love being outdoors! They need space to be playful and root, as well as get fresh air and sunshine. Many pigs will prefer to be outside all day and come inside only to sleep. If leaving your mini pig outside for long periods of time isn’t possible, make sure they get at least 1 – 2 hours of outside time to root around. When your pigs are outside, adequate shade and water, as well as secure housing, are always a must!
How do mini pigs do with other animals?
I’ve seen pigs make best friends with all sorts of animals! Iguanas, rats, chickens, cows, horses, dogs, cats, rabbits, you name it! That said, we always advise to never leave a pig and a dog alone together. By nature, pigs are driven to challenge herd mates in order to make sure the strongest herd member is leading them and keeping them safe. The pig can continually challenge the dog as a fellow herd mate. A pig’s challenge is viewed as aggression by the dog, and the dog may react aggressively. That is when fights can happen and severe damage, or even death, can occur. We always tell customers to proceed with caution in this case. As pet parents, it is our job to put our animals’ safety and welfare above our own desires of a multi-species family.