Let's Talk Tusks - How to Tusk Trim a Kunekune Boar
Tusks are tooth-like structures that grow from both the top and bottom jaw of male pigs, both castrated and intact. Tusks are used for sparring with other boars and are also the reason for the thick, hard, armour-like skin on boars’ shoulders.
Although it’s not on my list of favorite KuneKune tasks, I am a HUGE advocate for regular trimming of tusks. Although Kunekunes are docile breed, and boars can be housed together, there is still a hierarchy that needs to be established through sparring. It can be pretty intense and having boars with tusks can result in more injury.
Aside from animal injury, I have seen too many instances of human injury, most often the result of a completely accidental, innocent turn of the head. The injuries can can quite severe, and because pig mouthes are loaded with all kinds of lovely bacteria, often end up severely infected. My children are in and out of ALL of my pig areas and so safety for all is my top priority.
I routinely trim tusks 1-2 times per year depending on the individual growth in the boar. This coincides with a couple of specific events - re-mixing the boars after breeding season, and prior to putting them in with the gilts and sows for breeding. I also will deworm and vaccinate at the same time. I find they generally require their first trim somewhere between 18 months to 2 years of age.
You’ll need a few tools to get the job done:
1) A “snare”. This is a piece of thick rope with a slip knot in the one end so it tightens around the top jaw when the boar pulls back. I do not recommend the commercially available snares that are a wire cable, with a metal handle. I prefer a rope, and often will re-purpose the rope halter used for my cows, so I can tie it off to a sturdy structure. 2) OB Wire and Handles (also known as dehorning wire, or gigli wire). If you can’t find it at your local farm store, you can buy it in Canada here: https://www.farmersfarmacy.com/gc/gc_item?F=D&K=697530&R=S%2Fdehorning%20wire&SN=02020933211042492257853&FF=S&FK=dehorning%20wire&Z9=0 Don’t forget the handles! 3) A sturdy tie-off spot (eg. Secure fence post) or a chute/weigh stall and food for some distraction.
To catch the boars, I distract them with food on the ground, and then slip the rope into their mouth so it’s around ONLY their top jaw and NOT under their tongue. For my smaller boars, I restrain in the weigh stall but the big guys don’t fit. Once I have the rope in the right spot and pulled tight, I tie them off to a post.
Bear in mind, their natural instinct it to fight it at first, and a few good head shakes are normal. Try to lift their head as much as possible, make sure they are secure, and wait until they stand still.
Watch the attached video for the snare placement and actual sawing process on a young boar. In spite of his protests, it doesn't hurt, just like it doesn't hurt us to trim our fingernails. Start to finish, including what was off-film, this whole process took less than 5 minutes. A larger boar, with thicker tusks, will take a bit more time to saw through (and is a GREAT arm workout!).
It may seem intimidating at first, but once you have some experience, it’s a job that takes just a few minutes but greatly increases the safety for all!