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Guinea pigs: working herds

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Guinea pigs: working herds

Post Number:#1  Unread postby Ghost » Wed Oct 25, 2017 2:15 pm


A longer title could be "My fascination with working feeder herds of guinea pig". It sounds odd to refer to a herd of guinea pigs as a working herd. This use of "working" refer to the fact that the herd provides something to it's care taker. Guinea pigs can't provide much other than their very bodies, so the individual gives it's all in return for the care and feeding of the herd.

My friend "David" has such a heard and I have become enamored with the herd. His herd provides feeders for David's reptiles and a few medium size felines (not house cats). It should be noted, "David" already has enough to deal with regarding the public perception of his operation, and he does not want to take flack from the public due to widely publicizing the nature of his herd. I am taking measures to conceal David's identity, and unfortunately that means that I can't post photos. :sneaky2:

In lieu of pictures and video of David's herd I have found YouTube videos of similar feeder herds.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_TUBzkwlM8 #Georgia Zoo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27nMREV1oZM #Kytoto Zoo
In neither video is it explicitly stated that they are used as feeder animals. After having analyzed the videos, I am %99 sure they are. Two factors lead me to this conclusion. One factor being, the institutions where the GPs are raised also house creatures that generally eat fresh kills or have there diets supplemented by fresh kills. The second factor is that the GPs are mixing in large numbers along with the presents of babies in the herd. This leads me to think that the GPs are allowed to breed freely. When GPs are allowed to breed freely, they must be culled, otherwise the GP population would rise at exponential rate. I love the video from Kytoto Zoo because, it shows several GPs is a highly relaxed state. That video shows that the GPs are well adjusted to their living condition. Looking on David's herd I often see GPs chilled-out to that extent. :groovyhippie2:

From time to time, I find it highly relaxing to simply observe the herd from a low angle such as while sitting on the ground. The GP herd has a certain dynamic that I found fascination. The way that move together and there calls they give for food. I also love the way that the GPs have to totally chill-out. I have trained myself to look at them as a herd. By that, I mean I acknowledge, individuals come and go but the herd goes on. There a few individuals with really cool markings, however looking at them as a herd, I am ok with the fact that David could cull the cool looking ones any day. That is why I concentrate on the group as apposed to the individual.

I have known for a long time the nature of David's herd, but it was not until the last few months, that I have become enamored with them. David's herd lives in a sort of indoor/outdoor setup, where during the day the GPs move freely between an enclosed ares and a court yard area (I will probably go over David's setup in a separate thread). I just can't get over the guinea pig's ability to totally chill out. When the GPs relax and chill-out, they are masters at the art of relaxation. They are unreserved in here ability to just relax. Even though their lives are short, they appear to live enjoy the life they do have. They are sample creatures with no concept of death. That being, the fact that any one of them could be snuffed out of existence at any time just because David has hungry mouths to feed, does not phase them in any way.

David often culls by simply going into the indoor section of the habit and grabbing individuals. After checking over the GP to verify size and sex the GP is humanely dispatched with cervical dislocation. During the cull, the GPs will run and hide, but their hiding is comically ineffective and it is obvious where the individual is hiding. David has a large variety of creatures that are regularly fed guinea pig. That being, David will need GPs of different sizes, therefor the GPs are culled at all different sizes and ages. What I find hard to wrap my brain around is after the cull the GPs go back to there normal relaxed selves in way way less than half an hour. I guess the GPs are too simple a creature to understand death. Even though David dispatches the GPS in the presents of other GPs, the act causes no long term stress in the herd. I need to remember the conditions that guinea pigs were domesticated under. In Pre-Columbian Peru they were raised inside peoples houses in close association with humans. GPs were feed vegetable scraps. When the humans wanted some meat, they could just grab a GP to make cuy for dinner. Those GPs that could not live under those conditions were breed out of existence.

Until now, I have not had that much appreciation for pet guinea pigs. After all, what do you with an animal that has no demands other than to be cute and adorable. I know I am reading too much into the situation. but I have so much more respect for a creature that provides food for the other creatures at David's place and can remain cute and adorable despite the fact, they can be culled at any time.

The base food for Davids herd is commercial GP food. However there diet is supplemented with fresh vegetables and grass. I find it cute that just about any sort of vegetable scraps are relished by the GPs. Someone caring for David's heard mentioned that they are like little garbage disposals. I have been giving them banana peals and the husks from fresh corn. To my amazement these wast materials are treated as the best GP treat in the world. Fresh grass is something that also will trigger squeals of delight from the GPs. GPs are just so easily delighted I find it incredible. :laugh:

As a feeder herd David's guinea pigs are basically they are a meat animal. I feel that his operation epitomizes the humane raising of meat animals. The animals are well cared for, respected and then humanly dispatched. Having eaten one of David's GP I found it incredibly delicious. It was also good to know that the meat was sourced from such a well cared for and respected creatures. It's funny to be fascinated by the GP's behavior and the way they don't seam to take anything seriously. They are so cute and they make me smile, and at the same time, I know how scrumptious they are when cooked up. :wink:

PS. I will start a separate thread on why someone from a western culture might be interest in starting a herd of cavy for meat. In that post I would me explain the difference between David's operation and an operation to provide meat for human consumption.

edit: added less than half hour time frame to paragraph #6

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Re: Guinea pigs: working herds

Post Number:#2  Unread postby akane » Wed Oct 25, 2017 7:28 pm


Disorganization of randomly saved things and crashing a laptop about every year I don't immediately see what I want in my guinea pigs picture area folder but I have gathered a variety of ways guinea pigs are raised for meat around the world. I keep all my harddrives but where my external laptop enclosure went to plug them in for pulling the pics I'm not sure and photobucket was efficient for storage since like 2002 until they crammed all sorts of ads on there so I can't even view my own photos while logged in without tons of effort. I'm trying to figure out how to pull what I know I don't have elsewhere.... But I have various places pics and vids of bamboo slat cages in southeast asia, stone block pens have popped up in more populated areas of south america, some of the fancier indoor/outdoor split bird aviary type setups of manmade instead of just modified materials in other parts of the world or for larger places like zoos, and big outdoor wire pasture runs in the UK for rescues and a few individuals raising meat in the US. I also had some pictures of the oldest style raising with clay hiding huts in the food prep areas but with nearly an entire wall open to the outside as the cuy came and went. Then they had a tiered roughly made shelving area in one corner with only rails for confining the cuy planned to be food soonest as they collected them when they came to get table scraps before going out to graze again. Housing seems largely decided by predation risk and then by the availability and time people have to provide food versus needing to collect a lot of low energy plants or let them forage on their own instead of concentrated bagged feed that's easy to buy.

Overall guinea pigs are very low energy animals. They will move constantly when given a reason but that reason is generally only to eat food constantly for their usual low energy diet. On a more concentrated food they spend a lot of time sprawled out. They get fat quite easy for a reason. However, you'll find other meat animals aren't so different when given the option and temperament is not ignored while breeding. Guinea pigs are not also always as peaceful as they look either. Partially they are so subtle because they have such limited body movement. It's less common to group raise rabbits due to their territorial behavior and tendency to get in fights over space but well culled meat rabbits have been bred to stay pretty chilled out all the time too. If they were bred more towards the herd aspect instead of evolving for a loose colony and then being raised individually all those generations they would probably be as relaxed as guinea pigs. I've even seen pictures of setups of gerbils that normally naturally keep a single breeding pair and only live with family members prevented from breeding below them culled to the point they would colony breed peacefully in a large cage. It's only rabbits' constant defining of space and higher tendency to bolt since they have more agility than a guinea pig at running away that keeps them so lean when you switch to colony raising. They still sprawl around the food and water containers for cooling in large groups and they sprawl in their cages with little concern. One of my champagne d'argent pictures was used by someone because they wanted a pic of an extremely relaxed looking rabbit as he was simply letting himself conform to the curve of the corner of his cage. Properly culled feeder rats will spend the day piled up sleeping with each other not disturbed by wrestling dogs, human cleaning, and so forth. There are times I would run out into the field concerned about my large livestock only to find they were just enjoying the sun and not a mass death sprawled across the grass.

It's one of the main traits of domestication but the smaller aspects are often overlooked by people breeding for other purposes or trying to house them with the least risk and the ability to throw a large group together in a natural setting gets lost. When people get stuck on appearance or various performance aspects they will sometimes go extra lengths to keep an animal that can't live calmly and they continually try to more securely confine them to avoid issues either out of need or just less work. One of the things that has consistently remained a goal with guinea pigs is peaceful housing in a group since it was easy enough to just keep housing them that way and the main goal in the US has been peaceful pets. The fact they were not raised for much besides their cuteness and a secondary ability to be a food source for certain pets or more exotic animals has actually been a benefit to their personality. Colony raising rabbits after generations of cages, the complexities of various large livestock with certain breeds being known for difficult housing, or the poor selection for temperament over looks when breeding smaller feeder rodents has led to a lot more problems in the groups than you normally get with guinea pigs.

However, I have had flat out aggressive guinea pigs. I've had shoulders torn to the bone and eyes blinded. Rescues get in difficult to pair individuals sometimes. Often people stupidly confine a single male/female pair to a small cage and the males never stop wanting to breed so the females turn as aggressive as guinea pigs will generally get when they are more mentally stable. They launch fur ripping attacks at every guinea pig that comes near them for the rest of their lives even when you move them to much larger spaces. I'd say it's far more vicious than some displays I've seen of rabbits pitching each other to the ground when it remains only a display of ability for territory with no actual desire to do harm but they are leaping 3' in the air to do it. The rabbits simply make a much bigger show than the limited movement of a guinea pig and they more often draw blood even if on accident in the increased movement. You don't notice as easily the rapid fire biting and fur ripping with resulting squeals of guinea pigs because of their short movements and frequent noise making anyway versus when more athletic animals or ones less likely to make noise suddenly mount a defense. If you watch the more subtle aspects of a group of guinea pigs they first off have a greater tendency to avoid confrontation by giving up an area to not start something with an individual they don't get along with, no territorial desire is left in them, and second their attempts to defend themselves are short, violent, and over so fast with so little movement you don't always realize just how often a guinea pig did basically get in an equivalent fight to other animals we easily get more concerned over. The rarity to do lasting obvious damage in their attacks also makes it hard to realize how often they find ways to cause pain to get their point across. You'll see a lot more reports of aggressive or stress response behavior, complete breakdowns of the herd dynamic leading to actual injuries, and complex introduction steps on pet sites where guinea pigs have fewer options on the individuals they interact with so they are required to defend their location and they are more closely observed. The huge space per guinea pig requirements that have kept expanding did so for a reason but they are a bit inaccurate since it's not the space per guinea pig but just space and the more guinea pigs the more they can interact with who they want while using avoidance since the territorial behavior was so thoroughly bred out of them both naturally and then kept that way by humans. It seems a bit backward but more guinea pigs equals more peaceful pens instead of more chances for fights since their first response is to avoid rather than defend and go find the individuals they get along with if given the option. You can easily set up guinea pigs to show constant stress with biting, smashing each other, and squealing even to the point of actual injuries just by putting them in a standard cage.
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Re: Guinea pigs: working herds

Post Number:#3  Unread postby Ghost » Fri Oct 27, 2017 2:25 pm


I'm a bit confused on the meaning of your first paragraph. You are trying to say you have a whole load of pictures of GP enclosures but you can't get to them? You are also pissed off at Photobucket for changes to there system. Don't worry, I would like to see them, but it will be years before I set up my own GP herd. If you do find them, please post, but take your time. I'm in no hurry.

akane wrote: Overall guinea pigs are very low energy animals. They will move constantly when given a reason but that reason is generally only to eat food constantly for their usual low energy diet. On a more concentrated food they spend a lot of time sprawled out. They get fat quite easy for a reason. However, you'll find other meat animals aren't so different when given the option and temperament is not ignored while breeding.


Being low energy is probable good from an economic/ecological standpoint, because they will use less energy in their daily activity and store more energy in there bodies, leaving more calories on food energy can be transferred up to the next trophic level https://www.thefreedictionary.com/trophic+level.

Yeah, I can now understand. I suppose that the commercial GP food is dense in calories so the GP would do a little work in eating it then laze around all day. The one I butchered was probably a bit fat. Could be that is why he tasted so good. When I cooked the whole meat carcass, I pulled the cooked meat from the bone, it left a fatty feel on my fingers. The fat felt very much like the fat on a cooked pork chop. Next time I butcher, I'll take a look at the liver. I'm not sure if GPs are subject to fatty liver disease (it can be an issue in birds).

akane wrote: Overall guinea pigs are very low energy animals. They will move Guinea pigs are not also always as peaceful as they look either. Partially they are so subtle because they have such limited body movement. It's less common to group raise rabbits due to their territorial behavior and tendency to get in fights over space but well culled meat rabbits have been bred to stay pretty chilled out all the time too.


Yeah, I haven't seen too many GP fights, but I know there are, because occasionally I see male guinea pigs with a scratched-up rear-end with scabs. When David culls, the scratched up rear end will always put the GP on the "will be culled" list. I'm not sure if it is best to cull the scratch-er or the scratch-ee. I'm sure Dave does NOT want my advice on changing his culling practices. I'm mainly thinking the hypothetical, "if I get my own herd". I really want to make it a separate thread, but the colony aspect is the one advantage of raising GPs for meat over rabbits. It is interesting though that rabbits could be artificially selected for colony life. It would be nice if people looking into colony meat rabbits could use on-line communities to exchange rabbits bread for colony temperament.

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Re: Guinea pigs: working herds

Post Number:#4  Unread postby GBov » Tue Oct 31, 2017 9:07 am


When I would cull my extra males they always has scratched up shoulders and flanks but never serious. And watching the young males sparring was fun, no damage but lots of noise and fury. :lol: Then they would scatter when a high ranking male would amble over to see what was going on.

They are funny in a colony/herd. But so are rabbits. Its nice to see any animal acting normally, our "pets" so seldom get the chance to be natural or normal.

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