Starting Meat Guinea Pigs: Feeding, housing and questions

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Izroion

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Hey all, I've recently been playing with the idea of a new project: Meat guinea pigs. The only problem is information is either geared towards pet guinea pigs (Anti-breeding and definetly anti-eating) or its all in spanish (Which I dont speak). Most of this will be rambling as I havent had a place to write down my thoughts so far.

I'm trying to find the most economical way to feed them. Guinea pig pellets are almost $20 a bag and I've only seen the small bags around here (around 5 lbs for $11+). So I thought of rabbit pellets, but than you have issues with vitamin c. Most breeders supplement with vitamin c capsules so I think thats what I'll do. I found a post from a diffrent forum where the user kept them in similer conditions to what i have here and fed them a mix of oats, barley, and rabbit pellets with hay. Could anyone comment on the usefullnes of this? I have alfalfa hay but from what I've read they need grass hay? I'll be keeping them in tractors during spring/summer and moving them into the garage in the winter, which brings up my next problem: Cold.

From my research I've found two or three threads about meat cavies, and from that a handful of posts from people who leave theirs out over winter. Our average winter low here is 14 degrees with a week or two of negative temps. I'm planning on using insulated houses with hay, but I'm not sure how they'll do. The garage is uninsulated but will keep them out of the wind. I'm looking through a few websites now to find free guinea pigs so I'm hoping I'll be able to start my project within the next year.
 

ladysown

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I live in southwest Ontario. Right in the middle of the snow belt. We get some very cold weather and a whole whack of snow.

I kept guinea pigs outside 24/7.
In the winter I just kept layering straw in their habitat which I had raised one brick up off the ground for drainage. I leaned wood against the sides so they would be protected from blowing snow yet have good airflow. (ammonia kills).

They did PHENOMENALLY well. Even better than when I would bring them inside. They burrow through the straw and had strong healthy pups throughout the winter.

How I chose to feed them.
Rabbit pellets with chewable vitamin C. I measured it out and gave it to specific guinea pigs. Pregnant sows need more.

I fed grass hay (in the non-growing months) and in the summer all the waste from the gardens and kitchen. This along with rabbit pellets and mixed grains. Guinea pigs are slow to accept new foods, but I never found they ate anything that was harmful to them. There were some things they would eat the rabbits wouldn't touch. I fed grass hay as I wasn't buying two different types of hay. I had people give me alfalfa hay and the guinea pigs ate it happily but you need to watch it more carefully for mould.

Guinea pigs vary greatly in size. if looking for meat guinea pigs get the biggest you can find and always keep the big ones back as breeders. Overtime you will get bigger and better pigs for meat production.
 

ohiogoatgirl

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I think I posted some here about my meat guinea pig project. I posted alot here: https://permies.com/t/19371/guinea-pigs-meat-journal

*Vit C is critical

*I had some boars develop problem with gland blockage (glands next to the butt) that I didn't get an answer to but only happened to 2 bought-in males and both was in pens with dirt/hay floor. When I had a big breeding group those never had problems.

*What predators do you have? predator proof your area, hutch, building, etc and then do some extra. Coons are horrible and I lost most of the herd in a night.

*Cage/hutch doesn't work in winter, they need bedding and the dummies will stay out on the wire floor instead of hang out in the solid bottom section of a hutch. *eye roll*

*If you're cutting forage to bring to them, assume they eat more, always round up.

*Pine needles have Vit C but also have other essential oils etc that cause aborted fetuses.

*They do fine with rabbit pellets but you have to do either alot of veg/forage as well or Vit C in the water. I didn't do it long enough to find a way that really worked well for me. I think it was Akane that has posts about the vit c crystals to use in the water.

*If you're looking at them just for the self sufficiency aspect then rabbits are better meat output, easier to feed (pellets only), and if doing lots of forage bringing in it seems like guinea pigs eat nearly as much as rabbits. If I got back into it I'd do alot of preparing before buying any.

*If I got back into it I'd get in touch with one of the breeders who've imported stock from peru. There is a few in the USA and you'll be paying for them and for transport. But if you're doing it optimally you could do well. I have alot of rambling about this in the post I linked. There is lots of ways to buy a pair and create lines to breed the 'cuy' big ones to you're cheap easy accessible pet stock and breed for better. You'd get pure stock from the pair, plus breeding the boar to lots of pet stock and line breeding.

Not trying to talk anyone out of it by any means! I'd love to see someone really push this more. This is just my thoughts and my experience. Good luck!
 

Izroion

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ohiogoatgirl":254qs6dn said:
I think I posted some here about my meat guinea pig project. I posted alot here: https://permies.com/t/19371/guinea-pigs-meat-journal

*Vit C is critical

*I had some boars develop problem with gland blockage (glands next to the butt) that I didn't get an answer to but only happened to 2 bought-in males and both was in pens with dirt/hay floor. When I had a big breeding group those never had problems.

*What predators do you have? predator proof your area, hutch, building, etc and then do some extra. Coons are horrible and I lost most of the herd in a night.

*Cage/hutch doesn't work in winter, they need bedding and the dummies will stay out on the wire floor instead of hang out in the solid bottom section of a hutch. *eye roll*

*If you're cutting forage to bring to them, assume they eat more, always round up.

*Pine needles have Vit C but also have other essential oils etc that cause aborted fetuses.

*They do fine with rabbit pellets but you have to do either alot of veg/forage as well or Vit C in the water. I didn't do it long enough to find a way that really worked well for me. I think it was Akane that has posts about the vit c crystals to use in the water.

*If you're looking at them just for the self sufficiency aspect then rabbits are better meat output, easier to feed (pellets only), and if doing lots of forage bringing in it seems like guinea pigs eat nearly as much as rabbits. If I got back into it I'd do alot of preparing before buying any.

*If I got back into it I'd get in touch with one of the breeders who've imported stock from peru. There is a few in the USA and you'll be paying for them and for transport. But if you're doing it optimally you could do well. I have alot of rambling about this in the post I linked. There is lots of ways to buy a pair and create lines to breed the 'cuy' big ones to you're cheap easy accessible pet stock and breed for better. You'd get pure stock from the pair, plus breeding the boar to lots of pet stock and line breeding.

Not trying to talk anyone out of it by any means! I'd love to see someone really push this more. This is just my thoughts and my experience. Good luck!

Do you still have the contact information for those breeders with Cuy? I can't seem to find any Cuy breeders in the US for some reason. I actually have rabbits already but being in town limits the types of meat animals I can keep, so I'm looking more for variety than amount of meat. The only predators we have here are cats and maybe a dog once a year.
 

Zass

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My own thoughts on cuy, is that I found the meat to be much less versatile than rabbit meat.
I only bred them one summer, and then kept the rest as pets for the extent of their lifespans. No particular reason, just didn't want to put the effort into raising such small morsels.
When I started the project, I imagined the meat would be like squirrel.

Alas...it was not like squirrel..

The rest kept many years on rabbit pellets, forage, and scraps, without any vit c pills or crystals. I did a lot of research on high vit c plants, but also, I went by the assumption that their metabolism is faster than ours, and that they needed vit c on a more frequent basis. I made sure they had forage plants or scraps that were high in it available in their pens at least every 8 hours. That method seemed to work well for my piggies.

I'm actually more interested in them as a source of rabbit probiotics, but... Since I got back into harlis, I haven't needed any of those, my buns are forage hardy, and tough.
 

Ghost

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Wow, cool, I found someone interested in meat GPs also. Sorry can't post too much tonight too close to falling asleep. I suggest you read my post to see where I'm coming from.

If you are wanting to do meat GPs, you need to be realistic on how much meat you expect. I am thinking that if your living in town, GPs would be a good solution for a meat animal as long as the eating them part is kept on the down low.

People that breed agricultural grade GPs (Cuy) in the US are hard to find. Cuy are the same species as guinea pigs they are just a different "breed", and thus are interbreedable. I'm not on Facebook, but I have heard you can connect with breeders there. The fees associated with importing cuy from there native lands are so high that it is rarely done. For some reason a decade ago one of the big pet store chain imported cuy and tried to sell them as pets. What a-holes they made terrible pets and the animals suffered in the hands of people that could not handle them. Many of the large breed GPs sold in the US are descendants of those imported cuy.

You can click on my profile and examine the threads I started. Many hove informative input from others here in addition to my ramblings. <br /><br /> __________ Sun Apr 18, 2021 11:01 pm __________ <br /><br /> You may want to go to Akane's profile and from there click on "Search user's topics". Unfortunately Akane has not posted in over a year, but she has left lots of good info on this site. She actually had the larger cuy breed of GPs for a while. Also, Sunday morning, after my initial response to your post, I added a list of my most useful post to the first post in this thread

I see you live in a climate that gets cold. Can you include your state and plant hardness zone in your profile? I've had time to look over your post more and I thought I would comment on housing. When GPs were originally domesticated in the Andes they were traditionally kept together on one room. When GPs are kept in this way they tend to behave as a heard in ways that they don't in smaller groups. These two videos are an example of GP herd dynamics.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_TUBzkwlM8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qV4D7xMmMU

The my friend "David" keeps herd in a shed just for GPs. There are no internal dividers or walls in the shed. The only barrier is a short one that I must step over when entering the shed. The shed has no hard floor. The floor is a sort of deep bedding. the sub-layer is wood mulch, on top of the mulch is a layer of straw or hay. The hay is changed out every week of so, but the sub-layer of mulch is left in place. When the new straw is first added it is fluffy and the GPs will make tunnels in the straw, then after a few days the straw will lay flat.

I've fantasized about having my own heard. I was thinking if I did, I might start out by keeping them in a single blob like in the videos. However, I was thinking that I might want to set up some sort of drop-in divider setup, that I could use to divide the room length-wise with boards into two or three sections. this would allow me to separate away some of the males and females and thus control the breeding rate. I could do this if I was having to skin too many GPs each week.
 

Izroion

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I'm currently located in Iowa, Zone 5a. However we are considering moving to Tenessee in the near future so the pig project might have to wait. I'm considering keeping them outdoors in a large pen(s) with a smaller shelter(s) so that they can graze. I'm not sure if it would work, but we will have goats in a large pasture. I was wondering if I could keep the guinea pigs in with the goats, as the goats don't really eat the grass. I've seen posts about people keeping rabbit colonies with goats but I'm not sure if it's a good idea.
 

Ghost

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Izroion":14h3011t said:
... but being in town limits the types of meat animals I can keep, so I'm looking more for variety than amount of meat. The only predators we have here are cats and maybe a dog once a year.

You must remember, that from a predator's point of view, guinea pigs are little fur balls that come with a bright neon sigh which screams "EAT ME!". In the US, even in urbane homesteading situations, potential predators such as raccoon and skunks (which can kill/eat them) are everywhere. In the US Coyotes also exist in many surprising places. GPs are helpless against predators, they are preyed upon even be smaller creatures (such as rats) which are not usually seen as predators. Therefore, predator protection is your number one priority. If you enclosure has no roof, GPs will fall prey to hawks owls and ravens.

Izroion":14h3011t said:
I'm considering keeping them outdoors in a large pen(s) with a smaller shelter(s) so that they can graze. I'm not sure if it would work, but we will have goats in a large pasture. I was wondering if I could keep the guinea pigs in with the goats, as the goats don't really eat the grass. I've seen posts about people keeping rabbit colonies with goats but I'm not sure if it's a good idea.

On THIS RESPONSE I re-posted a picture of an enclosure that Akane built. It's a bit tricky to see, but it has a two-layer wall. The outside-wall is chain link fence material to stop predators from getting in. The inside-wall is hardware cloth to keep GPs from getting out.

If you have a fixed enclosure in the ground. The herd will mow-down any living plants and nothing will grow. I suppose you might try something like a rabbit tractor (click HERE to search RT with Google for "rabbit tractor") but designed for GPs instead of rabbits. I'm not sure how well it works to let the GPs just roam around in a large open space. On the few occasions where adult GPs have gotten out, they don't go far. They just follow the exterior wall of the enclosure. Even when I am doing a "lethal catch", the GPs will run around or huddle in a corner. The GPs didn't attempt to escape the enclosure, instead they merely move from one part to another. There was one time when a baby GP got out and wandered into the woods never to be seen again. (I was by myself caring for an expensive animal and was unable to chase down a single GP)

There is a YouTube user by the name of LeonRFpoa who posted a video called Edible lawnmower. LeonRFpoa does/did raise GPs for human consumption. This Video shows what his main setup looks like. LeonRFpoa is not a member of RT, and I haven't contacted him, but someone on this very thread purchased some GPs from him many years ago.

Here are a few questions for you...
1. have you eaten any guinea pigs?
2. Did/will you eat with the skin on or skin off?


EDIT 04/25/21: Grammar & sentence structure, added lots of commas
 

ladysown

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with guinea pigs you NEED to have predator proof housing.

When I sold my herd of guinea pigs I also included their cage. It was heavy, allowed for eating of the lawn, but didn't allow anything in. It survived raccoons, possums, dogs, cats, and things I'm sure I don't even know about.

My friend took them. Kept them in the cage for six months and then for some stupid reason (and it was stupid) he put them into a different cage set up. Two weeks later a weasel took out the entire herd. Just a blood bath. I was SO mad at him. He learned the importance of predator proofing even in the middle of a big city.

So anything you make for them... make sure it's predator-proof from top to bottom. Guinea pigs, in case you didn't know, are quite capable of burrowing. Not as fast as a rabbit, but nonetheless quite capable.
 

Ghost

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Izroion":5kp5xgyv said:
I'm currently located in Iowa, Zone 5a. However we are considering moving to Tenessee in the near future so the pig project might have to wait. I'm considering keeping them outdoors in a large pen(s) with a smaller shelter(s) so that they can graze. I'm not sure if it would work, but we will have goats in a large pasture. I was wondering if I could keep the guinea pigs in with the goats, as the goats don't really eat the grass. I've seen posts about people keeping rabbit colonies with goats but I'm not sure if it's a good idea.

Looking back on my archived post, I found on Feb 17 2018, Greencaller asked a similar question to yours on THIS THREAD. I would suggest reading that one starting at Greencaller. In this thread Akane shares her experience, and I would car fully read all her responses.
 

Izroion

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You must remember, that from a predator's point of view, guinea pigs are little fur balls that come with a bright neon sigh which screams "EAT ME!". In the US, even in urbane homesteading situations, potential predators such as raccoon and skunks (which can kill/eat them) are everywhere. In the US Coyotes also exist in many surprising places. GPs are helpless against predators, they are preyed upon even be smaller creatures (such as rats) which are not usually seen as predators. Therefore, predator protection is your number one priority. If you enclosure has no roof, GPs will fall prey to hawks owls and ravens.



On THIS RESPONSE I re-posted a picture of an enclosure that Akane built. It's a bit tricky to see, but it has a two-layer wall. The outside-wall is chain link fence material to stop predators from getting in. The inside-wall is hardware cloth to keep GPs from getting out.

If you have a fixed enclosure in the ground. The herd will mow-down any living plants and nothing will grow. I suppose you might try something like a rabbit tractor (click HERE to search RT with Google for "rabbit tractor") but designed for GPs instead of rabbits. I'm not sure how well it works to let the GPs just roam around in a large open space. On the few occasions where adult GPs have gotten out, they don't go far. They just follow the exterior wall of the enclosure. Even when I am doing a "lethal catch", the GPs will run around or huddle in a corner. The GPs didn't attempt to escape the enclosure, instead they merely move from one part to another. There was one time when a baby GP got out and wandered into the woods never to be seen again. (I was by myself caring for an expensive animal and was unable to chase down a single GP)

There is a YouTube user by the name of LeonRFpoa who posted a video called Edible lawnmower. LeonRFpoa does/did raise GPs for human consumption. This Video shows what his main setup looks like. LeonRFpoa is not a member of RT, and I haven't contacted him, but someone on this very thread purchased some GPs from him many years ago.

Here are a few questions for you...
1. have you eaten any guinea pigs?
2. Did/will you eat with the skin on or skin off?


EDIT 04/25/21: Grammar & sentence structure, added lots of commas
Your posts are very helpful! I'll definelty be building a tractor. I have some extra wire laying around that I could use for that. I have not had guinea pig as there isn't really anywhere to get it around me, but I've heard it compared to rabbit and duck which I do like. Even if I don't like the taste they would be for dog food as well. I think I'm going to eat them skin on, as it seems easier.
 

Izroion

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I can't find an exact awnser but can I feed the pigs like my rabbits? I know they need vitamin c but if thats provided via water do they need fresh greens during the winter? I'm not sure if they would use a mineral block. For my rabbits they get hay (though apparently guinea pigs need grass hay instead of alfalfa?), grains (usually oats), grass/weeds (In summer) and mineral blocks. I'd like to feed the pigs this way instead of buying pellets.
 

Izroion

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When I get my pig project started should I start a new thread or continue on this one?
 
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