Why meat guinea pigs? my thoughts

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Ghost

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I am posting this just so I can get my thoughts out there. This is just my prospective on this and ideas that I might implement in the future. I also not putting this out as some sort of anti-rabbit message. In fact, if I had not had the meat rabbit experience ten years ago, I would never have considered eating a guinea pig in the first place. I understand that my interest in cuy is sort of niche that will always be much smaller than people interested in raising rabbits. However, I am interesting in forming a discussion with a group of outliers like myself.

My reasons for considering guinea pig as a hobby farm animal are based on the fact that GPs naturally live in herds. While there are small-scale scuffles within the herd, with the proper culling, you can get a peaceful group. This is due to the way GPs are genetically prewired to live in herds. It is my belief that one can develop a functioning herd of guinea pigs easier than one can develop a functioning rabbit colony. Both do require effort, but I think once established, the GP colony will require less work then a rabbitry. I really don't have enough evidence to say this with a great confidence, but I think that with automated food and water, an established PG colony could be left unattended for a three-day weekend. If true would definitely be a selling point to someone who wanted to venture into producing his/her own meat without being tied-down and unable to travel for any extend period of time.

My desire to raise my own meat is based more on the desire to get away from factory farmed meat and the ethics around that. I have watched a few YouTube videos made by hard-core off-the-grid types bragging how there rabbitry provides loads of meat to their family of five. (again, I don't wish insult those people, that is "just not my thing"). I'm sure they have to put more work and space into such an operation, and that is good for what they want. I am however interested in a setup that requires less work and less space. Because I can't have kids, I am not interested in producing a vast quantity of meat. If someone was considering GPs instead of rabbits, attitude and goals are the main contingency on whether or not to raise GPs. If your thoughts are "I have to eat meat every meal, and I want my animals to be a major part of that", then having GPs as your only animal will not work out for you.

Because on my ethical considerations, I have cut back on the amount of meat I eat. For me, it really is all about the ethics. I do feel a tinge of sadness for the life taken, but I also feel pride in that the animal was well taken care of and got to live a life that in harmony with it's instincts. Instead of a creature that was pushed into living a life dominated by whatever it takes to make the most profit.On this planet, animals have been eating other animals for countless centuries. If I give up meat completely, it will not change that fact. I do however like the idea that I can still act within the "circle of life" and allow my prey to have a good life. I am still amazed how quickly the GPs mellow out after a cull. Some fresh green weeds and all is forgiven, the moments of collecting and the loss of life are no longer a concern for the surviving herd members. They will happily take food from the hand that killed there comrades only ten minutes earlier.

Guinea pigs will thrive on a wide variety of food. GPs do not need food that is calorie rich. They do well on grasses and weeds. They also prefer the fresh green grasses over calorie dense guinea pig pellets. Switching foods is not a problem for GPs they don't need the kind of new food break-in that rabbits require.

Guinea pigs also do well in confined spaces, They choose being crowded together. If you put a herd of GPs in a larger room they will huddle together in one side of the room. I like the idea of letting the herd decide how many and live in the given space. If you allow them floor space and 40% is unused, that it tells me the GPs are not over-crowded. I would choose not to cram them in too tightly, so to allow them to move around if needed. Still you will be amazed how many will fit even with 30%-40% unoccupied floor space.

The low space requirements are definitely a plus for urban homesteaders. If I were to get my own guinea pig herd, I would build a shed for them to stay at night. I would build the meat processing station including a utility sink inside the shed. Everything would be above the floor, so the GPs could utilize the space when I'm not working. As I have stated before the GPs are not bothered by there fallen herd-mates. GPs will often engage in cannibalism of dead herd mates. Due to the dust, I would only be doing the dispatchment, skinning and gutting in the shed. I would do final carcass preparation in my kitchen.

This is my sort of idealized dreaming stage of owning my own herd. Until then, I will be living vicariously through David's feeder herd. Also, I would definitely like input from people with rodent/GP raising experience. I will also be directing cuy-curious people to this thread.


I have been using this post as a reference when I post about meat guinea pigs on the web. Because of this, I have appended a list of my other post that newcomers might find worth reading if the above post was.

Guinea pigs: working herds Shortly after joining this forum, I gave thoughts on my fascination with guinea pigs as meat animals
In-colony guinea pig dispatchment & processing My observations concerning the killing and processing of guinea pigs in close quarters with the remaining heard.
Definitions for Western cuy terminology My pedantic need to define the words/terms used when discussing the topic of using cavy porcine for meat.
Skinning Guinea Pigs This thread contains the development of my how-to guide on processing cuy for human consumption. The guide is NOT COMPLETE.
Tools for processing skin-off cuy. The list of tools that I found helpful in processing cuy for human consumption
Hi GBov,Akane & others with cuy experience. A few Rabbit Talk members chime in and discuss there experience raising guinea pigs in herds. There is some discussion of skinning/processing, but not much.
Guinea pig dressout ratio A realistic look at just how much meat you can get from a guinea pig.
Litter size vs age in guinea pigs A discussion of factors that influence litter size not just age.

In addition to post relating to the practical side of raising meat guinea pigs I have decide to include some additional links. These posts are related to how I (not someone raised on a farm) have come to terms with the death part of raising meat animals.

Planned death vs unplanned death
Meat is murder... and that's ok
Sometimes sobbing helps.
Putting the bones in the trash

Original post date: Tue Feb 19, 2019
Edit 04/18/21: Added section containing links to other posts
 

ladysown

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i have never in all my years with guinea pigs seen them cannibalize each other.

Skinning them isn't nearly as easy as doing up a rabbit. The very few I did were not easy. Almost as bad as doing squirrel.

They are funny though, sometimes a new food will send them scurrying away and acting like it's death warmed over. They aren't always gung-ho over getting new food.
 

Ghost

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ladysown":33z58nsg said:
i have never in all my years with guinea pigs seen them cannibalize each other.
I am only caring for them once a week, so I don't know how often cannibalism happens. It might have something with food level and herd size. We do fill up there food dishes every day. but sometimes they can run out rather quickly when the herd is large. I remove a dead GP about once every 2 months about 1 out of every 3 dead GPs show signs of cannibalism. Only one time have I witnesses cannibalism


ladysown":33z58nsg said:
Skinning them isn't nearly as easy as doing up a rabbit. The very few I did were not easy. Almost as bad as doing squirrel.
Yes, skinning is troublesome, I suppose that is why traditionally GPs are scalded & scraped like a hog, and many people here have used that technique. I have detected THIS whole thread to the subject. Using rabbit skinning techniques (case skinning) I found skinning a squirrel not to hard, I love that squirrels have a handle :wink: (tail) that makes skinning them easier. The one time I tried to case skin a GP it took almost forever. :wall:

Personally I am turned-off be the idea of eating them skin-on. If I don't find a way to make skinning easier I don't think I will raise my own GPs. If someone is considering cuy farming they need to decide if they will eat it skin-on or not. I am still working on a way to make open skinning faster for GPs. I do however think I have come up with a way to get the job done in a reasonable amount of time. I'll keep everyone informed on my skinning technique on that other thread.
 

GBov

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ladysown":3dqc1p08 said:
i have never in all my years with guinea pigs seen them cannibalize each other.

Skinning them isn't nearly as easy as doing up a rabbit. The very few I did were not easy. Almost as bad as doing squirrel.

They are funny though, sometimes a new food will send them scurrying away and acting like it's death warmed over. They aren't always gung-ho over getting new food.

Squirrels get MUCH easier after you do a few dozen and funny enough, I find them MUCH easier to start at the neck end for skinning and rabbits are much easier from the tail end. I wonder if GPs are the same?

But I scalded my GPs so no problems at all.

I had cannibalism in my herd but not much, mostly if very young pigs died or were stillborn, they would be partly eaten.

Ghost, try GP fried skin on really crispy, or once cooked finished under the broiler in an oven so the skin crackles like on a pork roast. You will very soon get over the skin on turn off. ;)
 

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