About a month ago, we welcomed Bacon and Delilah to the homestead. We had talked about wanting to get pigs when we started the homestead, but I never really put a lot of thought into it. After a ton of research and a swift kick in the pants while at The Homesteaders of America Conference? We picked up two American Guinea Hogs.
Why We Chose The American Guinea Hog
When we started looking at adding pigs to the homestead, there were quite a few concerns that I had about pigs. I was told that they are mean, bite, root, escape and eat a ton of food. The trade off was that if you could keep them contained and fed for six months, you would have a pig at market weight. Well, I’ve got some problems with that.
While I don’t normally mind animals that are…. difficult, I do have a problem when they are large animals that are potentially deadly. I’m not saying that pigs are deadly. But I am saying that aggressive animals have no place on our homestead…. except Blu….and Bella.
After doing a ton of research we were really leaning towards the Berkshires, Duroc and Kune Kune. These breeds have great personalities and are rarely aggressive. Plus they are heritage breeds which is really important to me.
Another issue with pigs is the damage they can cause to the soil. Our soil is extremely compacted with red clay under it all. But the top? It’s all sand. We want SOME rooting to help break the soil barriers so that more organic material gets mixed up in the soil. But we don’t want them to root so much that the soil biome is ruined. Or worse, stay in one area so long that they compact it with wallowing. Also, I was wanting a pig that would graze more than root. But since I don’t have pasture or grass yet, I need them to root.
This is getting to be a tall order for pig breeds.
When looking at various breeds and watching many videos, we learned that pigs are incredibly smart. They are also more than willing to use their brute strength to break down fences. The only one that wasn’t going to constantly try and break free was the Kune Kune. But the Kune takes a long time to reach market weight, like 14+ months. This is getting harder and harder to pick a breed.
The faster you want your pig to reach market weight, the more they are going to eat. The problem is, I don’t want to buy any more feed than I have to. The Duroc will reach market weight in five months, but to do that, we would have to give it grower feed, which is expensive. I talked about the real cost of raising livestock here. I’ve already got a $600/mo feed bill. Let’s not add to that.
I really wanted a grazing pig that would eat table scraps and left overs but ultimately would eat grass if we didn’t have scraps to give them.
Enter The American Guinea Hogs
The American Guinea Hogs are amazing pigs and up until about 75 years ago, it was a staple animal on almost every single farm in the US. But with the rise of super markets and city living, they fell out of favor. In fact, up till recently, there were only about 100 on in the country.
American Guinea Hogs are grazing pigs that will get bigger than the Kune and do it faster. But AGHs are a small heritage breed of pig. That means that it’s not going to be one of the monsters that will yield hundreds of pounds of pork. But that’s okay. Because they are smaller, it makes raising and butchering a lot easier.
Bacon is extremely friendly, needing to have all the snuggles and scratches. If I come outside, he is at the gate grunting at me to come snuggle and scratch. Delilah is a little stand-offish but she is coming around. The good part about that is that they come when they are called. There have been a few rainy days here and the solar chargers have run out of juice. If they slip the fence, it’s not a big deal. I simply call them and they come running, no food needed.
Another great thing about the AGH is that I have bought two bags of feed in the six weeks they have been here. Between the table scraps and fermentation, they haven’t even eaten a whole bag yet!
American Guinea Hogs Care
So what do you need to care for American Guinea Hogs? Not much if you already have livestock. We have been soaking and fermenting everyone’s feed, so we needed a few 5 gallon buckets. We already had feed buckets to bring them feed so no added expense there. We also bought a couple of Premier 1 fences with a solar charger. I mentioned above that our other charger ran out of juice, I suggest highly getting the one linked above. It doesn’t run out of juice! We just bought ours and it’s been amazing.
You do need to make sure you have some sort of a shelter. Right now, they are in our old kidding shed and that is working out very well. If they out grow it, we will look for something else but for right now, it’s good. They can handle lower temperatures as long as they are dry and have deep bedding.
Our AGHs are doing great and I absolutely love them. Butchering day is going to be brutal but at least I know they had the best life possible.