Today I am going to discuss the reasons behind why the American Guinea Hog has become the official selection for Green Willow Homestead. Having a source of meat I raise myself has been a goal of mine for many years, so excuse me for a moment while I do a little happy dance.
Okay, I’m back.
Right off the bat, one of the main reasons I'm drawn to the American Guinea Hog for a smaller homestead is because, well, it’s a small breed! When fully grown, the adults range from 46 to 56 inches from between the ears to the beginning of the tail. Their height can range between 22 and 27 inches, making them fall just around the knees for most. Adults can weigh between 150 to 300 lbs, sex and frame-size depending. Compare these numbers to other hog breeds that can get up to 800 lbs! That’s a heck of a lot of pork for one family. Also, consider the fact that you should always get at least two pigs because they are social creatures. Pigs need friends too! So that means with a larger more conventional breed you would have way more pork than one family knows what to do with. That’s a lot of carnitas…
Now let’s talk temperament. The American Guinea Hog is one of the calmest pig breeds out there. These friendly porkers are gentle with children (ahem, someday guys, calm down, SOMEDAY NOT TODAY) and can even cohabitate with other farm animals. That is a huge plus for us because we plan on having free-range laying hens and possibly goats. All these animals will be sharing some of the same pasture at times so friendliness is a must. The sows are excellent mothers that don’t get overprotective and charge when their piglets are around. Again, their smaller size accounts for a much less threatening experience with both adult males and females.
Next up, let’s discuss their living environment and how that ties into the breed’s natural instincts. The American Guinea Hog is bred to be a natural forager. That means that they prefer being out on an open pasture where they can graze, dig, and root the plants available to them. Some breeds have been bred for so long while eating just feed that they have forgotten how to forage and graze! Not the American Guinea Hog, these oinkers will rototill the land from the moment you set them loose to the moment you load them up in the trailer to bring them to slaughter. Providing at least 2 acres per hog for 6 months is a sufficient amount of forage, granted the land is lush with a pig-friendly cover crop. I also plan on providing kitchen scraps, clean water daily, access to minerals, and fresh hay if it is the winter time. I am going to go over our planned diet in much further detail for the piggies in a future post, so stay tuned on that if you are curious!
Since we live in the tropical state of Wisconsin, finding a breed that does well in both hot and cold climates is very important. The American Guinea Hog does just fine in both climates, thank goodness. Of course when it’s hot (can be up to 95 degrees F in the summer here) we have to provide ample shade, which we will accomplish with mature maple trees, chestnut trees, and their lean-to. There also needs to be a spot on the pasture for them to mud wallow (where the pigs take a mud bath) to keep them cool. When it’s cold (it can get down to -15 degrees F here), as with any breed of pig, you absolutely must keep them dry. Having the lean-to to keep them away from snow, sleet, and rain is how we will accomplish this.
Six(ish) months down the line, the pigs will be ready for slaughter. Something I absolutely love about the American Guinea Hog is that they fatten so easily. Being of the Paleo diet persuasion, I know that saturated fat from an animal source is not something to be feared, especially when you know exactly all the wonderful things that animal ate during its life. The meat is beautifully marbled. Since we plan on supplementing a large part of the pigs’ diets with chestnuts, the flavor profile of the lard and the meat is going to be out of this world. Most pigs will yield up between 60 and 80 lbs of meat after slaughter. With two American Guinea Hogs, we will have plenty of pork to last us through the year. After the first two, we will possibly do more than two at a time if friends and family want to buy in!
Another thing to understand about this breed is that they are a huge contributor to the closed loop cycle of a homestead. Instead of buying or renting a rototiller twice a year to work through the vegetable garden soil, you can just set the hogs loose to do their thing. They will eat all the excess vegetables and squash, they will till the soil naturally as they root and forage, and their feces provide much needed fertilizer for the next year of gardening. Win win!
On a final note, this heritage breed has come back from the edge of extinction; there were less than 100 hogs left in the early 1990s. I have to commend the breeders who have toiled and researched to bring this heritage breed back into the main stream, well, at least the main stream for small-scale homesteaders. I am proud to soon be one of those homesteaders!
Just look at them go…
Thanks for stopping by Green Willow Homestead! From chicken rearing to orchard planting, we've got our hands full and we love sharing what we've learned along the way. Follow along as we strive to live sustainably and turn these five acres from just property to a fully functioning small-scale homestead.
1. Joe Salatin
2. Rachel Carson
3. Wendell Berry
4. Temple Grandin
5. Sustainable Dish
6. Zero Waste Home
7. Allan Savory
Favorite Books of 2018
2. Bringing it to the Table
3. Holistic Management
4. The Small Scale Poultry Flock
5. In The Company of Women