Meat guinea pigs (cuy)?

ChubbyCabra

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Hi, I'm looking for information in breeding guinea pigs for meat as a means to feed my family. I've been doing as much research as I can with a newborn on my lap (lol) but I can't find the answers to a couple questions and I'm wondering if anyone here can help.

This would be my first venture into animal breeding and husbandry. I have had pets as a child, but no animals for meat/breeding. Any information and resources are greatly appreciated!

Here are my questions:

- how do I keep track of generics/parentage? Ear tags? I don't want to accidentally inbreed. How closely can generations breed without inbreeding? (I read with mice you don't breed within 20 generations, but couldn't find the same info on guinea pigs)

- how many cuy do I need to start a sustainable breeding colony? I heard 1 male to 3-4 females. If I had two of these groups, would that get me started and be enough genetic variety? I'd eventually like to have about 20 active breeders at a given time.

- how often should I swap out my breeders for younger guinea pigs? I know females should not breed before about 5 months old. But when should breeders retire?

- I know they can produce litters about every 3-4 months, but should sows have a break between litters? If so, for how long?

I plan on building tractors for each breeding group, and prepare a place in the garage for them for hot days. I'm not sure yet how well the can tolerate winters, but heat kills them faster than cold. They would spend the majority of their time grazing our lawn, with supplemental food for vitamin c. I'm not sure how many separate enclosures I should build to keep the generations/sexes properly separated.

Thank you for any information or if you can point me in the direction of any resources I would greatly appreciate it!
 

ChubbyCabra

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Where are you located? These are not the most meat utilized animals. Ever consider rabbits? They are larger and depending on size of family may be a better option.
Thanks for your response!

I'm in southern Wisconsin. From what I've read, meat rabbits are a bigger investment to start up, and they have some tricky issues like the mothers will sometimes not nurse, or they'll get really territorial. They can also escape by burrowing or jumping, whereas guinea pigs can be free ranged and don't burrow and can't get over an 8" wall. They can be housed together (separate sexes, separate breeding groups), which means fewer separate spaces to build. GPs just seem like a better "beginner" meat animal, but I have a lot to learn!
 

secuono

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What will be on the bottom of the tractors? How will you prevent legs going through and getting damaged?
If no bottom, prepare to loose all of them very fast from predation.
Is the area they'll be in on high ground with excellent drainage, very smooth ground for no escapes?
Will the tractors have safe, dry, enclosed areas to protect against the elements?
The concrete may kill them, a garage is usually drafty and the cold coming up may make them sick. I accidentally killed a couple pigs just like that a decade+ ago.
Guinea pigs can jump, in a safe location with nothing spooking them, 8" can contain them. But I've had them get out if scared and have seen videos of them leaping 1ft!
They're pregnant for about 2mo and come out eating solids. They can be weaned at a week old. If the moms aren't thin, you can rebreed soon after that.
They live 8-10yrs, probably less for cuy and constantly breeding.
Any you plan on keeping for breeding, make sure they get the extra protein and calcium!
Inbreeding won't hurt for terminal offspring or for replacements as long as you don't continue to inbreeding with those replacement pigs.
 

ChubbyCabra

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What will be on the bottom of the tractors? How will you prevent legs going through and getting damaged?
If no bottom, prepare to loose all of them very fast from predation.
Is the area they'll be in on high ground with excellent drainage, very smooth ground for no escapes?
Will the tractors have safe, dry, enclosed areas to protect against the elements?
The concrete may kill them, a garage is usually drafty and the cold coming up may make them sick. I accidentally killed a couple pigs just like that a decade+ ago.
Guinea pigs can jump, in a safe location with nothing spooking them, 8" can contain them. But I've had them get out if scared and have seen videos of them leaping 1ft!
They're pregnant for about 2mo and come out eating solids. They can be weaned at a week old. If the moms aren't thin, you can rebreed soon after that.
They live 8-10yrs, probably less for cuy and constantly breeding.
Any you plan on keeping for breeding, make sure they get the extra protein and calcium!
Inbreeding won't hurt for terminal offspring or for replacements as long as you don't continue to inbreeding with those replacement pigs.
Thank you so much!

I found this thread for tractors, would probably follow the tutorial: https://permies.com/t/137828/Guinea-pigs-outdoor-mobile-tractors#1081227

I was thinking of putting something like a semi flexible skirt of wire mesh around the bottom to prevent them squeezing away/predators. At night, they would be in the enclosed part of the tractor, or inside if it's a warm night

I would build something off the ground for the garage, they wouldn't be directly on concrete, something like this: https://images.app.goo.gl/WiDj8gzjXAkYuc4x9

Please tell me if I am totally off here! I want to provide good care and I appreciate any information I can get!

Can you please explain what you mean by inbreeding replacement pigs? If I breed MaleA+FemaleA, they make babies MaleB, FemaleB, can I breed MaleA with FemaleB? That seems like way too small a generic pool. I'm trying to figure out how to keep track of parentage and keep healthy genetic diversity, but I don't know how to do that practically. Do you keep track of who's who with tags? Photos with records?

Thank you again!!
 

secuono

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If they're not true cuy, the big tan ones with occasional white, then you may be able to keep track based on color & pattern.
Otherwise, tiny, metal ear tags will be needed.
Google pic-
9951890.jpg


You can keep paper records or use a program. On the computer, I use KinTraks/AnimalBreeder. Free for older versions of operating systems. There are phone apps, too.
KinTraks Link

I was just saying that breeding full siblings is technically fine, especially if offspring will be eaten or if you only do it once to keep a replacement boar/sow. When inbreeding/line breeding, both good and bad genetics intensify. More severe inbreeding is usually used to find flaws to cull them out.
There is a breed of white cattle in Europe that is genetically all clones, that's how inbred they are. But all flaws have died off, leaving just the good. You'd never know they were so intensely inbred just looking at them.
You don't need to do it, but you'll end up breeding relatives eventually, unless you are always buying new, unrelated stock. But even then, unless you have detailed pedigrees on the new pigs, they may also still be related somewhere.
I bought a bred ewe & ram, turned out that they're half siblings. Both are ugly, blocky sheep, sold off the ram, kept the ewe & offspring. Their offspring is beautiful, didn't inherit any of the ugly that either parent had. So, just like finding the ugly, you can use inbreeding to also find the good. I wouldn't of bought the ram if I had known he was her half brother and wouldn't of bred them myself, but it worked out & I'm glad I kept the offspring.
Say you have siblings or a closely related m/f pair and they grew quickly & are meaty. You want more of that, so, you breed them together and save the offspring that continue to grow fast & meaty. You do not breed them to each other. You would breed those offspring to unrelated cuy instead, to try and better influence the next round of offspring to grow better than they would of if you had used two unrelated cuy. Does that make sense?

I use colored notecards for my sheep to decide breeding groups. They have parents listed. If I need to look further back, I go to KinTraks to figure out who to avoid putting together.
 

Ridgetop

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I have never bred guinea pigs, but I think the breeding rate and growth rate for rabbits would be better. Also, more meat on rabbits at 8 weeks. We have extensive experience with rabbit production.

You can use hanging cages for rabbits and build manure pits underneath. Rabbit manure can be applied fresh to any plants since it doesn't burn. If you buy a good basic meat breed like a New Zealand White or Californian, you shouldn't have any problems with milk. I prefer Californians. We started with NZW and DH loves them but I prefer the Cals since I found they got to 5 lbs at 8 weeks which was a little sooner than the NZWs. They ere also a little calmer and they are a slightly smaller adult rabbit than the NZW which ay or may not make a difference since you have to take the doe to the buck for breeding. Does are always larger than bucks.

Bucks don't usually get territorial or grumpy. Does get grumpy if they are bred when mature. Raising them in wire cages is space saving, and makes it easier, IMO, to watch for any problems. They are pretty disease free, and if raised off the ground don't get coccidiosis or other parasites or diseases. You have to protect from predators. Dogs being the worst. By enclosing the hanging cages inside a chain link dog kennel, you will avoid dog attacks. The standard size cage for a doe and litter is 36"w x 30"deep. I use "baby saver" cages with smaller wire on the bottom to prevent kits that fall out of the nest box. I use the same cages for my bucks to allow more utilization of space by being able to move rabbits around.

Meat breeds should start their breeding life at 6 months. Rabbit gestation is 30 days. The average litter is 8 kits. Their kits are ready to butcher at 8 weeks. At 8 weeks the young bunnies weigh between 4-6 lbs. The doe is most fertile right after kindling, however, I breed back when the kits are 6-7 weeks old This gives the doe 2-3 weeks to recover before she produces another litter. As long as you keep her on a high protein ration, this is fine. Rabbit does will start to decline in reproduction around 3 years old. In a commercial rabbitry these does will be disposed of. In a home situation you can get another year out of them. The litters will get smaller and occasionally the doe will not take.

One buck and starting trio. Two trios will produce plenty of meat for your family, and allow you to keep young doe to grow your barn since you will have a second buck to cross breed with. One doe producing 8 bunnies four ties a year will give you 32 fryers each. Four does will give you 128 bunnies per year.

Keep only the very best does for replacement does. Eat or sell the rest for meat. Buy a new buck every now and then to bring I new blood. Buy your first stock from a good breeder – remember that the Standard of Perfection for judging all meat type rabbits is based in where the eat is. If the rabbit is a lousy show specimen it means that they do not have any meat where it is supposed to be. Don’t buy cheap “non show” rabbits thinking you are getting bargain. If they don’t have any meat on them they will not be worth their feed. On the other hand, you don’t need to pay a fortune for a breeding trio either. Getting your trio from a decent breeder who can show you what to look for when it comes to meat, is best. Good breeders love to share their knowledge with new breeders. They will help you decide what does to keep and what to eat too.

Guinea pigs make noise – squeals, whistles, etc., while rabbits rarely make any noise. If you live in an area where noise is a problem, you can raise lots of rabbits and not even know they are there. Also, rabbits can handle extreme cold. They don’t like extreme heat, but you can use fans or misters to lower the temperatures. Rabbits only need to be protected from rain and wind.

Before making up your mind about raising guinea pigs or meat, you should work out how many lb. of meat you will get from each. One rabbit fryer fed our family of 6.

Questions to have answered –

How many GPs in a litter?

Length of gestation?

How often can you breed?

How big is butcher size?

How long does it take to grow to butcher size?

How much meat in lb. per year can one GP produce compared to one rabbit?

The cost of feed to produce 1 lb. of meat.

Space needed for and cost of trailers compared to one 36” x 30” wire cage per rabbit.
 

rachels.haven

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I've bred a litter of guinea pigs and a litter of rabbits. Rabbits are not hard and do grow faster. Guinea pigs do look and act delicious though...I'm not allowed to eat ours because they're my kids' animals but I was raised on rabbit. Most of ours still look like food animals to me.
Litter size 3-6
Gestation about 60 days
Yes, give the sows a break. They get very thin
Grow out will be around the same as rabbits. They will be smaller
Vitamin c will complicate your life if not using a feed with all the c you need. Large daily piles of fresh, green grass and clover will cover you during the growing season.
Gp are more afraid of you by default so less docile, but less temperamental than rabbits. Less scratchy.
I'd keep breeding colonies of 3 or 4 females in large tubs or small wood pens and rotate a male around with a new tub every 30-55 days, hitting each maybe 2 maybe 3 times a year.
Boars really want to only have one purpose. They suck.
Gp aren't temperature tolerant supposedly.
Be aware that sows must begin breeding at an early age or not be bred supposedly.
 

Ron Bequeath

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Hi, I'm looking for information in breeding guinea pigs for meat as a means to feed my family. I've been doing as much research as I can with a newborn on my lap (lol) but I can't find the answers to a couple questions and I'm wondering if anyone here can help.

This would be my first venture into animal breeding and husbandry. I have had pets as a child, but no animals for meat/breeding. Any information and resources are greatly appreciated!

Here are my questions:

- how do I keep track of generics/parentage? Ear tags? I don't want to accidentally inbreed. How closely can generations breed without inbreeding? (I read with mice you don't breed within 20 generations, but couldn't find the same info on guinea pigs)

- how many cuy do I need to start a sustainable breeding colony? I heard 1 male to 3-4 females. If I had two of these groups, would that get me started and be enough genetic variety? I'd eventually like to have about 20 active breeders at a given time.

- how often should I swap out my breeders for younger guinea pigs? I know females should not breed before about 5 months old. But when should breeders retire?

- I know they can produce litters about every 3-4 months, but should sows have a break between litters? If so, for how long?

I plan on building tractors for each breeding group, and prepare a place in the garage for them for hot days. I'm not sure yet how well the can tolerate winters, but heat kills them faster than cold. They would spend the majority of their time grazing our lawn, with supplemental food for vitamin c. I'm not sure how many separate enclosures I should build to keep the generations/sexes properly separated.

Thank you for any information or if you can point me in the direction of any resources I would greatly appreciate it!
One question. Are we talking about american guinea hogs or a completely different species guinea pigs from peru. The reason I'm asking is that my daughter on her trip to Peru for college feasted on the latter, her part being the brains.
 

WyoLiving

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They are talking about the guinea pigs - more of the Peru type, not the American Guinea hogs. The little fuzzy ones that kids have for pets. I have heard that they are raised for meat in south/central american countries. I think I would go with rabbits myself, but I was raised with rabbit as part of our food supply.
 
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