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We attended your annual conference in Santa Rosa, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and came back home even more committed to the preservation of at risk livestock breeds. - Cindy and Rick Gagnon, CO

Deborah Niemann

Deborah Niemann

"The Thrifty Homesteader"

6 reasons to add American Guinea Hogs to your homestead

by Deborah Niemann -  thriftyhomesteader

If you’ve decided to add pigs to your homestead, the next question is, “which breed?” I am partial to the heritage breeds because they do well on pasture. Initially we raised Tamworths, which we purchased from a breeder in the spring. We’d raise them through the summer and butcher them in the fall. For a variety of reasons, I decided I wanted to start breeding my own pigs, although I was very intimidated by the size of full-grown Tamworths and other breeds of pigs that I’d met.

Introducing … the American Guinea Hog! Its history is as mysterious as they come, but one thing is clear — it was the homestead hog of choice in the southeast U.S. during the 1800s. Less than a decade ago, it was almost completely extinct with less than 150 breeding animals known to exist! Today it is enjoying renewed popularity, and its numbers have been rapidly growing over the past few years. Why?

  • It’s less than half the size of most hogs! While many breeds of hogs can get up to 800 or even more than 1,000 pounds, the AGH adult weight is usually in the 250 to 300 pound range. This small size was one of the reasons it almost became extinct. It definitely did not fit into the factory farm environment. However, that small size is exactly what makes it attractive to homesteaders and small farmers.
  • It has a sweet personality! Pigs have a reputation for being vicious omnivores, killing and eating chickens that are unlucky enough to wander into the pig pen, and some have even been known to kill people. Guinea Hogs, however, have a very calm, docile nature. While this may not be important to huge confinement farmers, it is very important for small farmers who will be working closely with their pigs and who have other animals and don’t want to worry about the pigs killing them. Of course, there have been a few Guinea Hogs that were not so docile, but most breeders are quick to send them to meat locker and not use them for breeding stock, ensuring that the breed as a whole continues to have a great personality.
  • It grazes! While some heritage breeds of pigs will eat grass when on pasture, the AGH love grass and gobble it up as voraciously as if it were eating chocolate truffles.
  • It has lots of lard! Although the average American consumer began to reject lard after the invention of Crisco, many people are beginning to realize that they were duped by marketing and that lard can play a role in a healthy diet. If you are interested in self-sufficiency, having pigs is the easiest way to produce your own cooking fat. Although you could grow sunflowers, corn, or soybeans, extracting the fat is a big project. Rendering lard can be done in a slow cooker or in your oven without purchasing any fancy equipment.
  • It has outstanding flavor! Chefs have begun to sing the praises of the Guinea Hog from South Carolina to Chicago. One chef called it the Kobe beef of pork. It is especially popular with chefs who want to use the whole pig from snout to tail, and it makes excellent charcuterie.

Because of all the unique strengths and benefits of the American Guinea Hog, they are easier to sell than other breeds of hogs, which is a sixth benefit for those of us who can’t eat all of the pork that our pigs produce. Their small size makes them more attractive for urban dwellers to purchase as a whole hog, which is the easiest way for a homesteader to sell a pig. You simply have to find one customer who purchases the pig from you, and then you take it to the processor as a courtesy to the buyer. You get paid for the pig, and the buyer tells the processor how they want the pig cut up and processed and pay them directly. Because you are not selling meat — you sold a live animal — you don’t have to deal with getting a license to sell meat, nor do you have to have an expensive freezer for storing meat, waiting for individual customers to come buy it, one pound of bacon and one ham at a time.

When we raised Tamworths, a lot of people would only want half a hog because they couldn’t wrap their brain around the idea of having 175 or 200 pounds of pork! With the AGH dressing out at half that amount, the number of customers is greater.

Of course, the four reasons I gave for having pigs on the homestead a couple of weeks ago is also true for the AGH. That means there is a total of ten reasons to have American Guinea Hogs on your homestead!

With the number of registered AGH in the US now well over a thousand it is much easier than it was a few years ago to find breeding stock, although if you are just planning to raise them for meat, you don’t have to buy registered pigs. And if there are not any in your area, piglets can be shipped by air just like dogs and cats, so you can find a breeder in another state and have the pigs shipped to you. Since you are charged by weight or kennel size (depending upon airline), it’s a good idea to buy pigs that have just been weaned, so you can save on shipping costs.


4 reasons to add pigs to your homestead

by Deborah Niemann - thriftyhomesteader


When we moved to the country, we had been vegetarians for 13 years, and we remained vegetarian for another year, then we very gradually started eating a bit of our own chicken here and there, as well as one of our turkeys for Thanksgiving. Even after we started to eat chicken and turkey somewhat regularly, we had no plans to start eating other meat, and I even said on more than one occasion that we’d never have pigs on our farm because they are only raised for meat.

My mama always said “never say never” because it will come back to haunt you, but I really, truly thought that I would never want pigs. I also believed that their only purpose was to be turned into meat. Then one day I admitted to my husband, “I miss bacon.” We decided to get a couple of weaned piglets to raise for meat and see how things went.

If we were going to raise pigs, though, it had to be a heritage breed, and I ultimately decided on Tamworths because they had a reputation for great meat, and there were quite a few breeders in Illinois. It took me awhile to find one, however, who raised pigs outside and didn’t give them a long list of vaccinations and other drugs, but that’s a post for another day. I did find a couple of piglets two hours away. I picked them up in my mini-van — yes, inside my mini-van — and drove them home. (I really do not recommend putting pigs inside your vehicle with you, even if they are in a dog crate. It will only take you a few minutes to realize why pigs should not be raised inside. Yeah, they don’t smell so great when confined to a small space.)

Since we were making cheese regularly by then, we often had a gallon or two of whey we’d give to the pigs almost daily through the summer, as well as other left-overs that the family didn’t want. Although it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to raise pigs, it went well enough that we did it again the next year … and the next and the next. Why did pigs become a permanent fixture on our homestead?

  1. They eat almost everything. They represent the best way to use up whey from cheesemaking, as well as excess milk from dairy animals. They also happily consume any extra eggs or cooked leftovers from the family. I always say that our pigs turn whey into bacon.
  2. They will till up any area that you need tilled up. Most people view rooting as a bad habit that needs to be stopped, but that’s only if you have them in a place where you don’t want the soil disturbed. One year, we planted eggplants and squash in an area where pigs had lived the previous year, and it was the best eggplant and squash harvest we’d ever had! In addition to loosening up the soil, they also fertilized it for us.
  3. They act as a dead-end host for parasites that plague goats, sheep, and cattle. Because pigs have different internal parasites than ruminants, they clean up the pasture when they follow other animals in a rotational grazing pattern. I often put pigs in a pasture when goats leave because when they consume the eggs and larvae of goat parasites, their body digests the parasites. Goat parasites can’t survive inside of pigs, just as humans can’t survive on another planet.
  4. Bacon! Sausage! Ham! This one should be obvious, but I have to add it anyway. You will be able to produce your own delicious pork that you know was humanely raised and fed a natural diet.

Do you need to breed pigs?

Not necessarily. If you only want enough pork for your own family, you can buy two or three pigs at weaning from a breeder in the spring. Feed them through the summer and butcher them in the fall. A Tamworth weaned in the spring will have a hanging weight of 170 to 200 pounds by fall. If you don’t think you’ll eat that much pork in a year, you can sell one to a friend. Even if the pigs are only on your homestead for six months during the growing season, they will still provide all of the above benefits for you. And don’t forget, you get bacon!


Read other articles by Deborah - ThriftyHomesteader.com

In 2002, Deborah relocated her suburban Chicago family to 32 acres on a creek "in the middle of nowhere" where they began producing 100% of their meat, eggs and dairy products by raising heritage animals. Today they also sell meat, eggs, soap, and fiber products. She is the author of three books on sustainable living: Homegrown and Handmade: A Practical Guide to More Self-Reliant Living, Ecothrifty: Cheaper, Greener Choices for a Happier, Healthier Life, and Raising Goats Naturally: The Complete Guide to Milk, Meat, and More. www.antiquityoaks.com, deborahwrites@gmail.com