Up until a year ago, I didn't even know about this specific breed of hogs, how they differ from the modern breeds, and how to raise them. But after reading “Saving the Guinea Hogs: The Recovery of an American Homestead Breed” by Cathy Payne, I was so excited to get started.
Going into 2020 we had already decided that we were going to be raising our own hogs again for meat. We love raising hogs, butchering them, and then curing the ham ourselves.
We had taken a year off because our freezers were still well stocked with pork, but with the events surrounding 2020, we knew we wanted to raise, butcher, and preserve our own pork products again this year.
Little did we know, our usual breeder had retired!
We don't love to purchase animals from auctions because you don't typically know the full bloodline, the environment they're coming from, and other unknowns. So we don't like to bring them onto our own property.
The only breed we were able to find locally were American Guinea Hogs. We contacted the breeder and told them we'd take the piglets. After family members and friends kept asking us if we were raising pigs, we eventually cleaned the breeder out of all their piglets!
After researching this specific breed online I came across a book by Cathy Payne called “Saving the Guinea Hogs: The Recovery of an American Homestead Breed”.
On today's podcast, I have the privilege of talking with award winning author, Cathy to hear all about this breed.
I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I did.
In this episode:
- Where the American Guinea Hogs got their start.
- How Cathy got started on her own homestead with this specific breed.
- How the American Guinea Hog is different than other, more common breeds.
- How big American Guinea Hogs get, how much they eat, how long they take to grow, etc.
- What we feed our hogs and how we stretch/supplement our feed.
- What the meat of this breed tastes like.
- How to render the lard to use in cooking and baking.
- A trick on doubling the bacon production!
- Whether or not this breed will graze or eat hay and/or alfalfa.
- Health benefits for grass-fed vs. grain-fed animals.
- How this breed does in colder temperatures.
- How to help this heritage breed continue on in the future.
Links from this episode:
- Get Cathy's book, “Saving the Guinea Hogs: The Recovery of an American Homestead Breed” (Use code: PT25 for 25% off a soft-cover copy of her book and free shipping! Offer good through 01/10/2021)
- Visit Cathy's website.
- Visit Cathy on Instagram.
- Visit Cathy on Facebook.
- How to Buy a Homestead – Another Pioneering Today Podcast with Cathy.
Melissa: Welcome to episode number 282. Today's episode is really an interesting one, because up until just this past year, I had never even known about this breed of hogs, and really how they differed than our regular modern pig and their story. So just a little bit of preface to this episode is with COVID this year, we were making certain that we were raising all of our own animals, again. We had taken a year off from raising pork, mainly because we still had enough pork in the fridge. And with our pigs, that is not a livestock that I have set up for breeding purposes.
Melissa: So we go to a local breeder, we get our pigs from them as piglets, we get them in the springtime, and then we usually butcher right about October when the pigs are about six months of age. But because of all the other types of livestock that we raise, we just simply didn't need to raise the [mushriks 00:01:05], we had enough meat to last. Well, enter COVID. We were already planning on raising pigs again this year. But it just really confirmed for us that we wanted to make sure we were raising as much of our own food as possible, even more so than we had in years past.
Melissa: However, our regular breeder, we did not know it, had retired. And I don't like to purchase animals from auctions just because you simply don't really know the breed. Well, I should say you know what breed you're getting, let me rephrase that. You know what breed you're getting, but you don't necessarily know the full bloodline, what kind of environment they're coming from, if they have any disease, there's just lots of unknowns and [beings 00:01:50] if we're bringing them onto the property, and we've got other forms of livestock here. I prefer not to use auction animals and to always buy from a local breeder whenever possible.
Melissa: Well, our breeder had retired, and we couldn't find anybody who had any piglets that weren't spoken for, except for American Guinea Hogs. And I'd heard the term American Guinea Hog, but I got to tell you, I really had no idea what it meant. I hopped on Google and started looking it up. And I thought, "Okay, well, it's the only thing that we can get. So we're going to go ahead," and I contacted the breeder who lives locally to us and said, "Yep, we're going to take your piglets." And then we had more and more people contacting us, family members, who were like, "Are you raising hogs this year?" And so we kept adding to it until I wiped her out of pigs.
Melissa: So we brought home these American Guinea Hogs, and I did some initial research, and I came across a book by Cathy Payne, and it was called, Saving the Guinea Hogs: The Recovery of an American Homestead Breed. And the more I found out about these pigs and their history, and the heritage, I was completely fascinated by them, and was so excited that she agreed to come on to the podcast. So not only are you going to get to listen to her story, and really find out a lot about this breed, which is really, really cool, but it's also finding out ways that you can support these heritage breeds as well so they're not lost.
Melissa: You really get to hear the story of how they came from almost being extinct, to where they are today. And how you can be a part of that even if you're not raising them. But a lot of great information, including me, not really grilling her, but almost because I have a lot of questions as I'm noticing a lot of things are different with these pigs than what I'm used to with raising the Hereford pigs that we're used to. So really, really fun packed with a ton of information, I know that you're going to really enjoy today's episode.
Melissa: So as I said, Cathy is an award winning author of Saving the Guinea Hogs: The Recovery of an American Homestead Breed. But what's really fascinating is Cathy did not start farming until she was 57 years old, and she had no experience of raising anything, but she started raising nutrient dense foods and heritage breeds of livestock, including meat rabbits, wool sheep and pigs. When she could not find historic information on the Guinea Hogs, she set out to do her own research, and after eight years of farming, she left that life, wrote the book, and continues to this day to track down missing pieces of information and hopes to write down an update or a sequel for everybody who has read that first book and is wanting more and more which I happen to be one of them. So without further ado, let's welcome Cathy to the podcast.
Melissa: Well, I am so excited for today's guest and I can't wait to pick her brain. So Cathy, welcome to the Pioneering Today Podcast.
Cathy Payne: Thank you so much, Melissa. I'm really excited to be here to talk with you and to your Pioneering Today audience.
Melissa: Yeah. So Cathy and I first connected, this is our first year raising American Guinea Hogs. And, Cathy, I think you messaged me when you saw that and then I went and grabbed your book, because even though we have raised hogs for a number of years, we've never raised American Guinea Hogs or done this type of heritage type breed. And so I went and got your book, and I have to tell you, I really begin to fall in love with the American Guinea Hog and all that they represent, and I found the story of the breed simply fascinating.
Melissa: So I really want to talk to you about the American Guinea Hogs, and actually I have some specific questions, I'm going to ask you in a little bit, but I would love for people, especially because the majority of my listeners are homesteaders. And so we're already very interested in those heritage garden seeds, heirloom garden seeds, and the stories that come from our ancestors in the pioneer past and how we can incorporate that into our modern lives now. So when it we talk about heritage breeds, and especially the American Guinea Hogs, why are they an important, or I should say, why did you choose to raise these heritage breeds, and specifically, what really piqued your interest in the American Guinea Hogs?
Cathy Payne: Those are fantastic questions. I started homesteading in 2010, after I retired from a long career of school teaching, and I had no experience with any kind of livestock, or farming, or just about anything related to homestead, but I was ready to just jump in and do it. And I was 57 years old. So larger livestock didn't fit our needs. And I do want to define heritage livestock because your listeners might not all be familiar with that. They've probably heard of heritage turkeys, and that's the first heritage animal I had heard of. And these are animals that their breed was developed prior to around 1950. And they're traditional breeds that were developed to be very successful in a particular locale under a particular circumstance. And it started over in Europe, in England, you'll hear the names like Gloucester pigs, or Shropshire sheep. Those would be the names of the towns or the counties or the provinces where those animals were bred and what they were best suited for.
Cathy Payne: And over in England today, you can still have dairy products that are branded to the locale. So the heritage breeds have a long history, and they are quite different than the manufactured breeds we have today that are developed to live on a factory farm. And they're actually the opposite. On a factory farm, you want an animal that will tolerate being squished together and bred fast and grow out fast and be slaughtered in a few weeks, whereas a heritage animal is expected to be part of the farm, integrated with the family. They have docile personalities, smaller size, multipurpose uses and so forth. So it's totally different, but they're part of our history. And if you think of how we preserve our national parks, we preserve our historic monuments, or our historic buildings, and we have places in our cities that we mark as having history, these animals are also part of our history. And so they are worthy of preservation just from that.
Cathy Payne: And like I said, I was a beginner, I wanted some animals that were easier, and I also really liked the heritage aspect. And I wanted to be part of saving something and raising livestock to sell as breeding stock was part of my model with everything I raised. So I had American Blue rabbits, Silver Fox rabbits, Gulf Coast Native sheep, and eventually the Guinea Hogs. Now, why were the Guinea Hogs my last choice? I only had 11 acres, and of those 11 acres, eight of them were pastured. And I just couldn't imagine raising the sheep along with the hogs on the limited pasture I had. And hogs are also pretty big. A typical hog is a big animal, even the heritage breeds. And they take up a lot of room and if you have a boar, that's after a mate, they can get pretty aggressive and a sow with her piglets can get pretty aggressive.
Cathy Payne: But then one of my rabbit customers told me that she had just got some Guinea Hogs, and she was just raving about them. And I said, "You know, I need to give that look." So I started reading everything I could about Guinea Hogs, and I was somewhat disappointed because there wasn't a lot of information out there. This was in 2013, it was before Facebook groups had really got going. And I would join, what was the thing they had online? Oh, I can't even remember it now. But it was just people texting into these groups, Yahoo! Groups was that it? Do you have one? Yahoo! Groups were a thing. So I found a Yahoo! Group about Guinea Hogs.
Cathy Payne: And tried to pick people's brains, and I read a couple of page paper from The Livestock Conservancy and what was on the AGHA website. But there just wasn't much out there. And I said, "If I'm going to learn about this breed, I guess I'll have to write the book first, and then read it later." So I started even before I bought my first pig. I started writing a book about the Guinea Hogs. And that took me down a long, long road. So does that answer your question?
Melissa: It does, which I find fascinating because homesteaders, I think overall, we are problem solvers, and we don't let a whole lot stand in our way. And so I love that you were like, "Okay, I want to learn about this breed. And I'm not really finding resources. So I'm just going to create my own. I'm going to create the resource." And I actually, I really love that mindset. I tend to be that way in a lot of ways too. And I think it's a really awesome plus from your book. And I know, we won't be able to share everything from the book, but you really got to meet some very fascinating individuals. And you got to capture some really cool stories about not only the American Guinea Hog, but also the families and the people that raised these hogs. And I am a story person, I am a huge reader. I love stories, I especially love stories that have historical bent or talk about times past. So I found that aspect actually, as interesting as the actual information about the breed itself, and the way that you intertwine that all together in the book.
Melissa: So with the American Guinea Hogs, and it's been a little bit since I read the book, so forgive me if I get any of this a little bit wrong, you could absolutely correct me, but they really were first more in the southern part of the United States. Am I correct in that? Was where the breed originated-
Cathy Payne: Yes. And-
Melissa: ... in the US?
Cathy Payne: ... I'm still researching, probably for part two of this history. And that's what we're finding. We're finding a lot in Georgia, Texas, Alabama. And that's where I found the people who were in my book were in the southern states, most of them that told their stories, Mississippi. Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Melissa: Okay. And so with the American Guinea Hog, for those who have maybe you've heard American Guinea Hog, but you might even be like, I don't really know well, how is it American Guinea Hog? I understand it's a heritage breed. But how is it really different than what we think of typically when we're raising the larger breeds? Like I said, we have raise Hereford pigs predominantly in the past, which are a larger pig than the American Guinea Hog, but what are some of the characteristics that set the American Guinea Hogs apart from some of those other larger, more common breeds?
Cathy Payne: Well, they are smaller than other hogs. Here in the south, people raise these big hogs, I'm not sure what all they are, but big quiet hogs and they can get up to 900 pounds in the south and some of the big boars can get up to 1400 pounds. So those are some big pigs.
Cathy Payne: The Guinea Hogs are usually at maturity, they can be anywhere from 250 to 450 pounds, which is quite a bit smaller. And like I said, there are a homestead pig. These were part of the small family farms, and they were kept around the house. They were sometimes called a Yard Pit, and so they're very docile. They've been selected for docility. You can get into an enclosure with many, if not most of the sows of this breed and be right there when they're farrowing, which is having their piglets. They're not aggressive to the humans, the boars, you always have to be mindful of any of the males of any species of livestock, but they're very gentle and friendly. And as long as you don't have a sow in heat nearby, you have to be respectful of those large tasks, but usually we don't have a problem with them attacking a person although they might, be protective of the girls.
Cathy Payne: So they're easy keepers, they also forage well, they can harvest their own food, they can clean up the corn crop, they can root out the tomatoes at the end of the season, they can eat your sweet potato vines. So they can forage much of their own food, they do not take a lot of food to fatten. They are lard pigs and actually if you feed too much corn or grains to a Guinea Hog, they will get bad. So instead of thinking, pre-feeding and hundreds of pounds of feed you only need something like a coffee can to be feed them. And so you have very few inputs, you also have very few veterinarian inputs, and you have a lot of outputs. Every six months, you might have a litter of eight to 10 piglets. So they were called the mortgage lifters, and that meant that it's something that the homesteaders could count on to provide for the family and allow them to be able to pay their mortgage, either by selling piglets or saving money on meat and so forth.
Melissa: Yeah. I've noticed a big difference, with especially the aggressiveness, especially as the hogs have matured, in comparison to the other breeds that we've raised. And right now we have five American Guinea Hogs that we're raising right now. And they are about six months old right now. And I've noticed that as they've reached that maturity, like usually by this time, is actually when we're normally butchering, when we get our hogs, we only usually raise them out throughout the summer, we get them in early spring raise them throughout the summer and then butcher in the fall when we're doing some of the larger breeds. These guys aren't quite big enough to butcher yet. So this is the first time we've actually been carrying any hogs over on our homestead because we don't breed, we just buy the piglets, we don't have a breeding setup through the winter months.
Melissa: But I've really noticed when we go out to feed, I can actually send the kids out to feed now that they're at this larger size, whereas prior, you almost would need to take a pole with you to push them off you when it was the bigger hogs, especially if they were thinking they were especially hungry with those other breeds. But the Guinea Hogs, I mean, they'll get up close to me and whatnot and go around my feet, so I got to be careful that I don't trip over one of them when I'm giving the feed out. But they're not nearly as aggressive compared to the other breeds.
Melissa: And so that's been really nice, because we actually took a vacation and I asked my folks if they could... We were gone for a weekend and I asked them if they could come down and feed the pigs and my mom was like, "I don't know if I want to feed the pigs." Because they had done it the year before with the other breed. And I'm like, "These guys are really different." And so it was really fun because when we got back she was like, "Oh, yeah, they were much easier to feed I didn't feel intimidated or a little bit..." That really scared was her wording, but nervous going in. And I really noticed that too. So I actually really appreciated that about them.
Melissa: And they have not rooted out, they have rooted up some because we've had them in a large portion of the pasture and they've been in that specific portion for a number of months. As they got bigger we would just extend the fence out and out and out so that they had more. But now that our grass is at the end of the growing season, we've had our killing frost, we're not getting a ton of pasture they have rooted up some but not nearly as destructively rooting, which if you want it for land clearing pigs actually are quite fantastic at that. We've had brushy areas we've put them in purposely but these guys aren't so destructive to the pasture, which has been really nice. But now you said their typical weight when they're full grown, is usually around that 250 pound mark. At what age do they usually hit that pound mark?
Cathy Payne: They actually, well, are a slow growing breed and they don't reach full size really till age four or five. And an older hog, they'll live for quite a while. So they'll probably keep gaining a little as they age like humans do as well. But you think of four to five as being the large size of fairly young pig.
Melissa: Okay. So because we're coming at them from the world of like I said prior where you're racing them out and you can butcher them and get a decent amount of meat off of a pig between six to nine months typically. So with these guys, when people are raising them for meat, when do you typically see people butchering them? Because raising them out to full four to five years honestly for butchering seems, I don't know, if we would keep up with that.
Cathy Payne: No. That's not for butchering weight.
Cathy Payne: But for butchering weight, usually 250 is what's typical. Wouldn't that be for your Hereford set, about six months 250 pounds-
Cathy Payne: ... what you're shooting for?
Cathy Payne: So you just have to think differently. So I would recommend... Do you butcher at home, or to take them to a processor?
Melissa: We have butchered at home in the past. But when we have this many we actually have our local butcher comes out to the pasture, does the killing there and the gutting and then takes them into the local butcher shop and finishes off everything there, wrapping and cutting etc.
Cathy Payne: Awesome.
Cathy Payne: You might want to consider with the holidays coming up, having either a Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year's pig. Because you can take even a three month old piglet and process them as a suckling pig. And so you might think of a turkey-sized pig, or a barbecue-sized pig. And so you can process them then and really anywhere between three months and 12 months is a nice time to process a Guinea Hog. I never had one older than 13 months unless I had a cell that wasn't performing well. And that I might process one at two or three years. But you can process them at any size you want to, if you have a little sticker of a three month old that just decides it wants to breach the fence and everybody else stays in the fence. Or it has maybe some a defect that you're concerned about that's more cosmetic than anything, you can process that one early.
Cathy Payne: But if you want something that's going to be 250 pounds, you'll have to wait probably closer to 15 to 24 months, maybe 15 to 18. A lot of it depends on the bloodlines and what you're feeding them and so forth.
Melissa: Okay. Which I wanted to talk to you about, the feeding, because we typically we finish off in the fall as I said normally we butcher in the fall and so we've always finished off our pigs. We are lucky enough to have a lot of apples here in Washington state. There's a ton of apple orchards, we have a lot of apple trees on our property and family and friends. And so we will get a bunch of apples up, and then we will cook that down into a big applesauce essentially. And then we will put their feed that we're getting which I buy an organic hog mix, from a local greenery and we'll mix that together. And then feed them that so that they're getting all those fresh apples and finishing off on the apples. And we feel like it goes, one, it stretches the feed and we feel like it gives their meat a better flavor.
Melissa: And so we've been doing that with these guys. And what's been really interesting to see, is the Hereford pigs in the past, they like a real runny slurp. They'll just slurp it up like you would a smoothie almost. But the Guinea Hogs, they actually don't. They prefer it where it's chunkier and they can chew it. And they're chewing their cud in a way. So it's been really interesting to see that, that they will just pass by if it's too runny in the slurp. They'll come back to it once they get hungry but they really prefer to chew and have it that chunkier mixture, which has been really just very interesting just to document the differences that we're seeing between the breeds. But as we're going into winter, and we were pretty sure it's the end of January is where we have our butcher date which we'll put them right at about nine, 10 months old.
Melissa: Do you finish off the American Guinea Hogs as far as their meat flavor goes? Because I've never actually had American Guinea Hog as far as I know as far as eating pork. It's not something you normally see in the stores. Do you have any recommendations, I guess, is what I'm getting after and expectations to expect from the meat, if it tastes any different than the regular breeds we're used to?
Cathy Payne: Well, I had some different goals in mind because I was breeding more for the livestock. The meat was the excellent byproduct of that. And so I didn't do a lot of research on finishing. But the Iberico Hogs in Spain are famous for being finished on acorns and apple finishing is also excellent if you have storage apples or if the kids want to gather some acorns to put in storage if you have a root cellar or something over the winter then you could save some of that to finish them in January.
Cathy Payne: But I'm sure you could probably find anything that you would do for the Hereford you could also do the last month or so for the Guinea Hogs as far as flavor goes. But you are in for a treat, the Guinea Hog meat flavor is amazing, even if you don't do anything different. And the texture of the fat is like butter. It's just smooth and creamy and delicious. And you can get some really great lard and if your butcher's good, he can save out the leaf lard separately, which is great for your biscuits and your pies and other baking. Are you familiar with the lead lard?
Melissa: Oh, I am. Yes, we always render down our lard and I've got my beautiful leaf lard that I guess, is in specific jars, which is only for baking, and then I've got the lesser that I'll use for frying meat and that type of thing or some more savory type things, not the baking. And then I also use it to make soap. So I'm really excited about that aspect that they are a lard pig and we should get a decent amount even though they're going to be smaller. Their finishing size is going to be smaller when we butcher them, it sounds like I'm going to get an excellent lard harvest with them.
Cathy Payne: You will. And for you listeners that are not familiar with that term, this is the lard that is on the back of the pig behind the kidneys. And it doesn't have any muscle back there. And so you don't get any of the Cracklins that you would usually get when you're rendering lard. It just all melts down to this pure white, soft, creamy product. And it's wonderful.
Melissa: Yes. I'm quite excited about that aspect actually. But I was curious now, with their size, because they have these little... They're so funny, we'd actually enjoy get a kick out of watching them. But they've got his little tiny short legs on them compared to the others. But they've still got the good body size really, it's just they're a lot shorter in stature. And of course, they're not as large but their body size is good. So how is the bacon production on them?
Cathy Payne: Well, there are people that will tell you that they don't make bacon, but they really do, you can get a lot of bacon off these hogs. Some lines are longer than others, but you'll get quite a bit and you'll enjoy it. It'll be really good for your breakfast and you get a lot from the gels. You notice their head is probably not that much smaller than what you might have had on your Herefords. And so-
Cathy Payne: ... there's a lot of great meat in the gel. And you can get almost as much bacon from the gels. So you want to tell your butcher to use the head to cut gels and you'll get that nice meat there too.
Melissa: Oh, perfect. I'm excited-
Cathy Payne: That you could almost double your bacon production.
Melissa: Hey, I love that because the bacon is the one thing we never have enough of. My son is 15 and a half and bacon is, I think his favorite food on Earth. So I did not know that actually, that they could take the gel meat and make bacon out of it. So I'm super excited to make sure that our butcher does that. Thank you for that tip.
Cathy Payne: Certainly.
Melissa: Now, we have been, because I know that they are a pasture pig, which has been actually fascinating. As I said, they were with the apples noticing they're chewing but they really have ate the grass, I would see them eat the grass, whereas a lot of the other breeds that we've had in the past, seemed like they more rooted it up than really ate it. But I did notice that the Guinea Hogs definitely would graze on it first. And then after they'd gotten all the grazing out of that specific area that they wanted to, then they would begin to root it up more.
Melissa: But as we move into these winter months here where our grass just really doesn't grow very much and we're feeding hay to the cattle and then supplementing like with the chickens, I have them on pasture, but of course then I have to start feeding them more chicken feed etc. Because there's not pasture. Now, because the Guinea Hogs tend to be more of a grazer, do you find that well, they eat hay more like a cow or not?
Cathy Payne: They will eat hay. Do you have sources of Alfalfa where you live?
Melissa: We do.
Cathy Payne: A lot of people will feed Alfalfa to their pigs in the winter in the northern states like Iowa, Illinois, New York. They will feed Alfalfa or higher grade hay and that will give them some of that protein that they need as well.
Cathy Payne: So you don't have to feed them just grain. Now, I live in the south, in Georgia and we had nice pasture pretty much 12 months out of the year. I mean, there was during dry periods it would be brown and it wasn't as lush in the winter time. But ours could graze pretty much year round, at least a little bit. And they always had access to hay, but they didn't like it very much. But people in the north, they will feed a lot of hay to their pigs.
Melissa: Okay. [crosstalk 00:30:26].
Cathy Payne: Oh, and another trick to get them started is to sprinkle their hay with feed, and then they will root through, and they will find every little piece of grain that you've hidden in the hay. And in the process, though, take a bite or two of the hay and decide it's not too bad.
Melissa: This isn't too bad. And I find that very fascinating that they will... And I love that because we know grass fed animals, their fat produces Omega−3s versus your grain fed, you're getting the Omega-6s. And so there's a lot of health benefits for grass fed animals and their meat and fats when we're consuming it. So I really love that this breed will also eat hay, because that's not something that we have seen with other breeds, they tend to be a more very much grain dominant type eater.
Melissa: And with your feeding schedule, because I know a lot of times when my... And I keep going back to the experience that I have, but typically, briefly we touched on this, I think I heard you say it earlier, is a lot of conventional feeding advice would be that you just leave a lot of feed out for them and let them free feed, let them eat as much as they want to. But with the American Guinea Hogs, you're saying they can get too fat, which we've been actually keeping an eye on ours, we've got one out of the five who's getting a little bit more round than we would like. And so we began to keep an eye on him and adjusting the feed. But what would be a typical ideal feeding schedule for American Guinea Hogs when they're not just solely foraging when you're supplementing? And is there a typical, and I realized as the animal grows, that it's going to need more food and increasing, but is there a typical feeding schedule and or amount per animal per day that's recommended with this breed?
Cathy Payne: Well, there's nothing recommended per se, because in farming, it all depends. And it depends on your pasture and the nutrition on your pasture and what you have available locally, but I can share my own experience. And what I was not doing was feeding up feeder pigs like you're doing but I did, before I got my Guinea Hogs, I did grow for hogs that were more conventional. And I was feeding them, I think two, five gallon buckets for four pigs twice a day. Now for the same amount of Guinea Hogs, I would have fed, instead of five gallons, I would have bet two quarts per pig. So two times four is eight. So I'd really just be feeding two gallons instead of 10 gallons for the same amount of pigs. But you're trying to produce meat not breeding stock.
Cathy Payne: So for the meat hogs, I would give them a little bit more than I would get my breeding hogs. If the breeding hog is too fat, then they won't breed and procreate. But if a meat hog is too fat, you'll just get more lard than meat. So a lot of it depends on what you want the pig to produce and how fat you want to. So yeah, you want to measure out and give them a certain amount twice a day should be fine for non breeding animals. I did feed my nursing cells three times a day because they needed it to provide the energy for the piglets.
Cathy Payne: Pretty snack.
Melissa: Yeah. Absolutely. Now I know you are more Southern so you probably don't get our cold temps. And here in the Pacific Northwest we'll get some cold and so they have a four walled and roofed enclosed shelter, which we've put a ton of straw in there. And they're so funny, they love to go in there actually. And just it's like they're lounging. They crack me up. And so we even got that provided for them and they're black and they seem to have a decent amount of fur. Do you know if they're... Certain temps do they require any type of heat lamp? They seem to be pretty hardy. I mean, they've survived a long time, they are our heritage breed, but do you know if there's any recommendations as far as their heat or cold tolerance, I guess would be the better way to word that.
Cathy Payne: They should not need a heat lamp. They will definitely love to stay in those cold mornings when it's snowing and cold. So as long as you put in, maybe a couple of feet of straw in their enclosure that they can get under it, they'll use it like a blanket. And it'll be so funny because you go in there and it's like, where are the pigs? What happened to the pigs? Did they get out overnight? And then they all just pop up their little heads and say, "Breakfast. It's the time for breakfast."
Melissa: Oh, perfect, then we've got, yeah, we've got about that much in there. So I'll just make sure to grab an extra bale of straw in hand in case, I need to toss it in there. And I also wanted to, because one of the things I found astounding about it is the way that this breed has been brought back almost from extinction. Will you share those numbers? Because I'm sure if I try to quote them, I'm going to misquote them. In a fairly short period of time, it feels like the numbers are really coming back on these hogs.
Cathy Payne: A very short period of time. So there were several factors that caused the near demise of the Guinea Hogs and many, many other breeds as well. In the '70s when we had some governmental regulations about shutting down small farms and growing big and going to factory farms, so you had the demise of small farms. And then with the Guinea Hog, you had a fad, it was the pet pig fad. And so people were breeding these mini-pigs and they were using the Guinea Hogs to use for the mini-pigs. And then you had people just get more interested in for-age and the Guinea Hogs were not the kind of pig that you would show for for-age or FFA. And so people stopped raising them, they weren't as big, like you said, they didn't get to that 250 pound mark. So by 1990, they were almost gone.
Cathy Payne: And in 2005, some people got together and worked under the direction of The Livestock Conservancy in order to preserve the breed and start out association and keep registrations. And at that time, they could only find maybe 30 to 50 that were alive and viable for breeding. And they started the breed association with 11 to 14 hogs.
Cathy Payne: It was really small. And of those, not all of those ever did breed and procreate. And they thought they were from three or four family groups and research that I did, while I was writing the book, I discovered that three of the family groups really from one family group. And then, this is really interesting, it might be getting off on what you want to know about. But readers who read my book, in the last chapter, I put this call out there, I do it subtly, I don't ask anybody to do anything for me. But I said, "I really wish I would have talked to this person. Or if I could have tracked down these breeders X, Y, Z." And one of my readers contacted me and said, "Oh, I tracked down that farmer." And he told me the address. And I said, "Yeah, you found him. But he had not returned my phone calls, he had not returned my emails, he had not returned my snail mails."
Cathy Payne: So he lived nearby, and he just drove up his driveway one day and had a conversation with them, and reported back to me. And he also got the information from where that person had purchased his hogs. And it turned out there were four sources that all trace back to one. The people who started the asocion didn't even know that one source, it was one that I had uncovered in my research, that's by tracking things down and probably will write a sequel as soon as I get it all sorted out.
Cathy Payne: And another thing that I didn't have is information prior to about 1900 to 1950. The tradition, the oral history is they were evident before the Civil War. But I didn't have any documents to that effect. But since I started my research, Google Docs has started scanning all these newspapers and magazines and advertisements and books. And so people are now, again, three or four of my readers are supplying me with all these links to all these docs that they're finding. That so far we've traced it back as far back as 1811.
Cathy Payne: Yeah. So it's really exciting and it's like I'm crowdsourcing my research for my next book. But it wasn't even something I asked for. It's just people are just excited about the genealogy.
Melissa: Yeah. Which I think is fabulous. I tend to geek out about this type of stuff, too. I'm fascinated by history and everything like that. So it started, then there was really only about five that restarted in the registry of this breed, which is just astounding to think that that's how few were actually left in the US. So approximately now, how many American Guinea Hogs are there?
Cathy Payne: Those kind of questions are really hard to get to because they're the Guinea Hogs like you've got that are feeders, that are not registered, that will be slaughtered. And then there are people who are breeding unregistered pigs, and there are probably thousands out there. But if you were trying to get ones that had pedigrees that you could track and keep up with and figure out what family groups they were from so you weren't breeding too closely, I think there are about 400 people that are breeding right now. So say each of those people is raising three pigs that might be 1200 registered. And you've got some that'll have more, some that aren't breeding anymore. So that's probably a good safe bet, there would be that many registered pigs. But there are probably 20 unregistered for every registered one out there.
Melissa: Yeah. But in like a 15 year span, approximately, that's actually pretty cool to see that the numbers are growing and interest is growing as more and more people find out about them, like myself. I really I'd heard the term but I didn't really know what it meant, I have to say, until we really started looking into them just this past year. And it was actually our regular breeder that we normally get our piglets from retired and we didn't know it. And so he sold all of his breeding stock, was just no longer in it. And we didn't know. And so when I contacted him to get our pigs this year, he's like, "Oh, I'm not doing that anymore." And I'm like, "Oh, man." And of course COVID hit. And so there was a lot more people interested in raising their own meat. And the only piglets that I could find in our area were American Guinea Hogs.
Melissa: So that's how we ended up getting the American Guinea Hogs. And then I'm like, "Well, I probably better do a little..." Because our breeder was telling me that they were different, and was going through stuff. And I'm like, "I probably better do a little bit of research on this breed before we jump in and say yes." But it was also the only thing that I could find this year if we wanted to raise pork, and we did want to raise pork again this year. So anyhow, that's how I stumbled on this rabbit hole, if you say, but it's been really cool and really interesting. And I'm really excited to get to try the meat. We're carrying them over longer. So we have bought more food, but they do eat less. So it's been very interesting. When we get to the actual butcher date, I'll do all the math and everything out to see per pound cost wise to us, if there's been any difference.
Melissa: But it's been really fun learning and I'm excited to try the meat. And it's fun too, to think that you're helping preserve something that was almost lost. So that gives it a good feeling. But even if people aren't raising livestock, when it comes to heritage breeds and keeping these heritage breeds alive, is there anything that even if someone's like, "Well, I'm not in a position to really start raising these," that they can do to help with the cause of keeping these heritage breeds?
Cathy Payne: Absolutely. First of all, you can try to seek out a farmer that has a heritage farm and is raising the heritage breeds and purchase the meat or raise out a breeder like you're doing. You can also join The Livestock Conservancy and you can just buy any products that are from heritage animals. If you want to learn how to spin or neat, then you want to get your wool from heritage sheep. I don't know if your readers or listeners have heard about Shave 'Em to Save 'Em.
Melissa: I'm not sure.
Cathy Payne: Have you ever heard that term?
Melissa: I have heard that term but I don't really have much knowledge beyond I've heard the term.
Cathy Payne: So Shave 'Em to Save 'Em is a trademarked program by The Livestock Conservancy and you can find them at thelivestockconservancy.org and they have this really cool passport program. So I think the goal is to try to spin or knit or make a product from five different heritage breeds of sheep over, I don't know, maybe it's a three year period and you get a little passport and you stamp it you show pictures on Facebook of your product when it's finished.
Cathy Payne: And they expected to take about three years for people to go through. There were people who finished it in three months and then wanted more. And so this is wildly popular, and it gets people to understand the difference. Just like you'll see the difference in your Guinea Hog pork compared to your Hereford pork, the quality is different. And when you're sharing shape and making bowl and making different kinds of products, there'll be some wool that's better for bras and some wool that's great for socks and so forth.
Cathy Payne: And so it's really educational, and when you get back to thinking about what Marengo would have been doing, or what the piners would have been doing on the Oregon Trail, it gets you back to those roots. And you feel that connection with women that lived hundreds of years ago, maybe your great, great, great grandparents.
Melissa: Well, Cathy, thank you so much. This has been fascinating. I really loved the book. So I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the stories in part two. But for those who would like to definitely get more information and find out more about the breed and the history and the stories and connect with you, what is the best way for them to go about doing that?
Cathy Payne: My website is www.guineahogbooks.com. Guinea is spelled G-U-I-N-E-A. I'm also at Guinea Hog books on Instagram. And I am at Saving the Guinea Hogs on Facebook. And I have a special offer for your listeners.
Melissa: Yay. We love those types of things.
Cathy Payne: Okay. So I have my book in both ebook and soft cover and hardcover. And the hardcover I've got on sale between now and December 10th, for everybody. But for your listeners, if you put in coupon code, PT25. That's for Pioneering Today and you'll get 25% off the softcover copy. So instead of 2499, you'll save $6 and 25 cents, it'll 1865. And that will include free media mail shipping between now when you're listening to this until December the 5th of 2020. I know this will be out there in the universe five years from now. So I want to make that clear when it ends. And so please check out the book on my website. It's also available anytime on Amazon. But if you want an autographed copy, and it can also be personalized, then you want to get it before December 10th while it's on sale.
Melissa: Oh, awesome. Thank you so much. And guys, we'll have that coupon code and links to everything in the blog post that accompanies this episode, which you'll be able to sag at melissaknorris.com/282. Because this is episode number 282. So you can go there and get all of the links, including that wonderful discount. So thank you so much for offering that, Cathy. Really appreciate that. And thank you, one, for all of the work that you have done. The research and the amount of work that you compiled into your book is really quite astounding. But bringing awareness back for this hog has been really great. So thank you for that.
Cathy Payne: Well, thank you so much for having me. It's been quite a feel of pleasure.
Melissa: Oh, my goodness, you guys, I hope that you enjoy that interview as much as I did. And I will definitely, after we butcher in January, so this coming January is our butcher date and the pigs will be about nine months old. I will let you know my final thoughts on them. And our full experience when we go all the way from butchering and getting the meat back and cooking that and seeing... I'll layout the pros and cons compared to the other breeds, if we decide to do them again, if we're going to go back, and really just lay it all out for you in an upcoming episode.
Melissa: So if you have any more questions that weren't answered today, make sure that you leave them in a review of this podcast episode. So whatever app you're listening to this on, if it's Apple Podcast, I don't think I usually actually use Stitcher, I don't have a iPhone. And I don't think it allows you to leave reviews there. But if you're listening to it in any of those spots that allow reviews, leave them there with your question. So it can be something that I can come back around an answer in that follow up episode which will be of course in 2021 when we actually butcher. That I'll be really excited, give you the rundown on everything and how it went for us and what we think of the breed and the process. I can't wait to be back here with you next week. But for now, blessings in Mason Jars.
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Awesome! Thank you so much, we started raising AMGH just recently and could not find much info on how much to feed them so we’re just hoping that we were feeding them correctly. Cathy confirmed we are. Also loved the fact about the extra bedding for winter. We are also are in the Pacific NW. I have read her book and also love it. We are trying are hand at breeding and were told they are very easy in this respect. Thank you, again!
Your podcast was very interesting. We were going to get 2 Kunekune piglets but the lady backed out…We live in Florence, Alabama. Do you know any breeders for the Guinea hogs. Thank you…love you homesteading page….I have made several of your recipes. We have a 10 acre farm with sheep and chickens.