The Lard Pig: Bringing It Back
By Wendy Boe
We chose to raise American Guinea Hogs due to their docile nature, amazing foraging skills, and their excellent meat flavor like no other pork! American Guinea Hogs were once in critical extinction — but now they are the homesteaders’ choice of lard pig.
Our sows just farrowed on mother’s day — we started with 5 sisters, a brother, and we purchased a registered boar from a local farm recommended by the American Guinea Hog Association. They traced back his heritage to make sure we were getting the traits we wanted. AGHs can have blue or red hues mixed in their black hair — I’ve noticed with ours that the ones with the blueish hues have straight hair. We do not have any with red. Some have white tips on their feet and nose — any more white than that is undesirable.
The gestation period of the AGH is the same as any pig — 3 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days (some say 3 hours as well). I could tell the girls were ready to “pop” 3 days before as their bellies hung low to the ground, getting up and moving around was very difficult for them, and their clitoral hoods were sticking straight out. They like to be isolated while giving birth. We rotate them on four acres of pasture/forest land, and we did not separate the boars before farrowing, and, no they did not eat their young. We set up all sorts of “fancy” area for them with Quonset huts and an old huge chicken tractor with heat lamps, but none of them used any of these areas to give birth. They preferred to make “nests” out of hay to keep their babies in to stay warm.
AGHs have smaller litters (6 being average) than regular hogs, and the babies are tiny (about 1 pound — they fit in the palm of my hand). We ended up with 15 total — a few were stillborn, a couple of them needed the embryonic sack removed, but were not present during their birth, so they died. The biggest sow, accidentally rolled on top of one of the babies while it was nursing, even though she had plenty of room. AGHs are very intelligent — before the mommas lay down, they “root” the whole area to make sure that there are no babies to sit on. In this isolated case, however; I think she accidentally rolled on top of the baby. They also knew not to mate with the brother. However; if this would happen, the litters would just be smaller unless one of the hogs had existing birth defects.
There were two “runts” that only lived for a month. They were not eating, and the mothers rejected them as though they knew they were going to die anyway. We did take them in and bottle fed them cow’s milk, but, it did not help. The AGHs are great mothers. They look after each other’s babies. If the gilts do not breed within 2 years of age, it is highly unlikely that they will. AGHs are very self-sufficient and require little inputs from us (each time we try to interject, it is unneeded). Due to being slow-growing, they have become more of our “pets” than our food. I highly recommend this breed!!
Photo by Fotolia/7parkers