Tagging American Guinea Hogs

Since we have decided to increase our breeding of American Guinea Hogs we need a way to track who is who and who came from what litter. The American Guinea Hog Association does not require any tagging or tattoos on registered animals. I feel like it is important to tag or tattoo animals that are registered as the breed becomes more and more popular. You would hope that everyone is being honest about what animal is going with what registry certificate but you never know.

Until there is a identification standard for the American Guinea Hogs, we have decided that we will tag our hogs that are for food and our breeders will be left alone.

Currently we have three pastures that house our AGHs. One is for our boar, Willy, and whomever his mate at the time is (currently it is Kate). We have found that our boars are happy when there is a female companion in with them. The second pasture has the rest of the breeding sows and our other boar, George, who will be leaving soon. The next pasture has all the hogs that are weaned.

When I walk down to the weaner pasture it is a crazy mess. We have four sows and plan on having a farrowing every month. When the gilts and barrows get separated to be weaned, they all go into one pasture. This is where we need to make sure we know who came from what breeding and their age.

Below is a photo of our new tagging system. The little gilt with the white mark is sold as a breeder so she does not have a permanent identification. It also made it easier to pick her  and the other two we sold out of the group. The paint washes away in a couple days. The other gilt is tagged with a mini-tag from Tractor Supply. We mark it with a “M” or a “F” and a number using a special marker.

 

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Now, when we go down to feed and check on the hogs I know who is who. Pardon the Guinea Hen mixed in with the Guinea Hogs.

The tagging is just like getting your ears pierced and they hogs did not seem bothered by it one bit.

 

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In other news…have you ever seen a Livestock Guardian Dog eat its food? They lay down and eat. Jake just likes to put his head entirely in the bucket to eat.

 

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Sunday Recap: Fencing, Watering, Finn Sheep and Breeding

It really doesn’t feel like winter around here. Usually we have a foot of snow, the animals rarely come out of their shelters and we rarely go out of the house. Not this year! I have been enjoying the days we have sun and getting some work done around the ranch.

I wanted to share with you the way fence in our hog pastures. We raise American Guinea Hogs, a heritage breed of hog that is pasture raised and smaller than commercial hogs.

We use field fencing with a strand of hotwire along the bottom to keep them from rubbing against the fence. Yes, you heard right….field fencing with a strand of hot wire. This holds in our boars, sows, weaners and piglets.

 

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You can see that Penny has found the one section of fence we have insulators on and is taking a nap.

 

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I have found that water bowls do not work with hogs. They like to tip them over, lay in them or push them around the pasture.

We use a Hog Nipple that is attached to a 50 gallon barrel. It works great and the water stays clean! My hogs use it and even my Livestock Guardian Dogs use it!

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We have been researching fiber sheep over the last few months. I really love raising heritage breed animals and wanted to find a breed of sheep that were considered a heritage breed. We came across a breed called  Finnsheep.

Finnsheep are a multi-purpose sheep that are well known for their ability to have multiple births (most often 3-4 lambs).  They are a heritage breed that has high quality soft wool, prolific out of season breeding ability, strong maternal instincts and premium lean tender meat.  Their are social, friendly, easy to handle attitude.  All this  makes them a well suited choice to any size farm.  Finnsheep are exceptional milkers, really good mothers, naturally polled (no horns) and are born with short tails that do not require docking. Their soft wool is highly sought after by both spinners and felters for it’s unique qualities.  Their lean tender meat is sought after by restaurants and food lovers alike.

We went to visit a farm that raises these amazing sheep. I loved how personable they were. You would scratch under the chin and they would sit like a dog and shake their tails!! I also was able to bring home a few bags of raw fiber to process and spin!

 

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After you say, “SHEEP, SHEEP, SHEEP!”

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I am on the home stretch of breeding season this year. All of my Nigerian Dwarves have been bred however, my oberhaslis were a little behind.

So this week I have my boys in two different pastures with their selections of ladies.

Smokey looks happy to have two girls to himself!

 

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Blitz on the other hand was too busy eating oak leaves to be bothered by the boy!

 

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Quartz Ridge Ranch’s Goals for 2013

Every year we try to grow our ranch to allow for our family to be less dependent on stores and more on our land. The past year has been one of ups and downs, see (Do you Ever Feel Like Throwing in the Towel). I am looking forward to improving on some of our systems and adding new animals. I believe it is important for a ranch to have goals each year and have a plan to achieve those goals. We are at the point that our ranch has become a business and we need to have a business plan for it to be successful.

Goals for 2013:

  • Start American Guinea Hog CSA – Raise American Guinea Hogs to finish weight for members of our community at a reasonable price.
  • Start our Rabbitry – We will start with 1 buck and 3 does and grow from there when we get a handle on it!
  • Add in a few fiber sheep, preferably Finnish.
  • Purchase a used livestock trailer.
  • All pastures have automatic water for the animals by Summer 2013.
  • Participate in Farmer’s Market by selling eggs, AGH CSA and a few other ideas I have up my sleeve!

Projects for 2013:

  • Build a chicken pasture, divide it and plant it with a chicken forage blend.
  • Build a portable chicken coop for the chicken pasture.
  • Build a structure for hay storage so we can purchase in bulk with minimal loss throughout the year.
  • Add one more large pasture for growing out weaner hogs that connects to the other two hog pastures.
  • Finish front yard of our house – fencing, four gates, lawn and DG for walkway. Add more lavender and rosemary for farmer’s market.
  • Re-build out milking barn – add new windows and easier way to bring the goats in and out. Get our milking machine up and running.

What are you goals for your ranch? I would love any suggestions on ours too!!

Why Raise Heritage Breeds?

At Quartz Ridge Ranch we focus on heritage breed livestock. “Heritage” breeds are simply the older breeds that fell out of favor over the generations. Most of these breeds were common on small farms before the age of industrialized operations. Not too long ago, livestock was raised on pasture on farms large and small. Farmers had different breeds of livestock based on their environment and needs.

The American Guinea Hog was the original homestead hog. They are a pasture pig so they can grow out nicely on grasses. They provided the homestead a nice amount of lard which was used for baking, frying, soap making, feed and many others. The small size was perfect for a family as they did not have the ability to store meat for long periods of time. AGHs are also great parents, the farrow easily with a smaller amount of hogs enabling them to raise them up with little or no complications. They take longer to grow to slaughter weight but the meat is delicious and well worth the wait. They respect fences and do not root much so putting them in your garden for a cleanup is a great way to feed them for a bit.

 

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The Oberhasli goat developed in the mountainous areas of Switzerland and was imported to the United States in the early 1900s. They are known for giving about one gallon of milk per day for ten months. These goats are very gentle and confident. The wethers are used for pack animals because they do not startle easily and handle the various conditions found on the trail.

 

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The Delaware chicken was developed in 1940 and was used for the production on broilers. They are an excellent dual purpose bird known for rapid growth and fast feathering of the chicks. The cocks grow to 8 pounds and hens to 6 pounds. The Delaware chicken goes broody naturally and is great at raising her chicks. The roosters are calm and friendly. They forage well and are more economical to bring to market weights in a forage situation.

 

 

Fast forward a few decades and factory farming became popular. Factory farming is the process of raising livestock in confinement at high stocking density. The main products of this industry are meat, milk and eggs for human consumption. The first animals to be factory farmed were chickens. The discovery of vitamins and their role in animal nutrition led to vitamin supplements, which allowed chicken to be raised indoors. Then the discovery of antibiotics and vaccines facilitated raising livestock in larger numbers by reducing disease. In the 1960s pigs and cows began to be raised on factory farms. In 2005 factory farming accounted for 40% of world meat production. {Factory Farming Wikipedia}

Since the majority of livestock today is raised in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (look up that word if you want an eye-opener) producers have bred for qualities enabling them to grow faster and larger in horrible conditions. Livestock now has lost their hardiness, foraging skills, feed conversion, intelligence, ease of breeding/birthing, nurturing instincts and a flavorful end-product.

As agricultural practices change to meet the increasing demands of the future, the genetic diversity and qualities of the older breeds become more and more important. The result has been extinction and near extinction of the foundation breeds of our country. Most people focus on the extinction of wild animals like wolves or owls when we should focus on all species. Livestock can go extinct too!

We focus on the rare old heritage breeds and help preserve the genetics and save them from extinction. We are a small ranch and can only do so much but there is a growing group of dedicated farmers and ranchers that are focused on saving these heritage breeds of livestock.

If you are interested in learning more about heritage breeds or how you can help visit the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.

Our new American Guinea Hog Sow

We have been wanting another American Guinea Hogs sow for quite some time. We kept going back and forth on whether to purchase a registered or an unregistered sow. When we found this lovely lady we knew she was right for our ranch.

She is 2 years old, unregistered and just had a litter of 11 pigs! She is long bodied which is great for breeding and meat. She also has the shorter nose that is more adapted to pasture grazing. We have re-named her Penelope, “Penny” for short! It goes along with our other sow Pippa and her baby Pirate.

 

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She was being raised by the 8th grade class at a local Waldorf School. The sow is very well socialized and so were all her piglets.

The 5th grade class came out to help get her into our trailer.

 

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It took  little bit of grain as a treat but we were able to load her up along with 3 of her gilts to take to a neighboring farm.

 

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We are excited to see how her and our boar George do! Hopefully we will have a litter of babies in April! If you are interested in learning more about the American Guinea Hog please check out our website.

Also, we are entertaining the idea of raising finished hogs here at our ranch. If this is something that interests you, please contact us for more information.

Barley Fodder System

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With the increasing price of feed we had to find a solution to our ever growing feed bill. We wanted to keep with feeding our animals what they are supposed to eat and stay away from commercial feeds as much as possible.

We are lucky that we raise hogs that thrive on grass. The reason we purchased them, besides their social behavior, was they are grass eating machines. Our chickens, ducks and geese also eat grass. So, does our horse….Do you see a trend here?

The next thing we had to research is goats. Can goats live off grass only? No. Can they get a lot of nutrients, calories and minerals from it? Yes. Can they eat the fresh grass and then be supplemented with dry roughage? YES!! So we are able to decrease the amount of alfalfa pellets we are feeding, the goat pellets we are feeding and the hay we are feeding when we give them barley fodder!

Fodder? What is Fodder you ask?

Well…for us it is sprouted barley seeds. In our system we have built it takes 8 days for barley to grow from seed to feed all hydroponically.

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We start by soaking organic barley seed in a bucket of water for 12 hours. Then we lay those seeds out in a grow tray with holes punched in the bottom. We then water a few times a day to keep the seeds wet so they can germinate. We continue to water a few times a day until it is green and lush enough for our animals to eat.

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A 10×20” tray feeds all of our chickens (30), geese (3) and muscovy ducks (6) and costs less than $2.00. If we were to weigh the barley fodder and feed according to weight, we would only feed a half a try to them a day. I tear little pieces of it off and throw it into their bowls.

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This chicken was sneaking a treat while I was feeding everyone.

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Since we started small (2 trays a day) we are only feeding our birds and the three American Guinea Hogs. The AGHs are thriving off of it! They eat it like it is candy. The horse took a little while to get used to it. She would eat the green part and leave the roots until one day the roots were gone. She now eats her entire biscuit.

We are slowly building a larger system to grow enough barley fodder for our entire ranch. I would like to be up to 8 trays a day so I have plenty of feed to add on more animals in the future.

One thing we are having some difficulty with is temperature regulation. The barley grows best at about 70 degree. If it is hotter it will mold quicker and not grow. If it is colder it will grow but take twice a long. We are insulating the area we are growing it in to keep the heat in. I am trying to figure out a way to heat it without spending a lot of money on a heater, wasting propane or using up our electricity.

As soon as we get the system fully running I will make a video to share with you all!

Video Tour of Quartz Ridge Ranch

I wanted to share a little more about our ranch and so with my Bloggie in hand I visited all our animals.

I feel like we have a unique little ranch and some people hear me talk about different breeds or how easy they are to manage but seeing it is a different story!

I think I will do a video every once in a while just to showcase the different breeds or different projects we have going on. I think a video is a million times better than photos.

So, please enjoy a little taste of QRR…Welcome