Guinea pig farming is lucrative, entertaining and very rewarding at the same time. Guinea pig is actually a species of rodent which belongs to the family Caviidae and the genus Cavia. It belongs to the rabbit family and is a native of South America. These little creatures are also known as Cavy or Cuy as livestock. No one seems to know why they are called ‘Guinea Pigs‘. They are neither in the pig family Suidae, nor do they come from Guinea. But their body shape suggest a small pig and the name Guinea is a corruption of Guiana which is a country in South America.
Guinea pig farming is not a new concept. These animals are being kept for long time for food. They were first domesticated as early as 5000 BC for food by tribes in the Andean region of South America (some thousands of years after the domestication of the South American camelids). Statues dating from circa 500 BC to 500 AD that depict guinea pigs have been unearthed in archaeological digs in Peru and Ecuador.
The Guinea pigs were introduced into Europe in the sixteenth century. And they have spread throughout the world since that time. Currently there are several species of wild Guinea pig in South America. And they are hunted as game and are considered a great delicacy.
Guinea pig farming business is gaining popularity throughout the world. These small animals are wholly vegetation in diet and they eat about the same things as a rabbit. There are probably no animal in the world like Guinea pigs that is such easier to handle. They are very easily tamed, not noisy, have no offensive odor and are very hardy and healthy. They are generally free from diseases and their breeding is very easy. And all these advantages make the Guinea pig farming business a very pleasant as well as a very profitable occupation. However, we are describing more about Guinea pig farming business below.
Uses of Guinea Pigs
Before starting Guinea pig farming business you should know about the uses of Guinea pigs. The Guinea pigs are multi-purpose animals and they are used for many different purposes. Their most common uses are as food, as pets and for scientific uses.
The Guinea pigs are admirable for food purposes, but they are not accepted in many countries and communities due to local or religious restrictions. The meat of the guinea pigs continues to be a major part of the diet in Peru and Bolivia (specially in the Andes Mountains highlands). The meat is also eaten in some areas of Ecuador and Colombia. If you plan for raising guinea pigs for meat, then determine your marketing strategies first. You can contact some foreign buyers if you can’t sell in the local market. Guinea pigs are commonly bought and sold at local markets and large-scale municipal fairs.
Guinea pig farming business is a more profitable source of food and income than many traditional stock animals such as pigs and cattle, because these animals require much less room than traditional livestock and they reproduce extremely quickly. The guinea pigs can be raised in both urban and rural families for supplementary income. Meat of these animals is high in protein and low in cholesterol and fat. The meat is described as being similar to rabbit and the dark meat of chicken.
The guinea pigs are probably the most easily managed animals. So the demand for guinea pigs as pets is very large. They are perfectly harmless little animals and are very interesting. They are even safe for children because they do not bite or scratch. As a hobby the raising of Guinea Pigs is most interesting and instructive as there are so many experiments that can be made in the breeding. If you plan for starting guinea pig farming business for selling them as pets, then contact your local pet supply stores first. So that you can sell your products easily in the local market.
Along with being used for food and as pets, the guinea pigs are also used for scientific uses. And there are possibly no animal which is so well adapted for scientific experiments as the guinea pig. In the testing and analyzing of serums and antitoxins and for experimental purposes generally the demand is enormous, thousands and thousands of them being used every year. The demand here is steadily increasing and many more would be used if they could be obtained at a reasonable price.
Steps for Starting Guinea Pig Farming Business
Starting guinea pig farming business is very easy. The guinea pigs are very hardy animals and they require very less care and management. However follow the steps below for starting and operating a successful guinea pig farming business.
First of all you have to have the house ready before bringing the animals. Although the guinea pigs do not require large or elaborate house. You can easily make the house for them. The guinea pigs are generally raised in 2 housing systems which are pens and hutches.
Raising guinea pigs in hutch method is preferred among the breeders. Hutch system require less space, easier to handle and also easier to keep warm in the winter. Make the hutch in such a way so that each hutch can accommodate one male and 3-4 females and the young ones until weaned. The door of the hutches should cover nearly the whole front and you can make the door with wire netting. Keep a screened opening in the back for ventilation. Each hutch should have a shelf about four inches high in the back as they like to get on and under it.
Pen system is preferred by some breeders, and the pen housing system for guinea pigs have some advantages. The pen system gives the animal more space and you have to clean the house less frequently and this system is more economical. If you have enough space, we recommend pen system. But don’t forget to protect your animals from predators, and a fence will be good for this purpose. A pen with 60 square feet space will be good for housing 30-50 guinea pigs. The floor should be covered with litter, and saw dust is generally very good for bottom layer. Above the saw dust, you can use hay or straw. Boxes with a small hole and filled with hay or straw will be good for these animals in winter.
Purchase Healthy Animals
After setting everything perfectly, purchase good quality animals for your farm. There are several guinea pig varieties which are generally distinguished by their fur. The English or smooth-haired guinea pig is the most commonly raised and most widely known variety. This variety is also good for commercial production purpose. You can also choose any other variety which is available in your area.
Feeding guinea pigs is very easy. Their natural diet is grass. They generally benefit from feeding on fresh grass hay, such as timothy hay (in addition to food pellets which are often based from timothy). Alfalfa is also a popular food choice. Most of the guinea pigs will eat large amounts of alfalfa when offered.
The guinea pigs should have a feeding of green food at least one a day, and this is essential for keeping them from becoming constipated. In addition to grass other common green foods are green clover, spinach, lawn clippings, lettuce, green corn stalks, plantain, celery tops, dandelion etc. Some grains such as bran, corn, oats and wheat are good for them, and such grain make flesh and give the animal strength. Currently some pet store sell ready-made guinea pig feeds. You can also provide your animals with such food.
Breeding guinea pigs is very easy. The males are generally called as boar, and the females are called sow. Generally a sow can start breeding as early as just five weeks of age. But breeding a sow in such young age is not recommended, and the recommended age is 3 months or until the sow weights around 400 grams. The oestrus or heat cycle of the sow lasts for around 16 days. And the sow will be interested in communicating with a boar for around 8 hours during this time. And the breeding of guinea pigs generally can occur anywhere during these 8 hours. Average gestation period of these animals is between 65 and 70 days.
There are no breeding season for the guinea pigs, and they are able to breed year-round with birth peaks usually coming in the spring. They can produce as many as five litters per year. Average litter size is between 2 and 4 piglets.
Caring the animals is the key to success in guinea pig farming business. You should always take good care of your animals.
Selling guinea pigs can be a problem if there are no demands in the local market. Although you can contact foreign market or buyers for selling. There are also some dealers that buy in wholesale lots. The hospitals, medical colleges, agricultural schools, veterinary colleges, laboratories, pet stores, etc., are the heaviest users. You can get in touch with them by writing them and telling them you have Guinea Pigs for sale.
In a word, guinea pig farming is a very profitable business. These animals are very easy to care and the profits in raising them are large. There are almost no dangers in this business, because guinea pigs are very hardy animals and they are less expensive. Almost anyone can start raising Guinea Pigs without having to make any very special preparations or a large investment. In any new business it is always best to start in a small way. You can start with as less as 10-20 animals initially, and expand gradually after having some practical experience.