There’s no way to ease into this, so I’ll just dive right in. On Saturday, I noticed that one of our new piglets was pooping spaghetti.
Now I’ll back up. We got our first two American Guinea Hogs via Craigslist, because of course we did. When I emailed the seller, she responded quickly and said she had 2 of the litter left, but they weren’t “the cream of the crop.” One was a runt, and the other had not been castrated because “they couldn’t find his balls.” So we were offered a steep discount on the 2.
Fine! I thought. Who cares if we have a boar with retracted balls, and who cares if the other one is a runt. He’ll catch up in size after feasting on our pasture.
Josh picked them up on the way home from work, and reported that their living conditions were not ideal. The farm had too many animals on too small of a space, and the animals didn’t have access to any grass, so they’d been on a grain-only diet. Not great for guinea hogs. We were happy to introduce them to our green pasture, and imagined that their lives would instantly improve. Except that they didn’t eat our grass and seemed very put out that we weren’t handing out grain at regular intervals.
Three days later we picked up 2 more American Guinea Hogs from a different breeder, and these guys had been raised on pasture with a healthy group of friendly well-handled pigs. When we brought them home and introduced them to the pasture, they stumbled out of their dog crate and immediately began mowing down on the grass and buttercup.
You could see this look pass between the first two pigs. Like, “you mean you can eat that?” Within hours, all four were happily munching at the grass and snorting contentedly. It was all very pastoral.
And then butt spaghetti. If you want to have nightmares, read about Ascaris suum, or pig roundworm. The adult worm shows up in pig feces, and they’re 7-10 inches long, and that’s actually the least upsetting thing about this particular roundworm’s life cycle. With that intro, you can decide whether you want to click on that link or not.
So I rushed to the farm store and picked up some Ivermectin, which treats roundworm. Although we only saw the roundworm in one pig, they all got a dose because it’s highly contagious.
The life cycle of the roundworm is several weeks, so that means this pig came to us with roundworms; he didn’t get it here. And he’s a runt for a reason: he is sick and his growth is stunted. What’s worse, the worm has now been introduced into our pasture, where the eggs can survive in the soil for a decade, according to some sources. This will now be an ongoing problem for us. Our only option is to keep the pasture area where the pigs have been completely cordoned off to prevent reinfection.
The lesson here is that there is risk in rescuing animals from unhealthy environments. It satisfies our desire to be a hero, to rescue an animal, and maybe to “get a good deal.” We thought that taking the pig would be better for the pig. We did not give any thought to the damage that an unhealthy pig could do to our system.