Making a Substitute for Pellets

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Lynx
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Post   » Sat Aug 14, 2021 9:17 pm


Nutrient Requirements of Laboratory Animals is the only diet source I have.

It is hard to apply because it basically gives a proportion - tells you how much should be in (I think) a kilo of food. From that information, you have to guess how much food a guinea pig would eat in a day. It will vary depending on age, sex, weight, etc. of the guinea pig.

Guinea pig nutrition is far down on the list of scientific nutrition studies. From memory, I think they pull bits and pieces from various studies (and also use a rat model) to project what they feel should be nutritional guidelines for guinea pigs.

I can say that a varied natural diet will also include trace minerals and natural sources for vitamins and minerals and should be a better diet.

I am sorry I can't be more specific. When I was putting together the nutrition page, I did not want to misrepresent what the MDR (minimum daily requirement) is for various vitamins and minerals for our guinea pigs. That's where I provided a link to the data and left the reader to determine how to use it.

daj

Post   » Sat Aug 14, 2021 10:39 pm


I suppose another approach I can take is to gather the nutrient info from as many pellet brands as I can and come up with an average for each nutrient. So far, the main problem I am encountering is soft poops. I'm not sure if this is something that will adjust itself, or whether I need to feed it in a drier state. One pig also still wants his pellets, so I am giving a bit of both to him. In looking at ingredients lists I see plenty of things I'd rather not feed my pigs. For instance, in Oxbow Essentials they have a chemical that's used to mitigate odor, selenite and lignin sulfonate. I'm no chemist, but if I look those things up, they don't strike as food ingredients.

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pigjes
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Post   » Sun Aug 15, 2021 4:29 am


As for parts of the mix I make are left uneaten: all I can say, since I use this mix for many years now, that each pig has a favorite, yet eats most of what is offered, and has something they don't eat. When I had more pigs, we knew who preferred what, but in the end, they ate the lot as a group.

I am a fan of making my own mix, not my own pellets. All the pigs we had seemed to love going through it several times a day, and the entire rummaging process offered them a great way to keep them busy. I had a pig once who clearly had an attention span disorder and was bored fast, despite the large cage and the weekly changing settings, and you know we had enough settings to rotate a 6 months' cycle back then, it sure helped her to stay busy and not nip her sister's butt too often, lol.

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Lynx
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Post   » Sun Aug 15, 2021 9:20 am


I found some information that may be helpful for you, daj. Keep in mind that all of this is laboratory focused and I continue to believe some products are best not used.

Here is another link to the page cited above:
https://www.nap.edu/read/4758/chapter/6

This is from the National Academies Press.
The National Academies Press (NAP) publishes the reports of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The NAP publishes more than 200 books a year on a wide range of topics in science, engineering, and medicine, providing authoritative, independently-researched information on important matters in science and health policy.
Here is a pdf from Nanaji Deshmukh Veterinary Science University in Adhartal, Jabalpur that uses the info above. Hopefully their analysis is an accurate representation of the guidelines from the Nutrient Requirements of Laboratory Animals,: Fourth Revised Edition, 1995. I was pretty surprised to see a note in the standard mixture list that said, "^The mineral miture [sic] recommended for poultry may be used". Excess calcium is important to poultry and problematic for guinea pigs! And Sef has done a lot of research on what forms of added calcium are best for our guinea pigs. Here is the pdf I found:
http://www.ndvsu.org/images/StudyMaterials/Nutrition/NR-Feed-formulation-Lab-animals.pdf

Please note that the formulation of calcium may not be the best and there are questions about soy products. Look at the natural diet only. Note they suggest amounts of the mix for growing, adult, and pregnant/lactating guinea pigs. Don't take this as the last word as it is very old info but it may help you.

In addition, I found some detailed info from a producer of laboratory feed in Australia. I do not know where they got their info from. Take it also with a grain of salt but it may help you.
https://www.specialtyfeeds.com/products/standard-diet/

Guinea pig and rabbit feed:
https://www.specialtyfeeds.com/new/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/gpr.pdf
This hybrid diet has been used successfully in a number of breeding and maintenance
facilities for many years however the diet is designed to be fed in conjunction with fresh green
feedstuffs. If feeding alone a high energy Guinea Pig diet and a high fibre Rabbit Pellet are
available.
I believe they note a higher incidence of pregnancy toxemia if fresh greens are not fed. So greens are important!

High energy guinea pig feed:
https://www.specialtyfeeds.com/new/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/hi_en_gpig_new.pdf
For animal breeding facilities with relatively small, open Guinea Pig breeding colonies we
would recommend a mixed feeding regime of GPR and fresh fruit / vegetables.

daj

Post   » Sun Aug 15, 2021 8:46 pm


Thanks so much for your help. I appreciate your effort. I have to confess it really does seem a difficult proposition to attempt to be mathematical. There seems to be no easy set of numbers, I guess. From your info above and what I've gathered from pellet packages, there is some fairly substantial deviation. But then, I assume averaging them all is the wise thing.

The numbers on flax seeds for example, are given for tablespoons, Quinoa flour per quarter cup, brewer's yeast 2 tablespoons, and the info on pellet packages seems to just be overall percentages for each nutrient. It would probably not be so hard for one skilled in math, but that's not me.

But, all I can do is make my best effort. Probably, my main concern would be giving too much of something, rather than too little. Right now my ingredient list is barley, quinoa and sweet potato flour, flax meal, psyllium, brewer's yeast and liquid C. I think the easiest things to over do it on will be the fat content and the brewer's yeast. Those seem like the 2 things I need to be most precise with. Overall though, between fruit, vegetables, hay and this mix, I think it should be a good diet for them, and it's just a matter of getting the quantities per day right.

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Lynx
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Post   » Sun Aug 15, 2021 9:42 pm


I would not factor in the pellet info because so little information is generally specified in detail. If all you have is a list of vitamins and minerals and not the quantity or form, it will not be helpful.

When you say numbers are given in tablespoons or cups, are you looking at the USDA info? You can also convert it to 100 gram amounts and weigh using a scale so it is much more accurate. Of course, each food item will vary some from a food item stored differently or harvested elsewhere.

Someone more skilled than I am could set up an excel sheet that would do calculations for you.

daj

Post   » Fri Sep 03, 2021 11:29 pm


I still haven't done the more precise measurements because I had to order a more sensitive scale, and I am using up the first batch. I don't see any drawbacks so far. It's like giving them a lump mushy oatmeal, but it's cut up hay soaked in what comes out like an almond or soy milk. It smells really good, like a breakfast cereal, and they clamor for it when it's coming. The only issue so far is that my heavy drinker still needs half pellets because of soft poops. So I am trying to fully transition him very slowly. I wasn't able to get sweet potato flour, so I got cassava flour, although I haven't tried it yet. I figure a half grain, half tuber mix should be better than either one alone. I did decide to get the multi vitamin, but I use less than one drop per pig per day. I might be totally unnecessary, but I thought it would be good in case I am missing anything. The molasses is totally unnecessary. They love it unsweetened.

I definitely don't miss pellets by mail. This takes more time, but I think it's cheaper, and hopefully, it's a lot more wholesome, without any chemical ingredients. I'm sure the hay I use, which I pick free of all the junk like stems, the occasional cricket and brown stuff, is a lot cleaner than what pellets must be made of. Even if they're using good quality hay, I'd assume they are just pulverizing large quantities, with all the junk left in. I imagine it's like orange juice, ketchup, hot dogs or peanut butter, stuff people eat while preferring to not think too much about what might be in it, even if highly diluted.

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Lynx
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Post   » Sat Sep 04, 2021 8:31 am


It sounds interesting! Unsure about the tubers you are using (not ruling them out) - mainly pointing out that if one is looking for a "natural diet", guinea pigs would not be eating tubers. Keep in mind the sweet potato flour may be high in vitamin A, which is a fat soluble vitamin, that can (along with the drops) accumulate in the body.

p.s. I recall reading about what feeds people gave their chickens years ago (I have three pet chickens). To protect them from theft and help them through the winter, they slept under the bed and were given "porridge" during the day. So one never knows.

daj

Post   » Sat Sep 04, 2021 12:08 pm


Well, basically, I wanted to reduce the grain by using half vegetable flour. I just noticed the cassava is pretty high in calcium though. On the tuber question, if they wouldn't naturally have dug for tubers, I would think carrot would be out too, although tubers would be growing deeper than carrots, I think. If I had to stick with just barley and quinoa I would be OK with that, but I'm thinking there probably is one other ingredient out there that would be a good addition. I generally associate grains with arthritis, so I'd like to get a vegetable in without adding too much calcium.

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Lynx
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Post   » Sat Sep 04, 2021 9:20 pm


Good point with the carrot. We make food decisions partly based on what we can get.

According to this chart, which lists items by 10 calorie amounts, sweet potato is not particularly high in calcium (unless you feed a really excessive amount).
http://www.guinealynx.info/chart.html

The barley and quinoa sound like interesting choices.

daj

Post   » Tue Sep 07, 2021 12:18 am


Yeah, the cassava was a careless choice. Now I see it also has 3 x the calories. I'm going to try ordering the sweet potato again.

It seems hard to believe grasses and other greens made up the bulk of pig's diets in the wild, based on my exp. w/ my pigs. Mine got rid of all their skin and itching problems when I cut out all greens except for a leaf of green leaf lettuce per day.

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Lynx
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Post   » Tue Sep 07, 2021 10:56 am


When we think about a diet that is natural, we actually forget about the bugs. So a natural diet is likely much more varied than we imagine. Oh, and the seeds too.

daj

Post   » Fri Sep 10, 2021 4:24 pm


Agreed. I guess pigs can survive on just pellets, hay & water, but I suppose that's how you get 5 years of life. I am hoping for 10 for all of mine.

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ItsaZoo
Supporter in 2020

Post   » Fri Sep 10, 2021 4:41 pm


I'm interested to see how the homemade diet works out, Daj. I'm trying to figure out feeding choices for my sick piggie, and I've made a few hay smoothie variations with varied results. Today I'm trying baked hay and oat treats with Critical Care, apple, carrot and a little green pepper. She likes the Simple Rewards treats so I thought if I could figure out how to get more hay into something that tastes similar, maybe I could get her to eat more.

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Lynx
Celebrate!!!

Post   » Fri Sep 10, 2021 8:24 pm


I like chocolate. Not much good nutritionally and no good at all for our gps!

daj

Post   » Tue Sep 21, 2021 11:49 pm


Sorry I haven't checked in in a while. That usually means things are going good. The pellet substitute experiment continues to be a success... so far. 4 out of 5 pigs took to it like they grew up on it. They even go for it before their vegetables, which is surprising. I still don't have my measurements down because it was the first time using a new scale, and I set it to a wrong unit and didn't realize I wasn't measuring grams until I had mixed some of them together. Then it was too late to go back.

My 5th pig had soft poops on the mix (must have to do with the fact that he drinks more than a bottle a day), so I just now tried a batch of them dehydrated. It too came out better than I expected. They are sort of like cookies/hash browns made of hay, (could take pics if anyone is interested) which I chop up with a scissor. Next time I will try a food processor and make it more like an actual biscuit, because I think the dehydrating will go quicker. As is, it only took 6 hours though, after which I bagged them up and stored in the freezer. Hopefully he will be fully off pellets soon. All the rest look good, with good skin and they seem great.

The current ingredient list is barley flakes, quinoa and sweet potato flour, psylium, flax seed and brewer's yeast. The psylium might be questionable, but my vet thought it would be a good idea for a pig with possible interstitial cystitis. I like it because it makes the mix kind of slimy, which helps coat everything. I would highly recommend trying it to anyone who sees a benefit in not using commercial pellets. Personally, I am really happy about being able to control what they are eating, rather than feeding them I don't really know what.

The biggest question marks and points of concern for me are the flax seed and the brewer's yeast. I am not sure how much of either would be ideal for a pig. If anyone has thoughts on this, I'd appreciate the input. It seems to me it shouldn't be too hard to come up with some basic guidelines for a home mix. For me, keeping free of the chemical ingredients and other stuff in commercial pellets, offsets the risk of the unknowns.

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Lynx
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Post   » Wed Sep 22, 2021 1:19 pm


Very interesting! Can't suggest specific amounts for the yeast or flax seed but hope you come up with something that works!

Best I was able to do is provide the earlier links to data.

daj

Post   » Mon Sep 27, 2021 8:50 pm


I've given up on the current formula for one of my 5. He's not adjusting, so from this I am concluding that if it doesn't appear to be working after a few days, it's not going to work, and something needs to change in the formula. It seems to not be the case that introducing it very slowly or just persisting longer will do the trick. After a few days it is what it is.

I've tried dehydrating, with no luck (poops still soft), so the added fluid doesn't seem to be the problem. Next I'll try taking out the psyllium to see if that fixes the mushy poops. This time I got everything weighed and the ratio I used is: quinoa, barley and sweet potato flours 100 grams each, brewers yeast 15 grams and flax meal 25 grams. It will be a while before I can attempt to see what this breaks down to in terms of nutrients. For that reason, I think I erring on the side of caution and keeping it somewhat dilute.

It's hard to gauge very accurately how much each pig is getting per day, because at each feeding I'm pulling the soaked hay out of the liquid, and quite a bit of the liquid goes back in the frig for the next feeding. I'm doing 3-4 per day, so I would estimate that each pig is getting 1/2 tp 3/4 of a teaspoon per day of the dry powder. Hopefully Henry's gut will like this better and I can get him off pellets too.

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Lynx
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Post   » Mon Sep 27, 2021 10:59 pm


Remind me, they are getting dry hay too, no? And some fresh vegs?

daj

Post   » Tue Sep 28, 2021 9:36 pm


Tons of dry hay. I don't give Henry fruit anymore. He only gets carrot, lettuce, pepper. Cutting out the psyllium seems to help, but there's still room for improvement. It's only been 3 feedings so far though. I should probably try limiting the pepper too, to see if that helps.

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