Tag Archives: breeding guinea pigs

Three easy ways to be more organized about breeding cavies

9 Jan

I know I’m a little late to this ballgame, but I noticed the other week a post on Facebook where one breeder asked others she knew whether they had a cavy-related New Year’s resolution. As I watched the responses come in, I noticed a common theme: many people wanted to get more organized about breeding and record keeping.

We at Legacy Caviary have been pretty diligent about records keeping from the beginning. And it’s not just pedigrees, although we’re pretty particular about those as well — we have pedigrees going back to our very first cavies, probably ten generations or more at this point. But we also keep detailed records on health, lifespan, show winnings, breeding, miscarriages and deliveries. At one point I even used the records we’ve kept to conduct a small scientific study for one of my senior-level college classes.

That’s probably more record keeping than the average breeder wants or needs to undertake. But just in case you’re looking to get started with some basic record keeping and organization this year, here are a few breeding-related ideas you might try. Of course, you’re always welcome to modify these techniques so that they suit your own methods and desires.

The index card method

This is what my dad has done for years to keep track of who is bred to who, when they’re due to deliver, how many babies were born and at what weight. It works pretty well because it doesn’t take a lot of time or effort, and because you can clip the cards to the front of most cages to prevent yourself from losing track of your own records, though it does have a downside (in my opinion) in that the records are not easily digitized and therefore are difficult to analyze en mass.

Here’s something quick and easy to try: buy your standard index cards and fill them with any identifying information you deem pertinent. We list the cavy’s name, birthdate and ear number a the top of each card for quick identification, but you can obviously choose to use more or less information. Make one card for each of your cavies, then clip the cards to the cage containing the cavy to which each card corresponds. You can do this easily with those tiny binder clips you can buy at most office stores. When you’re finished, each cage in your caviary should have a small collection of cards attached to it identifying each cavy in the cage.

Now, pick one of the female cavy’s cards and write an X (our symbol for “crossed to” or “bred to”) on one of the blank lines on the body of the index card. Next to the X, write the name and/or ear number of the boar to which the sow in question was bred. Then write the date they were paired together and, if you like, the date of their anticipated due date (roughly 72 days in the future). That’s all there is to it! Now, when you clean pens or go to check on your cavies, you have an automatic record of when to expect your next litters. And as time goes on and you repeat this process for new crosses, you’ll have a running record of who you bred to who, and what the results looked like.

The Calendar Method

This is essentially a simplified version of the index card method. It requires a lot less maintenance, but lacks the benefits of being attached to each individual cavies’ pen, and so doesn’t put the information at your fingertips quite as effectively. It may, however, help you better track the big picture of what needs to happen when in your caviary.

Here’s the basic idea: Buy a standard 12-month calendar for the current year (you can even get one of those fun cavy-themed calendars if you like!). Hang it up in or near your caviary, so you remember to use it and mark it up. Fill in the calendar with pertinent information such as “bred Fuzzy Wuzzy to Sister Sue” or “Cutie Pie due” on the appropriate days. If you stay up on it, this should not only help you keep track of when your upcoming litters are due, but over time it will also create a year-long record of who was bred and born when.

This method is also helpful if you include the dates of important shows on your calendar. If you do this, you can count backward from the date of those shows to determine when you need to put cavies in breeding to have mature stock at the year’s biggest shows (this is especially important to breeders who raise long-haired cavies).

The MS Excel Method

This is what I personally use, because I prefer digitized records and because I need to have access to my records on multiple computers. But while it has the advantage of making it possible to easily view and analyze lots of data, it requires a little more effort that the previous two methods and it doesn’t put the information at your fingertips in quite the same way.

Here’s what I do: I have a version of Microsoft Excel that I have downloaded for free on my smartphone called “Sheets.” Sheets interfaces with GoogleDocs, so I am able to view my breeding records on my phone, on my laptop, or on any other computer where I can gain internet access.

On sheets, I have created a single spreadsheet called “breeding plan.” I created the document with the following headers across the top: sow’s name, last litter born, current status, next breeding, breed to, and litter due. I fill in the suggested information below each header in descending order. So, for example, when Cindy delivered her last litter, I create a new row at the top in which I fill in her name, the date of her last litter, her current status (“Resting,” in this case) the date on which I next plan to breed her, the boar I will breed her to, and the expected date that litter will arrive. I might also input her daughter’s record on the line above her own. Her daughter would appear as follows: Wendy, no litters, still growing, the date of her first anticipated breeding (roughly 3-5 months in the future), the name of the boar I plan to breed her to, and the expected due date for that future litter.

Obviously, this method requires a good deal of regular maintenance. But if you stick to it, you will end up with a long running list of past litters and pairings, and one that you can sort, search and analyze at your leisure with all the data tools available to you in Microsoft Excel. Not to mention instant access to all of those records anywhere in the world.

These are of course just three methods for tracking, recording and organizing your breeding efforts. There’s plenty of other methods out there. What method do you prefer?