If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook (and if you don’t, you should!), you may already know that our homestead has a new addition. I’m here to formally introduce you today and tell the tale of Myrtle.
Myrtle is the newest — and for the time being at least, last — addition to our homestead hog “herd” (if you can call 2.5 pigs a herd). You already know Mabel and Baconator and have seen them grow from itty bitty bacon bits to bonafide pigs. They’re not bacon bits anymore by any stretch of the imagination, and must weigh at least 100 lbs each. Because they’re built like little bulldozers.
And while the ornery patoots have learned to respect the electric fence finally, after only breaking it a handful of times, they do not respect feed bowls. Never have, never will.
I don’t know why I bother. Go ahead, eat off the ground. Put your feet in the food. See if I care! Pfft.
But despite their orneriness, I love pigs.
I always knew I would like them, because, well, I’ve never met a livestock species I didn’t like. But pigs have actually become tied with goats as my favorite. They’re goofy and messy and care about food more than life itself. They break into chicken coops and photobomb your videos. They run straight through electric fences until they learn how to avoid it. They get mud on your fancy camera because it may be food and therefore must be bitten! And they love a good scratch behind the ears. Plus, y’know, they also make bacon.
In other words, they’re completely endearing and if I had more land I’d probably own a hundred of them. No joke.
But for right now, there’s just Mable, Bacon, and now Myrtle.
First off, I love red pigs. That’s part of why I chose Mabel from her litter — she was the only red one! Red is such a pretty pig color. And if I have to look at something every day, it may as well be pretty, right? I’ve probably said that a million times, but it’s true.
But red color aside, here’s the lowdown on Miss Myrtle:
Myrtle is a purebred Hereford Hog registered with the National Hereford Hog Association. Herefords are a heritage breed recognized by the Livestock Conservancy, which estimates that there are less than 2,000 breeding Herefords in the United States. Herefords have an interesting history — they were developed in the 1920’s using Duroc, Poland China, and Chester White bloodlines. They were named for their color pattern, which is quite similar to that of the Hereford cattle breed. Like most of the early heritage breeds of livestock, their numbers and popularity started to declined when pork production because more commercialized.
Herefords have all the classic traits that make them a great choice as homestead hogs: they are a docile breed which does well on pasture and is efficient at converting feed into pork. They are also known to be good mothers with high litter numbers — Myrtle here was one of thirteen! They’re definitely one of the prettiest breeds as well….but I probably already alluded to that.
Myrtle herself is 8 weeks old right now, and she is currently abiding in a quarantine pen. (New livestock should always be quarantined a minimum of 30 days.) She is also way too small to be immediately introduced to Mabel and Bacon right now anyway. Pigs, like most livestock, will fight when first introduced — although I’m told pigs are much more aggressive about it.
With Myrtle being so young and small, Mabel and Bacon would easily kill her if we put them together right now. So, Myrtle will be three fences away from them for now, until she is large enough to stand her ground. Then she will spend some time on the opposite side of the electric fence so that everyone can see each other but not interact. After that stage, I plan to introduce just one to Myrtle at first, let them sort out their hierarchy, and then once that is settled, put all three together. The idea is that maybe two will not gang up against one that way…but we shall see how it goes.
Actually, right now as I type, Myrtle is on the back porch in her crate for the night. There are storms moving through and we were too worried to leave her outside. Somehow it seems like every type of animal ends up in our house one way or the other…
But wait, why did I need another pig anyway? This seems kind of sudden.
We have actually known from the start that we woud need another gilt/sow at some point. As you know, Baconator is terminal. He will be going off to freezer camp in a few more months to provide healthy, pastured, humanely raised and antibiotic and soy-free fed pork to our table. I’m sure it will be a little sad to say goodbye when that time comes, but I’m so grateful that I get to provide meat for myself rather than complacently relying on someone else to do the dirty work.
Obviously, when Bacon heads to camp, that would leave Mabel alone. Mabel is a forever pig — she’s here to stay. But she doesn’t need to stay alone with no company. I always believe it is better for herd animals like pigs and goats to live as such…with herd members who speak the same language. I don’t want Mabel to be lonely.
That left us two options: carpe porcum when the opportunity arose or wait until the last minute to try to scramble to find a herdmate for Mabel. That wouldn’t really be the best plan. There would be no guarantee we would find another gilt/sow at the right time. What if none were available, or the ones that were available weren’t the right fit?
I knew that for my next miss piggy, I wanted a heritage breed. Mabel is a classic commercial cross of Duroc x Hampshire x Yorkshire, and she’s a good pig. I don’t have anything against these breeds or crosses, and I believe that almost any breed could do well on a homestead if cared for properly. But overall, I like heritage breeds and I like registered. I don’t have a huge preference in the debate of lard pig vs lean pig. I do prefer standard size to the KuneKunes or Guinea Hogs. It’s completely irrelevant to anything really important, but I do also like floppy ears and I’m not a huge fan of solid black. This is all purely personal preference — I likes what I likes. Something different may appeal to you.
Originally I wanted a Berkshire — and I still plan to use a Berk for Mabel’s litter — but I haven’t found a single Berkshire breeder nearby. Heritage breed hogs don’t prove easy to find in this area. So, when I saw Myrtle…I decided to carpe the porcum while the gettin’ was good.
Actually, Hereford, in addition to Berkshire, was on my “maybe this breed” list already, as was Gloucestershire Old Spots and a couple of others. Berk was at the top primarily because it is supposed to be some of the best pork to put on the plate, but I am equally happy with our little Hereford and really blessed to have stumbled across her. I had no idea that there was a Hereford breeder less than hour away from us, until I happened upon them on Facebook!
Myrtle’s registered name is actually Sue Perb, but she just didn’t seem like a Sue to me — or a Suzy, Susanna, or Susan, either. We settled on Myrtle, because not only does it fit her better than Sue, but it also matches with Mabel’s name. We’ve got a bit of a theme going here with our future mama sows.
Myrtle isn’t friendly with us yet the way that Mabel is — which makes sense, considering that Mabel was hand raised and Myrtle was dam raised — but I’m sure she’ll come around when she realizes who brings the food her way.
I’m looking forward to having lots of little red and white bacon bits running around in the future!