What happened to Peggy Sue’s piglets? This is a question we often get when a set of piglets moves away.
Usually, the piglets are raised on our farm until they are old enough and big enough to be sent to Eagle Bridge Custom Meats and Smokehouse. The pigs that we care for and raise onsite become the pastured meat that we sell in the Visitor Center.
However, we had a different plan for the piglets born this past January. We still had enough meat in the freezers and did not need more, so we sold the growing piglets to a nearby farm, Flying Pigs Farm in Shushan, N.Y. Flying Pigs raises heritage pork and sells primarily to restaurants and Green Markets in New York City.
Recently, the apprentices Kate and Stephanie visited Flying Pigs to see their operation (apprentices sometimes do site visits to other farms), to purchase some laying hens, and they also got to check in and see the “Mercklets”!
Dan, the Flying Pigs farm manager (also a former intern, caretaker, and assistant farm manager at Merck), originally bought all ten of Peggy Sue’s piglets. He then sold four of the piglets (including “Chunker” and the sweet runt of the litter) to SVF Foundation in Rhode Island, as they were looking for people-friendly pigs for their operation.
Flying Pigs kept six of the Mercklets: the male will be raised and then eventually taken to Eagle Bridge. The five gilts (unbred females), he hopes to raise as sows that will be able to provide piglets for Flying Pigs Farm. When Stephanie and Kate visited, the five gilts were literally romping around the forested pasture.
After saying hello to the Mercklets, and giving them a few ear and back scratches, we walked up to the top of the 200 acre farm to see other pigs on pasture, including the remaining male Merck piglet.
After spending some time exploring the pasture, which is both forested and in open meadow, a good combination of habitat for foraging pigs, the group walked down to the coops to pick out a few laying hens.
Whereas, at Merck Forest we keep only a handful of chickens–just enough to provide eggs for the apprentices–Flying Pigs Farm has nearly 200 layers, and they also keep meat birds in the summer.
Dan wanted to make sure that the apprentices took home hens that were actually laying. Instead of taking birds from the pasture, he grabbed birds from the nesting boxes, handing them to the apprentices to hold. One hen actually was laying an egg as he picked her up, and her egg literally rocketed out of her, out of the coop, and rolled along the ground to Stephanie’s feet! Hopefully, this is a good sign that she will lay when she comes to Merck.
Thanks to Dan and Flying Pigs Farm for letting us come and visit. We are glad the Mercklets are well, and the hens are doing great!