Saturday, July 14, 2018
Our eBook on starting a free range farm is still available. Just visit our website at www.freeranger.com.au to order.It's full of practical details on establishing your own free range egg farm. Once our webinars are underway, the eBook will be sent to everyone who registers.
Deception by major Australian egg producers over ‘free range’ claims has been confirmed by Australian Eggs, the industry’s peak marketing and research body. Newly released environmental guidelines for egg farmers state that “the majority of manure is deposited in sheds.” This is a clear acknowledgement that most hens on these so-called free range farms are kept in sheds despite legal requirements that they must have ‘meaningful and regular access to an outdoor range during the daylight hours of the laying cycle and are able to roam and forage on the outdoor range.’ If those conditions are met, politicians allow poultry farms with stocking densities of 10,000 hens per hectare to describe their eggs as free range, but the disclosure in the guidelinesjust released shows that most producers do not comply with the requirements.The revelation confirms the view of genuine free range farmers that the only way the 10,00 hens per hectare density can work is if the hens are locked in sheds and the manure is collected and transported off farm. Otherwise, the high density presents major environmental, food safety and animal health issues with the sheer volume of manure per hectare posing problems of land degredation and pollution.Many planning authorities are unlikely to accept such a high density and Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has said that “Local and State planning laws also apply to free range hen farms.” It is expected that the Australian competition and Consumer Commission will investigate the industry practice revealed by Australian Eggs and may launch more successful prosecutions in the Federal Court.
Saturday, July 07, 2018
The Freeranger Eggs property is ecologically important because it is a vegetated link between the Grantville Flora & Fauna Reserve and the Bass River and forms part of the only riparian forest left on the river. Farm activities were designed to minimise off-site and on-site impacts. All creek lines are vegetated to maintain water quality run off into the Bass. A study backed by the Federal Government's Envirofund program found that free range farming practices are viable and have minimal impacts on the environment. The study, carried out on five properties in the Port Phillip and Westernport Catchment Authority area showed that properly managed free range egg farms have many benefits - including long term sustainability. The Freeranger Farm was one of the participants and we believe that low density production is the key to sustainability. "It doesn't make any real difference whether you are running cattle, sheep or chooks, if your stocking rate is too high you will run into trouble" is our philosophy. It's hard to justify European farming practices in many parts of Australia - they simply don't work with our soil types and climate. The frequency of droughts is a clear example of the stupidity in trying to maintain exotic pastures and growing crops which require huge and unsustainable inputs. Apart from the massive problems of erosion and salinity, the inputs needed to maintain unrealistically high production levels create unhealthy nutrient loads and reduce farm viability over the years. The report demonstrates that stocking densities have a direct impact on feed costs. Supplementary feed inputs rose significantly as stocking rates increased. Once the results were produced in table form it was easy to see that a free range egg farm with a stocking rate of 9 Dry Sheep Equivalent (DSE) per hectare, produced an egg laying rate of 70% with feed consumption of 26 kg per bird per year. A farm with a stocking rate of 75 DSE per hectare produced a lay rate of 65% with feed consumption almost double at 48 kg per bird. At current prices that's an added cost of nearly $10 a year for each bird - which doesn't sound much until you multiply it over the whole flock. The Freeranger Farm is at the most productive end of the scale. Pasture management here has been aimed at increasing the amount of native grasses in the vegetated cover. The report showed that soils on the farm were acidic and had relatively low nutrient levels. We regarded it as counter productive to try to change the soil balance to favour exotic grasses and a management style was chosen with a preference for adapting farm practices to fit the natural soil types on this farm. Microlaena stipoides is one of Australia's most important native grasses with a widespread distribution in the eastern States. Its bright green colour, drought and frost resistance as well as shade tolerance make it superior to any non-native species as it has evolved for thousands of years in the dry and unpredictable Australian climate. It is easily out-competed by exotic grasses in neutral or alkaline soil conditions, preferring acidic soils like those at Grantville. During the trial, lime was only applied to small test sites. The majority of the pasture had no inputs other than chicken manure from the free-ranging hens and native grass coverage increased by about 25%.The regeneration of native shrubs and trees has also been encouraged. There is also a high level of activity by earthworms and dung beetles. We appear to have at least two types of dung beetles on the property because there is evidence of activity all year round and some species are known to be dormant over winter. The farm is a member of the Western Port Biosphere Reserve. Deep Ecology management practices reflect our view that our activities must have minimal negative impacts. We are a part of the environment, not apart from it.The environmental values of the farm were recognised in 2012 when we won the Energy Globe Award for Australia. We are encouraging more sustainable farms like ours to be established by making our eBook available and preparing webinars on setting up a farm. Details are on our website. The first webinar on setting up a free range farm is planned for World Egg Day next year – Friday October 11, assuming sufficient funds are raised in our crowd funding appeal at https://www.gofundme.com/2tar52c
Tuesday, July 03, 2018
Academic researchers often produce theories and reports designed to demonstrate what 'free range' means in the egg industry. Celebrity chefs usually confine themselves to mistaken comments that bright yolk colour defines that an an egg is free range. The fact is that Yolk colour varies, depending on the hen’s diet. If the yolk colour is always a bright, golden almost orange colour, the hens have almost certainly been fed colouring additives. Academic findings are usually based on carefully arranged criteria set by an organisation which funds the research and expects specific outcomes. Far better to rely on the experience of those in the industry actually running free range egg farms. Some people are fixated on the issue of animal welfare and they lose sight of matters like food safety and land sustainability. Outdoor stocking density is a key example. Academics found it easy to come up with results from research on small scale or short term projects to demonstrate that stocking densities had little or no impact on hen welfare. But it has been impossible for them to demonstrate that high densities had no detrimental impact on pasture quality, pollution of waterways, groundwater and the long term productivity of the land as a result of excessive nutrient loads. The maximum sustainable stocking density for poultry has been established at 1500 hens per hectare to minimise land degredation and ensure the long-term viability of the land. Laying hens, like most if not all other animals, perform best when they are able to follow their natural behaviour. They clearly need shelter, food and water but they also need to wander around freely to forage, scratch, dust bathe and interact socially with others in the flock.
Monday, July 02, 2018
There’s well known controversy about the definition of free range egg production and as a result there is a huge opportunity to enter the market by setting up your own free range business. There are two simple steps to help with the decision-making process – purchase an eBook from Freeranger Eggs on setting up a farm and donating to a crowd funding appeal to develop a series of webinars specially designed to provide answers.Encouraging more people to set up genuine free range farms is the driving force behind our crowd funding appeal which will allow top quality webinars to be developed and presented. Everyone can help to establish more genuine, small scale free range eggs farms by supporting a programme of webinars demonstrating all the processes involved. The webinars will encourage hundreds more farms to be established all over Australia. Freeranger Eggs in South Gippsland has run workshops in the past, but the webinars will reach far more potential egg farmers. An eBook on starting a free range farm is also available through the Freeranger website. Once the target is reached, the webinars will be free and all participants will receive a copy of our eBook.The Crowd Funding appeal is at:https://www.gofundme.com/2tar52c
Thursday, June 28, 2018
On June 27, the Victorian Government announced new animal industries planning reforms to improve the regulation of animal industries, environmental protection and community amenity. The reforms come into operation in September 2018 and give certainty to small-scale, low density egg farmers. The new planning rules may help to limit unfair competition from intensive enterprises claiming that their eggs are free range and should assist the ACCC in legal proceedings against intensive producers. We are still hoping that our crowd funding appeal suceeds and allows us to develop webinars to encourage the establishment of more free range farms.
Friday, June 22, 2018
We will run our first webinar on setting up a free range farm on World Egg Day next year – Friday October 11, assuming our crowd funding appeal is a success. World Egg Day, celebrated on the second Friday in October, was founded by the International Egg Commission in Vienna in 1996. The idea behind the day was raising awareness across the world, of the important place eggs have in human nutrition. The crowd funding appeal is at https://www.gofundme.com/2tar52c The webinars will be free for participants and everyone who registers will receive a copy of our eBook on setting up a farm.Free range egg production can be sustainable and ideal as a stand-alone business venture or to enhance income on an existing enterprise.
Saturday, June 16, 2018
The Federal Government is at it again with ludicrous legislation which does nothing to help consumers and imposes on small businesses.New country of origin food labelling requirements will become mandatory on 1 July 2018. Under the new system the Federal Government flagged in 2016, it is mandatory for most food grown, produced or made in Australia to carry a familiar kangaroo symbol and a bar chart with accompanying text that shows the proportion of Australian ingredients. It will add to the already overcrowded labels on cartons of eggs, with meaningless requirements imposed by politicians.The stupidity includes: We are the only fresh food producers forced to print nutrition panels on cartons even though the concept of the panels was to allow consumers to differentiate between the food values of similar products - such as various breakfast cereals, confectionery or drinks.Meat fish and vegetable producers don't have the burden oflabelling on their products - even though they clearly have differing nutritional values. All egg producers print the same nutrition panels on cartons so consumers are provided with no meaningful nutritional information on which to base purchase decisions. Anyway most of the panels use such fine print that they are illegible.Our labels already carry the words 'Product of Australia.' We are a small farming business and our labels are just black and white so why do the mongrels want us to print in colour? It's another example of kicking legitimate businesses who meet expected standards. Unregistered egg producers, operating in the cash economy meet no requirements as they are exempt from food safety and all other standards.Politicians are doing everything they can to drive small family farmers out of business. They are only interested in corporate giants who sell eggs in supermarkets. Our response to the polticians is to say 'enough is enough'. If the Government demands that we print new labels - they can bloody well pay the printer! Time for a revolution.