Thursday, April 28, 2016

Sustainability, carbon emissions, solar power

Freeranger Eggs at Grantville is an example of sustainable farming. Our farm management plan takes a three pillars approach to how the farm operates. Animal welfare is one pillar, but equally important are land sustainability and food safety. Despite all the political bickering in Canberra over emissions trading scheme targets, Freeranger Eggs has been getting on with mitigating the impact of carbon emissions. The farm's carbon footprint is limited by imposing a food miles policy for deliveries, using recycled materials and equipment whenever possible, utilising solar power and mechanical processes and an effective waste reduction programme. As a result, the 1200-chook farm generates only about 60 tonnes of CO2 each year. But it is better than carbon neutral, it is carbon positive. The average organic matter in soil tests was 4.1 per cent in 2004, in 2006 it was 6.0 per cent, and in 2009 it was 7.9 percent. Calculations based on 2-inch deep samples, show that over those five years the farm sequestered about 14 tons of CO2 per acre or four tonnes of carbon per acre on the grasslands. Further testing and calculations have not been carried because there has been a total lack of interest in the results. The farm applies no chemical fertilisers, herbicides, or pesticides and this policy increases the biological life in the soil and increases the rate of carbon sequestration. Rotational grazing is practised on the pastures – taking advantage of photosynthesis to pull CO2 into the plants and then into the roots from where it transfers to the soil. In addition, every year at least another tonne of CO2 per acre continues to be sequestered by the regular growth and replacement of Kangaroo Apples in the main paddocks. Native vegetation has been protected on approximately 100 acres of the property and regeneration there sequesters a further tonne of CO2 per acre. This brings a grand total of 1500 tonnes of CO2 sequestered on this property over five years – an average rate of 300 tonnes per year compared with the farm's carbon output of around 60 tonnes. On days of full sun the solar panels on the farm shed generate 13 - 17kW of electricity a day and as on average the farm consumes just 9kW a day it helps the bottom line. We gained international recognition in 2012 when Freeranger Eggs was voted
the Australian winner of the Energy Globe Award.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Ministers incomptence over egg standards

The decision by Australian Ministers for Consumer Affairs and the Small Business Minister to allow egg producers with outdoor stocking densities of 10,000 hens per hectare to label their eggs as 'free range' demonstrates an incredible level of ignorance as well as gullibility and incompetence. Apart from anything else, thjey seem to have overlooked the fact that each chook excretes half a cubic metre of manure a year – so 10,000 chooks will leave a 5000 cubic metre pile of manure on each hectare of land. Such a heavy nutrient load would destroy the viability of the land and would almost certainly create Massive environmental damage particularly along any watercourses which adjoin the land. As a result, this decision may make it much harder for farmers to set up free range egg farms. Local Shire planning departments will find it easier to reject applications as 'intensive' operations – effectively treating them as feed lots instead of an as-of-right use on land zoned for farming.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Ministers screw up Australia's free range egg industry

Government endorsement of intensive egg production systems allowing stocking densites of 10,000 hens per hectare to be classified as 'free range' is potentially another nail in the coffin for legitimate free range farmers. For years, genuine producers have been hit with unfair completion from both ends of the market - big corporate egg factories passing off their eggs as free range to boost profits as well as backyarders who do not meet any food safety standards and are not required to pay the compliance costs which are levied on honest egg farmers

Friday, April 01, 2016

New standard makes life harder to set up a free range farm

Yesterday Ministers for Consumer Affairs approved a standard which allows farms with outdoor stocking densities of 10,000 hens per hectare to be classified as free range. This just perpetuates the con which big business has practised on consumers for years. If they had made the announcement today, it would have been regarded as an April Fools Day joke !! One serious aspect of this decision is that no council will allow free range egg farms to be established if they follow the Ministers' edict. Any farm with such a density will be regarded as intensive so they it will be treated as a feed lot - not an 'as of right' use even when t he land is zoned for farming.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Dumb politicians approve pathetic 'free range' standard

Ministers for Consumer Affairs have approved a standard which allows farms with outdoor stocking densities of 10,000 hens per hectare to be classified as free range. This just perpetuates the con which big business has practised on consumers for years. What a gutless bunch.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

New definition for 'free range' egg production should be settled soon

It is expected that Ministers for consumer Affairs/Fair Trading will agree on enforceable national standard for free range egg production by the end of March. At this stage it is not clear what changes will be made, but many producers hope that the politicians and bureaucrats take a simple approach and refrain from introducing a complex and largely unenforceable standard. The most straight forward way to address the problem would be to adopt into law the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals (Domestic Poultry).When the current version of the Code was approved by the Primary Industries Ministerial Council and printed in 2002, it was scheduled for review in 2010. It was a development of an earlier version of the Model Code. it is essential for the free range sector of the egg industry to ensure that intensive production standards tare not adopted in place of the extensive requirements of the current code. There has no science behind high density free range proposals (other than the certainty of increased profits. No scientific review of production processes has been undertaken to demonstrate that the standards contained within the current voluntary Model Code are no longer applicable to the industry. The stocking density of 1500 hens per hectare for free range hens was developed by applying well established principles of agronomy. The issue of the upper limit on the long term stocking rate was debated strongly at the time, following pressure from local Councils and the EPA about how some farms were operating. The experience of people who had farmed free range layers in the 1950’s and 60's, when all egg production was based on free range principles. Hens were often run under citrus trees Ir was recognised that for an operation to be sustainable, the stocking rate had to be low - less than 300 birds/acre (750/hectare). It was agreed that such a system should be regarded as Free Range egg production and the hens were to have access to the range during daylight hours. There was some dispute by new entrants to the industry who believed that they could design pasture rotation systems around their sheds that would allow higher rates. So it was decided to take an empirical approach and work out what the maximum stocking rate could be to avoid the measurable negative impacts of nutrient run off and soil degradation and still be theoretically possible to maintain pasture cover and avoid the issue of dust. Some argued that as most hens were in sheds at night and may be locked in for part of the day so that only a portion of the hens actually entered the range area, the impact is lessened. The dairy industry was very big at that time and local agronomists had data on the effects of applying very high rates of poultry manure on irrigated pasture. The agronomists studied the data on the maximum nutrient uptake a well maintained irrigated pasture could support and also avoid the problems of salinity build up observed in the dairy pastures. The stocking rate was calculated and a stocking density of up to 600 birds/acre (1500/hectare) was regarded as the maximum possible for long term sustainability. At the time the Code was approved, it was accepted that to maintain consumer credibility, visitors or passers-by had to see the birds out and about on the range. It was also accepted that there is no valid animal management need to lock in the layers in the morning or during inclement weather. Those currently involved in free range egg production agree that the fundamental elements of the Model Code, or other regulations introduced by Governments should be:  a maximum stocking density of 1500 hens per hectare;  stocking density must be reduced in conditions where pasture or other vegetative cover cannot be maintained at the maximum stocking density;  no beak trimming of hens is permitted except when other methods of controlling outbreaks of severe feather pecking or cannibalism have been tried and failed (using the same criteria in the current Model Code); and  pullets must be allowed to range freely once they are fully feathered (about six weeks old)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Manufactured colouring additives used in poultrry feed to fool consumers.

Sydney6s Daily Telegraph ran a story alerting consumers to t he widespread use of colouring additives in chook food to enhgance the colour of egg yolks in eggs. We have been concerned about this for years as many people have allergic reactions to some of the colouring agents