Friday, December 15, 2017
The stocking density of any farm animals is a critical factor in the long term sustainability of farmland. With chickens, the maximum stocking density of 1500 hens per hectare was established by the industry, academics, politicians and bureaucrats when they prepared the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals (Domestic Poultry). Nutrients and trace elements in manure can accumulate in the soil, making it toxic for vegetation as well as polluting ground and surface water. A laying hen produces half a cubic metre of manure a year. So with a stocking density of 10,000 hens per hectare approved by Ministers for Consumer Affairs, farmers who follow their advice will see their land covered with 5000 cubic metres of manure per hectare every year. As chicken manure has the highest amount of nitrogen,phosphorus, and potassium of all manures, it will likely render the land useless for farming within a few years. Contamination of groundwater and water courses is also likely.
Thursday, December 14, 2017
We are heading into our busy holiday season, with tourists flocking to Philip Island for Christmas and New Year. So we knows we won ‘t be able to keep up with the excessive demand – but we will do our best. We will be able to meet the requirements of our regular shops and restaurants – but we certainly won’t be able to meet new orders even though the hens are laying well and we have a new flock of Isa Browns arriving just prior to Christmas.
Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Proposed changes to farm planning regulations in Victoria, and the national decision by Ministers for Consumer Affairs to allow a huge stocking density of 10,000 chickens per hectare on free range farms has led to a strong increase in the number of people thinking about starting their own free range egg business. A good starting point is reading the eBook on starting a free range farm available on the Freeranger Eggs website: "www.freeranger.com.au When you decide to set up a free range egg farm, take the time to plan it properly. Find out the zoning of the land and talk to your local Council planning department about their requirements. It’s also worth contacting the State Department of Agriculture. You can find on-line resources in most states. In Victoria, contact: http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/farm-management/business-management/permits/guidelines-for-rural-planning-applications. Once that is sorted, talk to your Council Environmental Health Department about any specific requirements they have before you get underway.
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Our gate sales are still going extremely well.Each week they add up to as many or more than we used to sell at markets. Hopefully the yellow cool box inside our front gate will continue to be popular over the summer months as we will have plenty of eggs. A new flock of Isa Brown pullets arrive just before Christmas so they will be in full lay by the middle of January. The cool box is stocked every day and the eggs are available anytime, day or night. Anyone needing a special order (multiple dozens, eggs on trays or specific sizes) just send us an email or ring and we will package your order in the box.
Monday, December 11, 2017
Political dithering over hen welfare and the definition of free range shows the high level of incompetence displayed by politicians and bureacrats. Rather than dream up a raft of new legislation and standards, simply enshrine into law The Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals (Domestic Poultry). Development of the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals – Domestic Poultry 4th Edition, 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 been 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. Experience was taken into account 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 It 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 at any one time, the impact was 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, December 05, 2017
The International Egg Commission (IEC) has developed a Practical Biosecurity Check List designed to help egg businesses improve their overall biosecurity. The comprehensive Biosecurity Check List is freely available to the egg industry. It provides practical guidelines for egg farmers and producer businesses, to help reduce the risk of infection. The guide can downloaded here:http://1pfp2yazjqr27ku7g3h8zwwx-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/IEC-BIO-BROCHURE-FINAL-11.09.17.pdf or from https://www.internationalegg.com/iec-avian-influenza-expert-groups-new-practical-biosecurity-check-list-is-available-to-download/ Details are also on the Freeranger Club member downloads page of the Freeranger Eggs website http://www.freeranger.com.au/