Thursday, December 27, 2007

Holiday Mayhem

We are right at the start of our peak holiday season. It seems like half of Melbourne comes down to Phillip Island for the Christmas/January holidays - which is great for all the tourist traps but is a pain for a business like ours.
We can only sell the eggs that the hens lay. We can't make any more! And we can't cater for a short term demand of four to six weeks because what do we do with the eggs when the terrorists (sorry tourists) go home?
We try to assist our regulars and our priority is always for our home delivery customers and the restaurants/hotels/stores which buy our eggs all year. But it can be hard when a regular rings up on delivery day to double (or even treble) the order. With a bit of time we can accommodate most requests by shuffling deliveries.
We have a normal operating target of around 400 dozen eggs each week, and we lift that to around 450 -500 dozen at this time of year. We supplement that by buying-in eggs from other accredited free range farms (we only get other eggs from two trusted farms). But even then we are always short of the 1000 to 1500 dozen eggs we need for these few weeks every year.
In a way it's a great position to be in. However I wish that some 0f our restaurant clients realised that we can't conjure up eggs with a few hours notice. If they give us a week's notice we can give them the world.
Glad I got that off my chest!!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Big jump in feed costs

The drought throughout Australia has seen the price of grains jump enormously in the past 12 months.
Our latest feed delivery has soared to over $500 a tonne which has a massive impact on production costs. Feed is the single biggest cost in egg production.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Direct sales and farm visits are booming

Our new foal is proving to be a hit with farm visitors. And he just loves people! He's less than a couple of weeks old and already thinks he owns the place.
We are now getting a steady stream of people who want to have a look at how we run the farm as well as buying eggs and hens for their backyards.
The old house on the property is being reorganised to cope with the number of visitors and we are looking at various options to offer people. We may even register our kitchen so we can prepare light lunches and snacks but for the moment we encourage people to bring a picnic.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Growing numbers of customers

This week was a record for us with sales of over 600 dozen eggs! The big boost was demand from our restaurants and other outlets on Phillip Island as a result of the Motor Cycle Grand Prix plus major demand at the Cardinia Ranges Farmers' Market on Saturday which included the fifth annual Asparagus Festival.
The market, always on the second Saturday each month, was packed and we sold just over 150 dozen in cartons and on trays, as well as packs of the dog treats which I baked on Friday.
Our production is going so well right now that we were also able to help out another free range farm with 90 dozen eggs to help satisfy their market requirements. (As members of the Free Range Farmers Association we are only allowed to buy eggs from other accredited members to ensure that audit trails are maintained). That's one of the main problems with non-accredited farms - if they need more eggs they buy them from anywhere and stick their own labels on!
We are getting ready for a new flock of birds which arrive at the end of this month so we are getting the mobile sheds ready and selling some of our current chooks to customers who want laying hens in their backyards.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Strange neighbour

This evening just after half past five a message was left on my wife's answering machine from our 'odd' neighbour, Peter Giles, telling us that two of our dogs were at his place and had just headed home. Why he thought they were our dogs is a puzzle - which wasn't resolved when I spoke to him a few hours later.
He's a man with a strange reputation and I don't know what this bloke's problem is (apart from what he might be smoking) because at that time all our dogs were being fed and they were all where they were supposed to be.
He's been a bit of a pain over the years making all sorts of outrageous allegations. Thankfully, most of the time he's left us alone, so I suppose it's our turn for a blast. For some reason he thinks he's normal and the rest of the world is out to get him!
Hopefully he'll feel better soon.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Farm visits proving popular

Visits to the Freeranger Farm on Sundays are going well. We now have a steady stream of people coming to look at how we do things. And it's much easier for us to keep the farm running smoothly if general visits are on one set day each week.

That doesn't mean we stop people coming on other days. We will have a group from French Island Landcare next Tuesday. They want to have a look at the practical application of farm sustainability.

What we do here is based on regenerative land management principles to ensure that our activities have little or no off-site impacts. Have a look at our page of regenerative agriculture on the Friends of Bass Valley Bush website at

With more than half our land maintained as remnant native vegetation (part of the only riparian forest left on the Bass River) we have always been very keen to ensure that making a living from the land doesn't destroy what's important.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

New Maremma helps with fox control

We now have a brand new six month old Maremma, Abbey (in the middle of the picture with a short lead).
She has joined our pack to protect the hens on the farm from fox attacks.
They are simply the greatest dogs for this sort of work and there's no doubt that we would be out of business as a genuine 'free range' farm if we didn't have our flock protectors.
Abbey was a bit unsure of herself the first day and was snappy with us and the other dogs - but she quickly settled in. The picture was taken just two days after she arrived.
It shows how well they all accept each other. Let me introduce (from the left) Lexie, Berkley, Abbey, Ducati, Umberta and Daisy. Not in the picture (because they are off with their chooks, are Bella, Monte, Flora, Angus and Chicca.
It's a great pack of single-minded dogs whose mission is to protect the farm from intruders! (Apart from Angus who likes to spend a lot of his time bouncing) He's a Heeler/Border Collie X.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Booming egg production

At this time of year - just coming out of winter - our egg production is often down. But right now our hens are laying like crazy.
The mild winter (which is a real worry for later in the year) has seen our lay rate continue at over 90% for the past five months.
It has dipped slightly from 95% to 92.5% in the past couple of weeks but we are still well up with our target production level of 400 dozen per week.
Feed costs are likely to again have a big impact on us this year with predictions of shortages of a wide range of grains caused by crop failures in many parts of the world (and the crazy diversion of grain into ethanol production)
It's hard to understand the mental condition of any Government that would subsidise the production of ethanol at the expense of food.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Freeranger Farm visits and field trips

We have just begun encouraging visits to the Freeranger Farm on Sunday afternoons. Each week we have enquiries about how we do things and there are always individuals and groups from all over the place, including schools, wanting to look at our farming methods and the way the farm has been designed to promote biodiversity as well as produce income.
Often we can meet people's needs during the week but if we can encourage most to visit on Sundays it will leave the rest of the week free to do all the things that have to be done around the property.
Many people have a virtual visit first on our website at - and then come for the real thing!
The visit needn't take long, but for those who want to wander through the native bush and take a look at the last remaining riparian forest on the Bass River, it will take a couple of hours or more.

Half price eggs

One of our best markets is the Cardinia Ranges Farmers' Market at Pakenham Racecourse on the second Saturday every month.
As well as fresh veggies there a host of other great food - cheese, venison, beef, free range pork - and of coure Freeranger Eggs!
To encourage buyers to get there early, this Saturday (September 8) we are offering a half price deal on dozen cartons of 60 gram eggs until 8.30.
Hopefully it will help to increase sales as our hens are laying so well at the moment.
Often the lay rate is reduced once the cold weather hits, but this year our production has remained pretty constant at over 90%.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Dylan in Melbourne

Went to the Bob Dylan concert at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne last night and it was a blast! He's certainly a different performer from the old folk/protest song days but he has the ability to draw in people of all ages.
I reckon the ages in the audience ranged from around 15 to 80 - quite a spread.
With the farm, we don't get too many opportunities to get out to concerts or shows, but we must make more of an effort because it was magnificent.
It was our first time at the Rod Laver Arena, and if we go again we must take cushions 'cause the seats were that bloody hard!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

MPA Williams meet fence repair costs

I'm pleased to say that MPA Williams has paid for the repairs to the fence which the company's staff cut to gain access for a water boring rig.
Given the company's reputation, I was rather disappointed when the initial response was complete denial. But reason has prevailed. Thanks MPA Williams.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Electricity Metering

We use quite an amount of solar power on the farm for our electric fences, lights and hot water but are connected to the grid for our main power requirements.
When we heard about a trial of 'Smart Meters' which enable power use to be monitored offsite, we thought it was a great idea. So two units have now been installed on the property which means that our power useage can be recorded by remote reading (no-one has to drive 2.5 kms up our road just to read our meter). Hopefully the same thing will happen with water (now that we have some water to use).

Farm inspections almost complete

This is always a hectic time of year with farm inspections undertaken throughout Victoria. I've been driving around various parts of the state looking at member farms of the Free Range Farmers Association as well as egg producers who want to be accredited to the Australian Egg Corporation's National Egg Quality Assurance Program.
There's now just one farm to inspect for the FRFA and then the job's done for a year!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Chasing Steers

For four days in a row I've had to entice five black steers out of my vegetable garden back to where they belong - on the neighbouring property. We've had various incursions of cattle in the past because the boundary fences on the land are not adequate for cattle. But that doesn't worry the landowner, the Barro Group - one of the largest privately owned sand and concrete companies in Australia. They expect to be extracting sand on the site shortly but for the past ten years or so they have leased the land for grazing (and growing high value illicit crops).
The guy who owns the cattle has got the message and they have been trucked away to another property.
But it's presumably only a matter of time before someone else puts cattle there and I have to spend a couple of hours a day to put them back.
It's a strange thing that I've never been to work out! If my cattle or horses stray onto someone else's land, I have to run around and get them out. If other people's livestock get into my place, everyone expects me to return them. Maybe I should have a big barbeque instead.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Bodgy 'Free Range' eggs at markets

There are still large numbers of eggs sold at markets throughout Australia as 'Free Range' , putting consumers at risk. Despite regulations in Australia requiring producers to have food safety programs in place and to sell eggs in new cartons, labelled with an address and use by date - the regulations are routinely ignored.
Eggs were openly sold at the Kongwak market today in South Gippsland by a stallholder who met none of the requirements imposed on genuine egg farmers.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Logging the Strzeleckis

There is a heap of information about the logging that is being undertaken in the Strzelecki Ranges in Gippsland. Those who want to help save the Strzeleckis and establish the sensitive areas known as the 'Cores and Links' as a reserve managed by Trust for Nature, take a look at and sign the petition at
The petition is to SmartWood and the Rainforest Alliance who are the certifying body for the Forest Stewardship Council. Given Hancock's track record, it won't do the credibility of FSC any good if Hancock is able to retain its accreditation while it trashes native forest which is subject to the Heads of Agreement it signed with the Community and the Government.
Have a look at the Friends of the Earth website too at
The plans involving the 'Cores and Links' - important areas identified by Biosis Research - are almost certainly the most vital in terms of biodiversity conservation and impacts on water quality in South Gippsland. Nothing else stacks up.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Certified Organic Audits

As if I didn't have enough to do already, I have just taken part in a three day inspector training workshop with the the National Association of Sustainable Agriculture Australia ( NASAA). I already carry out environmental audits for small businesses including farms, inspect members of the Free Farmers Association for compliance with their regulations and audit farms for the Australian Egg Corporation's 'Egg Corp Assured' program.
It seemed to be a natural progression to add organic audits to the mix and I'm looking forward to it even though time is a precious commodity.
It's hard being away from the farm for three days because there is always so much that needs to be done. I had to take the baby wombat with me - she is the only animal in our wildlife shelter at the moment. She needs around four feeds a day (mostly at night) and by taking her with me it meant that Anne had one less thing to do while I was away.
Our farm is running well and we are getting ready for the arrival of a new point of lay flock.

Friday, June 15, 2007

MPA Williams cuts boundary fence

There's never a shortage of problems on the farm, but I can do without ones generated needlessly by other people. I had a phone call at 7.30 this morning while I was sitting at my computer getting ready for a busy day. A neighbour rang to say that five of our horses were on an adjoining property. My wife and I raced off to see what had happened and we found the 'herd' enjoying itself in new surroundings.
Needless to say, they were quite a handful to get back where they belonged and then we had to work out how they had 'escaped'. It soon became evident!
The fence had been cut by employees of a water monitoring consulting firm MPA Williams, to drill a bore to monitor ground water flows on the land we lease which is owned by a sand extraction company. They had 'repaired' the high tensile barbed wire fence with very fine wire, rather like something that might be used on an old fashioned fuse.
Four hours later, after having moved the horses to where they should be and repaired the fence with wire strainers and replacement wire more suited to the task, I emailed MPA Williams with an invoice for the work which had to be carried out because of their inability to do the job properly.
The response was from a Peter Reid, who presumably was in charge of the crew who undertook the drilling and cut the fence. He said 'When the installation was carried out we were not permitted to access the property through existing gates, and were therefore required to cut the fence to gain access. We were not happy with this.
Nevertheless we carried out our work and repairs were carried out to the fence to the best of our ability. It appears that the repair has been adequate up till now
Well the repair clearly was not adequate. We had not run cattle or horses on the property for some six months because of drought conditions, so the pathetic quality of the fence 'repair' was not obvious.
Why on earth the decision was made to cut the fence when the crew had no tools or equipment to repair it is a demonstration of poor judgement at the very least. Rejoining the barbed wire with baler twine would probably been more effective than the light gauge wire used - but that wouldn't have made the fence stock proof because the wires were not strained!
The company is fortunate that the fence cutting was not on a boundary adjoining a road. The implications of someone being killed by driving a car into a horse don't bear thinking about.
The principal of MPA Williams, Mr Paul Williams is reputed to be an honest and ethical man but he is not always aware of the actions of his staff.
Hopefully this matter can be resolved even though Mr Reid says 'We do not believe that we have been negligent in this instance.' and, at the moment, refuses to pay the invoice.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Logging in the Strzeleckis

The Gippsland community and Friends of the Earth are alarmed that Hancock Victorian Plantations, owned by the US John Hancock group has begun logging in a rainforest reserve in Victoria's Strzelecki Ranges. The reserve was announced by the State Government just before last year's election and involves a $7 million forest buyback currently under negotiation.Under the Memorandum of Understanding associated with the reserve, logging was allowed in certain parts of the reserve, on the proviso that sensitive rainforest areas would be protected. Two of the most sensitive areas were nominated with buffer widths of 100m and 60m.Now the company has been found to be logging a coupe within 10-20 metres of cool temperate rainforest. According to Friends of the Earth researcher Anthony Amis “The Heads of Agreement clearly states that none of this coupe should have been logged at all. This is the second breach of the Heads of the Agreement that we have witnessed within 8 months of Hancock signing the agreement.”Further details are at

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Farmers' Market at Pakenham Racecourse

The Cardinia Ranges Farmers' Market held at Pakenham Racecourse on the second Saturday every month is one of the best places to buy fresh local produce - straight from the grower.
Whether it's free range eggs, cheese, meat (beef, rabbit, pork etc) fish, wine or a wide range of veggies, you can find it all at Pakenham.
So many markets have stalls from all over the place which can hardly be described at 'local' (although I suppose it's local somewhere).
We always do well at Pakenham and have built up a regular customer base - but it's great to see that there are always new faces.
The region is growing so quickly. It's one of the fastest growing areas in the State with houses being built on an unprecedented scale - so the future of the market looks pretty secure.
If you're planning to be at the market this Saturday, come and say hello!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Illegal eggs sold at markets

I had a reasonable day selling our free range eggs at the Kongwak market in South Gippsland today, but it was interesting that at least three other stalls were selling eggs.
It is potentially a real problem for consumers, as even though the number of bodgy eggs was small - probably around 15 dozen in total - consumers are at risk.
The eggs were packed in second hand cartons (which is illegal), they did not met labelling requirements and none of the sellers had food safety programs in place.
The biggest problem for us is that if consumers get sick from eating eggs and they say they bought them at one of the markets where we are the only 'official' egg sellers, we will have to convince health authorities that the eggs were not ours.
It is still a significant issue as the cost of compliance with food safety regulations (including labelling, using new cartons, candeling and grading requirements, refrigeration etc) all add to our costs. The backyard operators ignore all those regulations.
Given the number of markets held each week in Victoria, it's likely that at least 5000 dozen 'illegal' eggs are dumped on consumers at markets. That's around 260,000 dozen a year in the State of Victoria alone - probably more than a million dozen throughout Australia.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Climate Change Petition

On June 7th a petition on global warming will be presented to the G8+5 summit - the meeting of politicians who regard themselves as the most important in the world! Germany is chairing the summit, and is leading the many countries who support strong action on climate change. The German negotiators want an unprecedented global outcry from citizens to strengthen their ability to influence the others -- particularly the US.
If you feel like helping please sign up at:

Friday, May 25, 2007

Is vertical farming the answer?

The mad scientists are at it again! The great minds of the world reckon that by the year 2050, nearly 80% of the earth's population will reside in urban centers. Applying conservative estimates to current demographic trends, the human population will increase by about 3 billion people. More than 300 million hectares of new land will be needed to grow enough food to feed them. So what do the mad scientists think up as the solution?
The Vertical Farm. Have a look at and see if you think it's a crock.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Farm tour by Conservationists

Members of the South Gippsland Conservation toured the Freeranger farm on Sunday to see how we do things to achieve low environmental impact - as well as producing top eggs!
We had a discussuion about the mobile sheds, flocks of around 200 hens - each protected by a Maremma guard dog, no off-site nutrient inputs etc and then headed down to the Bass River to look at the vegetation.
This is part of the only remaining riparian forest left on the Bass.
On the way down we could see the vegetation on adjoining land, which had been identified as habitat for the endangered Giant Gippsland Earthworm. It has now been trashed by the sand extraction company which owns the land by running a herd of massive Simmental catle in the bush!
We looked as water flows in the creek which rises on the sand company land and flows through our property to the Bass. In the height of summer (particularly during drought periods) our creek is one of the only permanent contributers to the river flow. That will almost certainly end when sand extraction starts.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Bass Coast Shire - environmental vandals - send in the clowns

Bass Coast is living up to its 'red-neck' reputation by ripping up roadside vegetation which it designated as significant. One wonders what was the point in spending money on environmental consultants to identify native vegetation on the roadsides and rank its significance if the tractors and slashers are sent in to destroy it - or maybe that was the cunning plan!
"Lets see what we have that's important and then we can have fun destroying it!"
Despite an assurance by senior Shire staff that roadside work would not be undertaken, today the Shire sent in a tractor and slasher for the second time in a month along Stanley Road in Grantville - one of the most important pieces of roadside vegetation in the whole of the Shire.
Not really the way to run Council services but the problem ratepayers have is that no-one cares.
It's no wonder there is so little native vegetation left in the Shire. There are a handful of Flora and Fauna Reserves and Nature Conservation Reserves. A little can be found along the foreshore (but residents clear much of it to gain a sea view or because it looks untidy). Most of it on private land has already been cleared for 'development' or agriculture, what is left will be stripped away once sand extraction starts on a major scale and the rest is on the roadsides - at the mercy of the Shire vandals!
Council bureaucrats seem to believe that spending ratepayers dollars on Landcare staff absolves them from any recognition that the retention of native vegetation is important.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

What does free range mean - consumer survey

We'd like a few more responses to our survey on what free range egg buyers think they are buying. Earlier results have been collated and are published on this Blog, but we would like more input.
Recent egg substitution problems in the UK have shown that the problem is widespread. But in many parts of the world the real issue is that there is no real national definition of the term free range which means the same to you as it does to producers. It will help if we get a meaningful definition that means the same thing to everybody.
Please take a little time to respond with your thoughts about what “Free Range” means to you.
For example:
Do you think free range hens forage over pasture during most daylight hours?
Do you think there is a limit on the number of hens in one shed or on one area of land? If so how many hens and how large should the area of land be?
Do you think free range hens are de-beaked (or beak trimmed)?
Do you look for accreditation details on the label to ensure that the eggs you buy are really free range?
Is it OK to use lighting to extend daylight hours in free range sheds (to increase the numbers of eggs laid) ?
Do you buy free range eggs because: they taste better; more humane treatment of animals; or some other reason?
Where do you buy your free range eggs; from a supermarket, health food shop, local store, direct from a farm or do you have home delivery?
Please write as much or as little as you like on each topic and feel free to add any additional thoughts.
Email address:

Monday, March 26, 2007

Meat that glows in the dark!

I was rather surprised last night when feeding our dogs to notice that several bones and pieces of meat were glowing with little pinpricks of light all over them. It would have been easy to jump to the conclusion that the meat was radioactive or had been contaminated with phosphorus, but then I remembered that such glowing is caused by the harmless Pseudomonas fluorescens bacteria. It's just a sign that the meat has probably passed its use by date!
It would be interesting to see how much of the meat we consume actually glows - but most of us will never know as we normally prepare our meals with the lights on.

Freeranger back to South Gippsland Farmers' Market

The South Gippsland Farmer's Market at Koonwarra was one of the first genuine farmers' markets in Victoria offering only produce direct from the farmer to the customer.
It's success has been a result of sticking with local producers and offering food that is always fresh and which has a regional variation to make the market unique.
Many markets in Victoria have stallholders from all over the State, which makes a mockery of any claims that the produce being offered is local to the area in which it is being sold. Often the same stalls sell products made in factories or in commercial kitchens from produce bought at normal wholesale fruit and vegetable markets - hardly what Farmers' Markets are supposed to be about.
The attraction of the real Farmers' Markets is the regional variation - there's no point in going if you can get the same stuff everywhere!
We were one of the original farm stalls when the market started at Koonwarra and we are returning for the Easter market held at Koonwarra on Saturday April 7.
We are very pleased to be coming back to Koonwarra because we always felt it was a great market. We unfortunately had to make a commercial decision to stop going to Koony because of eggs being brought in from interstate which reduced demand for the local product. There were also consumer health issues with illegal eggs being sold by backyard operators using secondhand cartons and with no food safety programs in place.
It looks like the situation has now been resolved.
We are also now selling our eggs at the Kongwak market on most Sundays.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Strzeleckis in jeopardy

It's hard to understand the motives of some people in underming actions which can generate a huge environmental and community benefit. But John Gunson, the current chairman of the South Gippsland Conservation Society appears to be hell-bent on derailing the agreement between Hancocks, the Victorian Government and the Community.

Why? We have no idea, but hopefully he will be in touch to expain!!!!!!!!!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Strzelecki forest deal may be drawing to a close

My post last November about the deal struck between the Victorian Government and the US logging group Hancocks may have been a little premature. The company seems to be going out of its way to stuff up the deal!
Have a look at this site.
Hope they wake up to themselves before it all falls in a heap!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Featherless Chickens - where will the mad scientists go next?

The creation of featherless chickens must seem like a dream come true for KFC and all involved in the huge broiler chicken industry. Apparently after years of research, scientists are just about ready to launch the featherless chicken onto the market.
Here's part of a report from the World Poultry magazine:
'In 1954, the American researchers Abbott and Asmundson found several featherless
mutants among New Hampshire chicks that hatched at the University of California
at Davis. The mutation, named “Scaleless”, has been bred and maintained since then in
Davis and in several other research institutions.
The Scaleless line, like its New Hampshire origin, is, according to Prof. Cahaner “a good egg-producer but with a small body and not much of a meal.”
Prof. Cahaner started 12 years ago to pursue his interest in the “naked neck” and “frizzle” genes that reduce the feather coverage of chickens, and a few years ago he came across the idea of
using the scaleless mutant to breed a completely featherless broiler. In an interview
with World Poultry, he said that the idea was to backcross the small scaleless chickens
into a large, fast-growing broiler line in order to develop, “featherless broiler chickens
which grow as fast as the commercial feathered-covered broilers that reached the
marketing weight of 2-2,5 kg in just six weeks.” He noted that intensive breeding of
fast-growing broilers started some 60 years ago. “Twenty years ago broilers reached the
marketing weight at about 9 weeks. Today, broilers reach that stage after six weeks,
which has an enormous economic advantage
The featherless broilers created by Prof. Cahaner have apparently been bred using conventional crosses between scaleless chickens and commercial broilers, followed by backcrossing and selective breeding. “We did not employ any genetic engineering procedures in breeding the featherless broiler. The skin of the naked chicken is a normal skin, but
with no feather follicles and no subcutaneous fat”, Cahaner noted. The Israeli geneticist
added that in the late 1970s, featherless broilers were bred and evaluated at
the University of Connecticut but, he explained, “these broilers did not grow as fast
as commercial broilers do today and for them overheating had not yet emerged as a
serious problem, hence they were not considered useful at that time,” as he was quoted
in The New York Times
Don't know about you, but it looks like a crock to me!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Bass Coast Shire stuffing up again

It is always a problem looking at the way services are delivered to ratepayers but Bass Coast Shire has to be one of the most pathetic community adminstrators in Australia.
There are a heap of problems, but one is the 'maintainance' of roadsides. Stanley Road, in Grantville is a great example. After various surveys, it was designated as one of the most significant roadsides in the Shire. But Council allowed a contractor to slash and destroy a swath of native vegetation on both sides of the road without any consultation with adjoining lanholders.
The result is a continuing fire hazard and a loss of habitat for Blue Wrens and a variety of other species.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

On-farm biodiversity is the key to success

We have always believed that the maintenance of on-farm biodiversity is the key to having a long term, sustainable business. It is becoming ever more certain that more extreme weather conditions, as part of emerging climate change will make it difficult for farmers to sustain highly specialized production.
A US study has calculated that diverse, synergistic farms can be profitable and simultaneously benefit the environment. Some farmers are successfully experimenting with biodiversity.
Joel Salatin, of Polyface Farms near Swoope, Virginia (US) has developed a rotational grazing production system featuring pastures containing at least 40 varieties of plants and numerous animal species. Salatin’s farm uses little fossil fuel, yet the farm is highly productive. The 57-hectare farm annually produces 30,000 dozen eggs, 10,000 to 12,000 broilers, 100 beef animals, 250 pigs, 800 turkeys, and 600 rabbits.
Production at the Freeranger Farm is not that large, but the principles are similar and we maintain a balance with our natural ecosystems. Sustainability is what we are about.
Farming systems that are less energy intensive, more flexible in the face of unstable climates, and that produce a variety of products are likely to be the future of agriculture. When farms convert from monocultures to more diverse operations, net farm income can increase by as much as 108% while generating significant environmental and social benefits. Specialised, intensive and industrialised production methods are not as efficient as some 'experts' have been telling us.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Drought is still an Aussie Problem

The farm is still in the midst of drought. I've never seen the paddocks so dry and I'm just so thankful that we sold off most of our cattle eighteen months ago.
If we had tried to keep them, we would be in such financial strife because the end is still not in sight.
An uncle of my wife always used to say that he couldn't sleep at night unless he had three years of hay in the shed. So the problems we are having now are not new!
The drought keeps pushing up the cost of grain which means we have to increase the price of our free range eggs - but at some point it seems likely that we won't have any water for the hens or for us. Our tanks have around 40,000 litres left - so we are anxiously looking at the sky (and the barometer) for any signs of rain.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Bird flu immunity?

It seems that many people may be immune to bird flu despite wide concern amongst scientists and a level of panic from various Governments since an outbreak of bird flu in south east Asia spread to neighbouring countries in 2004. The fear has been (and still is) that the H5N1 strain of avian influenza could create a pandemic, killing millions of people.
Research on mice and humans has found that people have a natural resistance to various flu strains and this could include immunity against bird flu.
Researchers at St Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Tennessee say that seasonal human flu (H1N1) and bird flu contain a related disease agent, neuraminidase (N1) . People who are immune to the human version could have a similar resistance to bird flu.
The researchers wondered if people infected with one strain of influenza might have partial immunity to another strain. No one has complete immunity, because flu can infect the same person over and over again.
But maybe there is just enough there to keep the new infection from being deadly.
Researchers tested blood samples from 38 human volunteers and their ability to inactivate neuraminidase from the human N1 virus and two H5N1 viruses. Most of the samples were active against the protein from the human flu virus, with eight of nine inhibiting the protein from both H5N1 strains.
The conclusion was that many people may be naturally immune to the effects of avian influenza.
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases described the research as "tantalising" but said that further work was needed to demonstrate real protection against avian flu.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The size of eggs and value per kilogram

It's taken me a while to even think about this (and I have no idea why it took so long) but I've just worked out the relative value per kilo of the different size eggs our hens lay.
We offer six sizes of eggs starting with pullets eggs when a new flock begins to lay. They work out at $3.60 per kilo.
A 500 gram 10 pack (50 gram eggs) works out at $8 per kilo, a 700 g dozen pack is $7.80 a kilo, 770 g packs are $7.80 a kilo, 840 g packs are $7.70 a kilo and 950 g megga packs (some of these eggs are over 100 grams each) are $7.40 per kilo.
The pullets eggs obviously represent top value and we will pushing them at the Churchill Island Farmers' Market on Australia Day.
The protein content of eggs is 124 gram per kilo so it's the best value protein on the market.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Frequently Asked Questions about Free Range Eggs

The question I am asked most often is “How do I know your hens are really free range”? The answer is very simple – because we are inspected once a year by the Free Range Farmers Association to ensure that we comply with their regulations. If the inspector found that we had de-beaked birds on the property, we had too many hens in our sheds or that our pasture cover wasn’t adequate for the numbers of hens we had, our accreditation would be withdrawn. Similarly if we didn’t have an audit trail which showed how many eggs we produced and how many were sold – we would have a few questions to answer!

Then we are asked “How fresh are the eggs”? Demand for our eggs is so great that they are basically laid to order. Our regular deliveries often have to wait a few minutes (or a couple of hours) while enough eggs are laid the fill the orders. It’s great for the customers but a bit of a nightmare for us waiting to get enough eggs to start the delivery run. The answer is that the eggs are always fresh – some are delivered very soon after being laid (still warm), some may be delivered a day or two later as the order is filled. None of our eggs hang around in the cool room more than a day or two.

Another favorite is “How often do you collect the eggs”? We collect eggs by hand at least three times a day – mid morning, around lunchtime and mid afternoon. When we are desperate to fill an order we will collect more frequently.

Sometimes people want to know “How do you package the eggs”? Once they are collected and delivered into the air-conditioned grading room, the eggs are inspected for any obvious cracks or dirt. We wash none of our eggs – we believe that washed eggs should be regarded as seconds and not retailed. If a farm has a significant number of dirty eggs, it has a management problem! Any eggs which require more than a light buffing with a dry abrasive pad are disgarded. All first quality eggs are then candled (passed over a light mechanism to illuminate the egg and show any hairline cracks, air bubbles or blood spots inside. Any eggs which fail this test are also disgarded. The eggs then continue through the grading process where they are graded according to weight, placed into egg cartons (or on trays for restaurants) and labelled accordingly. It is a requirement for new cartons to be used and for labelling to include details of the producer, a 'best before' or 'use by' date, a nutritian panel and the production method - free range, cage or barn.
If you see eggs for sale in second hand cartons don't buy them, and better still, report the seller to your local council health inspector because it's your health which is at risk. All egg producers who sell their eggs (even if only a couple of dozen a week) must have a food safety program in place and must comply with the same regulations as registered producers.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Free Range Eggs - what are they? Consumer Survey

We've had a good response to the survey on what free range egg buyers think they are buying. Some of the early results have been collated and are published on this Blog, but we would like more input.

In many parts of the world there is no real national definition of the term free range which means the same to you as it does to producers. It is helping to get a meaningful definition by getting the industry to understand what consumers think free range eggs are.

In New South Wales a definition is published on the website of the Department of Primary Industries - but it is not enforced!

Please take a little time to respond with your thoughts about what “Free Range” means to you.
For example:

Do you think free range hens forage over pasture during most daylight hours?

Do you think there is a limit on the number of hens in one shed or on one area of land? If so how many hens and how large should the area of land be?

Do you think free range hens are de-beaked (or beak trimmed)?

Do you look for accreditation details on the label to ensure that the eggs you buy are really free range?

Is it OK to use lighting to extend daylight hours in free range sheds (to increase the numbers of eggs laid) ?

Do you buy free range eggs because: they taste better; more humane treatment of animals; or some other reason?

Where do you buy your free range eggs; from a supermarket, health food shop, local store, direct from a farm or do you have home delivery?

Please write as much or as little as you like on each topic and feel free to add any additional thoughts.

Email address:


Here is a transcript from an Australian TV program which details many of the concerns facing consumers and legitimate free range producers

Monday, January 15, 2007

Did we come from Mars?

With each passing year we (the human race) seem to get better at stuffing up this planet. To some this suggests that we have experience.

So does this mean that we moved here from somewhere else - such as Mars?
That is a pretty dry and dusty planet which seems to be the model we are hell-bent on re-creating here.

It doesn't take much of an intellect to work out the problems we are causing with deforestation. One of man's greatest achievements was the creation of the Sahara Desert - and we want to create more in Australia, the Amazon Basin and just about everywhere, all in the name of progress and the ultimate God - development.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Biodiesel - Chicken Power?

Two US entrepreneurs say they will spend $5 million building a biodiesel plant using chicken fat to produce fuel.
Chicken fat is an economic alternative to soybean oil – which accounts for around 90 percent of all biodiesel fuel stock, but is now increasing in price. Currently, Soybean oil costs around 72 cents a kilo, while chicken fat costs 42 cents.
Jerry Bagby and Harold Williams, through their company Global Fuels, plan to refine chicken fat and mix it with soybean oil to produce more than 13 million litres of biodiesel annually.
A nearby poultry plant will be an ideal source of the fat, which is usually shipped away to be rendered as a cheap ingredient to flavour soup as well as pet food, soap and other products.
It seems that cheap animal fats will be increasingly sought as a resource for biodiesel, and many large corporations will jump on the bandwagon.
Vernon Eidman, a biofuel expert at the University of Minnesota, estimates that within five years the US will produce 4.5 billion litres of biodiesel and that half of it will be made from animal fat. By that time, soybean-based biodiesel will account for about 20 percent of the total, he said.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Two clowns on trail bikes

It's New Years Day and two people on trail bikes have just ridden into the Grantville Flora Reserve - not a smart thing to do in summer (quite apart from it being illegal).
If they start a fire with their hot exhausts, people will whinge and wail - but the dumb thing is they are probably from a residential estate near the reserve and it's their homes which are risk.
The bikes almost certainly aren't registered either so if they hit someone there will be quite a legal tussle.
If these are kids, parents don't seem to realise (or care) the implications for them if their children are involved in an incident which causes injury or property loss.