Thursday, December 22, 2011

Rates notice saga continues

The saga of our rates from Bass Coast Shire looks likely to continue for a while. I had another 'phone conversation with another lady from the Shire today.
Apparently the Shire data bank has our property listed as being in Glen Forbes (which is fine, I don't give a hoot where they say the property is). But I couldn't get an explanation from her why they can't send the rates notice to our postal address - which is Grantville.
Not hard I would have thought!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bass Coast Shire rates notice stuff-up

It's that time of year when council rates notices are sent out and it's always interesting seeing how much the local council wants to take out of our pockets. But this year we don't know - yet. Here in Bass Coast Shire we don't get much for our rates - so maybe this year they've decided to give our farm a rate holiday.

The rates notice hasn't arrived!  Unfortunately I don't think they are being generous. Last year, for some inexplicable reason, they decided that our rates notices should be sent to Stanley Road, Glen Forbes (which doesn't exist) instead of our real address in Grantville with a 3984 postcode.

I had a conversation today with a very pleasant lady from the Shire - but it didn't resolve anything. Why on earth do they have to fiddle.  Grantville has been our address for around 30 years. But we are happy not to receive rates notices - as long as they don't expect any penalties for late payment.

Wonder how long this will take to sort out !!!!

Enforcement of European cage laws may begin in the New Year

THIRTEEN member states have been warned they face legal action because of their failure to comply with the imminent EU barren battery cage egg ban.

EU Health Commissioner John Dali has told Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) that letters have already been sent to those member states that have made ‘little or no effort’ to conform to the new laws, informing them they will be taken to court.

Mr Dalli also confirmed that Commission inspection teams are ready to go ‘all out’ from January 1, when the ban on conventional cages comes in, to collect the evidence of non compliance to back up prosecutions when they go to court.

The 13 member states already in breach of new rules are: Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Spain, Greece, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and the Netherlands.

The European Commission has been heavily criticised for its failure to take firmer action to force member states to comply with the ban and to prevent trade in illegally produced eggs between member states after January 1.

Scottish Liberal Democrat MEP George Lyon welcomed comments by the Commissioner at a recent meeting.

Mr Lyon said Mr Dalli had given him a guarantee that there would be no extension of the January 1 deadline, no derogations and ‘no escape route for those who have failed to comply’.

“I was pleased to hear that infringement procedures have already been started against member states that have chosen to flout the law and that EU inspectors are poised ready to gather evidence against them from the start of 2012,” he said.

“I hope the tough action he is taking will send a message to those countries who think that they can get off the hook by turning a blind eye that they better think again and get their hen houses in order.”

The UK Government has also been criticised for not doing more to protect domestic producers from illegally produced egg imports. Farming Minister Jim Paice said earlier this month that the UK could not enforce a unilateral ban due to the ‘very significant legal and practical implications’ and practical difficulties in implementing it.

Instead the UK will be relying largely on a voluntary food industry ban to keep illegal produce out of the country, or at least force them into the lower value processing sector.

Mr Lyon urged the Commission to ‘back to the hilt’ countries like the UK who he said are using ‘every means at their disposal to try and ban illegally produced eggs from entering their markets’.

“If that type of action is taken by all countries that are compliant it should hit hard at the pockets of illegal producers and force them to get out or upgrade,” he said.

NFU Scotland vice president of John Picken was unimpressed by the Commission’s belated actions of ‘sending letters and preparing teams to go out for inspection after the deadline has passed’. He called on the Commission and the UK Government to take a ‘stronger stance’ on enforcement of the regulations.

“We are days away from Scottish producers finding themselves at a competitive disadvantage as a result of complying with standards set by Europe. And once again the deeply disappointing message to industry is that Commission deadlines, and threats of infringement proceedings, are largely ineffectual,” he said.

“Scottish farmers who have complied in good faith ahead of the deadline face a competitive disadvantage, having borne the significant cost of moving to an enriched cage, barn or free range system.”

Monday, December 19, 2011

FRFA response to Egg Corp's carbon claims

The Free Range Farmers Association agrees with the Australian Egg Corporation that eggs have a lower carbon footprint that any other source of protein, but points out the inaccuracy of assertions that cage egg production is more carbon friendly than free range production.

Grain consumption, energy inputs and transport costs are recognised as the main contributors to the carbon footprint of the egg industry.

The Australian Egg Corporation claims that data prepared for it by consultants, using figures from three egg producers, shows that free range egg production has a higher carbon footprint that cage production – but it does not have the facts to back up this assertion.

It has not revealed any information about the carbon footprint of the infrastructure on intensive farms – the hundreds of cubic metres of concrete, massive shedding etc., or the costs of transporting feed grain from interstate and the transport costs of sending eggs all over Australia.

It has has based its claims on a desk-top review of three selected egg farms in an effort to discredit the free range egg industry.

However, a two year sustainability study of five free range egg farms in the Port Phillip & Westernport Catchment Management Authority area of Victoria showed clearly that feed input costs decreased with lower stocking densities.

One outcome from the nutrient balance figures obtained in that study was that feed consumption increased with stock density. This implied that reliance upon pasture as a feed source decreased as stock density increased.

This table demonstrated the comparative feed inputs.


Lay rate
Feed consumption
Stocking rate
Grantville
70%
26kg/hen/yr
9 DSE/ha
Labertouche
65%
35kg/hen/yr
30 DSE/ha
Poowong
80%
45kg/hen/yr
44 DSE/ha
Myrniong
65%
48kg/hen/yr
75 DSE/ha

With a stocking rate of 9 DSE (Dry Sheep Equivalent), feed input was just 26kg a year per hen - about 70 grams of feed a day. With a stocking rate of 75 DSE, feed input almost doubled to 48 kg – about 130 grams per day.

The Australian Egg Corporation allows stocking densities on its accredited 'free range' farms of over 300 DSE.

The study was conducted by an independent agronomist for the Free Range Farmers Association and was funded by the Federal Government's Envirofund program.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Egg Corp carbon claims don't add up

The AECL claims that new research suggests that freerange egg production has a higher carbon footprint than cage egg production. We all agree that eggs provide the lowest carbon footprint of all the main protein foods. Egg Corp Managing Director, James Kellaway, said the research was another good reason for consumers to include eggs as part of their daily diet.
“This study has highlighted some surprising results, including suggesting that the humble egg is now the highest quality protein food with the lowest emissions.
But the research also highlighted that there is still scope for refinements to current practices in egg production to allow further reductions in emissions.
AECL wishes to conduct further studies on this important topic,” Mr Kellaway said.
“With greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions front of mind for many, this research provides consumers with the information they need to help reduce their carbon footprints when buying foods,” he said.
The research project, conducted by Steve Wiedemann and Eugene McGahan (and commissioned by AECL), used Life Cycle Assessment to study the GHG emissions from three egg farms over one year.
The researchers also found that:
  • Cage production delivered a lower carbon footprint than free range egg production
  • Greenhouse gas emissions from cage egg production was 1.3kg of CO2-e per kg of eggs (carbon dioxide equivalence, including methane and nitrous oxide)
  • Emissions from free range egg production was found to be 1.6kg of CO2-e per kg of eggs
  • Australian egg production had a lower carbon footprint than several European egg studies (mainly due to the more efficient grain production in Australia)
  • The largest carbon impacts in the supply chain were: feed grain production, then manure management and energy use at the layer farm
  • Free range egg production’s carbon footprint was found to be about 20% higher than caged production due to the fact that it uses more feed per kilogram of eggs produced compared to the feed efficiencies of cage egg production. 

For a copy of the research, please contact AECL Communications Manager, Kai Ianssen, on (02) 9409 6909 or kai@aecl.org.
This was a desk-top review of existing data and did not involve any new research. Previous findings have demonstrated clearly that grain feed consumption increases significantly as stocking density increases. So of course highly intensive farms - which are almost certainly the type selected for this 'research' will have demonstrated a high carbon footprint. The intensive farms are more likely to bring feed in from interstate, and will also transport their eggs over vast distances - increasing their emissions compared with traditional free range farms which are more likely to utilise local feed supplies and distribute their eggs within the local region.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sustainable food directory planned for Australia

A directory of sustainable food producers in Australia, including Farmers Markets etc will be up an running from February. Here's a link to the project.
http://www.localharvest.org.au/

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Times of India rant on 'free range' eggs

Here's a piece from the Economic Times, the Sunday supplement of the Times of India. They don't like what's happening to their egg industry either!!!!!
 http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/11063496.cms

Friday, December 09, 2011

Closure of an abattoir in gippsland

Here's a plea from a mate, Gordon Rouse, about the way a small family-owned abattoir was closed down because of the totaly illegal and unacceptable actions of one employee.

Last week saw the free-range animal industry in Victoria take a huge beating. The tragedy began when an abattoir worker in Trafalgar broke the trust invested in him by 'torturing' a pig.

The ordeal could have easily ended there, with worker dissmissed and charged for cruelty to animals, and the abattoir owner paying a fine (a donation to an animal charity) for failing in their duty as managers. Such an outome would have been just and fair in most peoples eyes. Instead, the abattoir has been forced to close, terminating the employment of all its staff and putting the livelihoods of several small free-range producers, and local businesses at stake.

On Saturday 3rd of December, the CEO of Primesafe was quoted as saying he would shut down the business, even though the investigation his company was conducting was imcomplete. A few days later, the abattoir owners relinquished their licences and the business was closed indefinitely. While the family owners cannot comment on what made them choose to relinquish their license, CEO of Primsafe - Brian Casey was quite happy to deny any responsibility in forcing the business to close when interviewed on the 7:30 report.

Based on comments made earlier, the closing of the abattoir was certainly an outcome Primesafe desired.

Why would Primsafe desire such an outcome?

A few weeks ealier we read in the paper about a chicken processing plant in eastern Melbourne, where chicken carcasses were being innapropriately stored, workers were getting injured and killed, and casual labourers being grossly underpaid. When did Primsesafe CEO Brian Casey make a statement that this factory ought to be closed?

If local food is to remain viable, we need small abattoirs that service the direct-to-consumer meat industry. Naturally we want these abattoirs to operate humanely, but they need to be given as much right to a second chance as larger abattoirs. Shutting down small abattoirs is a step backwards for the humane treatment of animals and a blow in the head for local food.

If you want to support the family and the town of Trafalgar, you can register yourself as a member of the facebook group "Community support for LE Giles & sons". I warn you that some views expressed on this page are regrettable, but should be seen in the light of the anger the abattoirs closure has caused.

You may wish also write to local Victorian state members of parliament.

There are two aspects to this issue that should warrant review:

1./ The action of Primesafe CEO Brian Casey in making comments while the matter was under investigation, a luxury not available to the business owners.
2./ The non-transparent nature by which a business is forced to reliquish its abattoir license.

Seeing past the issue of animal cruelty is an issue of injustice to a local community and the destruction of a decent food industry. The actions of Primesafe have punished the innocent with the guilty, and surely this a grave injustice also?

Egg Industry Strategic Planning Workshop gives food for thought

Many egg producers will have received a copy of the workshop report following the AECL meeting in Tassie last month. They will have noted the following details – but for those who haven't received a copy, this might help. It makes interesting reading.

Apparently, many participants at the workshop agreed that industry credibility was the highest strategic priority for the Egg Corporation – which makes many producers wonder why the Egg Corp. is trying to undermine confidence in the free range sector with its determination to adopt a new standard which has no science behind it.

Some of the key points in the report which makes us smile (or want to throw things) are:

AECL Action

A credible egg industry will be delivered through the development, adoption and enforcement of Egg Standards Australia ( ESA). ESA must have integrity, it must be a national standard, third party audited and established and enforced at 'arms length' from the egg industry.. Key ESA requirements (hen welfare and food safety) should be supported by independent science (eg maximums for birds per hectare in free range systems and enforced). Development of ESA will be an ongoing and iterative process, The QA program's status and requirements must be communicated by AECL through the state farmers organisations and in local meetings with egg producers.

AECL must work with the egg industry to deliver traceability truth-in-labelling and drive substitution out of the the system.

Elimination of substitution might be one KPI (Key Performance Indicator) for the next strategic plan. Achieving a single customer and producer agreed QA system might be another.

Industry Cohesion and Unity

We require an industry that is internally and externally conhesive and united, one that develops appropriate partnerships and nurtures its members.

An internally cohesive industry is one where there is unity on policy positions, there are agreed standards and egg producers adhere to them.

The egg industry needs to appropriately position itself in the animal welfare debate. It must 'get stuck in' be proactive and form relationships with advocacy groups so that collaboration informs elements of the welfare, code and standards debates and target debates that are relevant and winnable. Egg producers need an industry and an AECL that understands commercial reality, the benefits and costs of entering policy debates, what influences consumers and what does not and has the wisdom to stay away from internally divisive and unproductive issues.

The Egg Corporation has a great deal to learn about developing industry cohesion, unity, nurturing its members, developing standards which meet member expectations and what 'commercial reality' actually means.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Freeranger Eggs is now accredited as part of the Humane Choice program

We are now accredited by the Humane Society International's Humane Choice program. We think it's important to ensure that there is a credible certification system which is recognisable across Australia to combat the misinformation being peddled by the Australian Egg Corporation.
Consumers are already being mislead by the labelling of eggs as 'free range' which have been produced on intensive farms - and that will get worse if AECL succeeds in getting its new standards accepted.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Australian Government swallows Egg Corp con

According to the latest letter from the Australian Government's Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (dated 24th November 2011), the Department accepts the bluster from the Australian Egg Corporation that the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals - Domestic Poultry does not specify an upper limit on stocking densities for free range hens. In reality, the Model Code makes it clear that 1500 birds per hectare is the maximum density for free range egg laying hens, but higher densities may be permitted for meat birds if continuing fodder cover can be maintained. The Code is perfectly clear. A maximum density of 1500 birds per hectare is in place for egg laying hens designated as 'free range'. That has been used as the standard for many years - even by the AECL for its Egg Corp Assured program.
But the issue may be resolved by the Ausralian Competition and Consumer Commission. Formal complaints have been lodged by a number of organisations, including the Free Range Egg & Poultry Association of Australa, and various individual egg farmers about the interpretation of the Model Code and the Egg Corp plans to allow increased stocking densities.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

More from the Arab News

The latest Arab News has more about the benefits of eating free range eggs.
http://arabnews.com/lifestyle/article540701.ece

Thursday, November 17, 2011

E-book on keeping free range hens

Our E-books on keeping chickens have been real winners. We have two versions - one for backyarders who only want a few hens to lay eggs for their own families (or to swap produce with neighbours) and one for people interested in setting up a small commercial free range farm.
It's available through the Freeranger Eggs website at:
   http://www.freeranger.com.au/products.html

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

'Free Range' - should be more than just a label

Figures show that in August there were record sales of free range eggs in Australia - or more correctly there were record sales of eggs labelled as free range.
http://sl.farmonline.com.au/news/nationalrural/agribusiness-and-general/general/buyers-flock-to-free-range/2349272.aspx?src=rss
The Australian Egg Corporation is keen to suggest that their version of intensive 'free range' production meets consumer demand and expectation.  It demonstrates the urgent need for politicians to legislate the Model Code.

Have a look at this video

Here's a short video about farm production
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMfSGt6rHos&feature=player_embedded

Monday, November 07, 2011

Truth in Labelling to be discussed at next COAG meeting

Free Range egg farmers across Australia welcome the decision by the NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, to table 'Truth in Labelling' as an issue for discussion at the December COAG meeting (Council of Australian Governments).
It is hoped that the State and Federal Governments will help protect family farms from the onslaught of big business by legislating the provisions of the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals - Domestic Poultry.
The Australian Egg Corporation has been misleading in its references to stocking densities and its proposals for intensive production systems to be designated as 'free range'.

If the Model Code is enshrined in legislation, it will greatly assist all in the industry, as well as increasing consumer confidence. One of the major problems at present is that the Model Code is a voluntary document. Even though the Australian Egg Corporation says that compliance with the Code is a requirement of its Egg Corp Assured program it does not enforce any of the provisions it contains.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Supermarket wars to get tougher

THE new chief executive of Woolworths, Grant O’Brien is planning to double Woolies sale of home brand products, bringing it closer to supermarkets in Britain and the US, where the category dominates shelves and generates massive earnings.
The battle with Coles for market dominance will see many manufacturers and producers (including egg farmers who choose to supply the supermarkets) facing tighter margins as the two retail giants screw down prices.
And the Australian Egg Corporation is playing their game by trying to introduce standards which will help the supermarkets cut the margins of all their egg suppliers - which is likely to have a flow-on effect throughout the industry.
It is thought that Mr O’Brien, who has only been in the top job at Woolworths for a month, has targeted an increase in space allocated to home brand goods to eventually capture about 35 per cent of total sales - and more than 50% for staples such as eggs, milk and bread.
And the Egg Corp claims to represent the interests of all egg producers!!!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Free Range video clip on YouTube

The Free Range Farmers Association now has a video on YouTube showing genuine free range egg production.The clip was shot by FRFA member Dan Green of Real Free Range Eggs on his property at Currajung South, in Gippsland.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wr0FVtIBTnw

Monday, October 24, 2011

The 'free range' scam keeps going

The Egg Corp still says it is determined to push ahead with its insane stocking density standard for free range production, even though it is against the interests of the free range sector of the industry - and as it is designed to have the impact of driving down prices, it will also affect the botom lines of the cage egg boys. One day they might wake up that once the price of eggs labelled as free range drops - so will the price of cage eggs !

TheTruth in Labelling (Free Range Eggs) Bill is likely to go to the NSW Lower House of Parliament sometime in November. The Egg Corp says that the Liberal Government won't support it - so it is likely to fail.

The Free Range Egg & Poultry Association of Australia has written to the Premier, Barry O'Farrell  and various other Ministers, asking them to support the Bill and we have also written to the NSW Farmers Association asking for their help in protecting family farms from the onslaught of big business.                    

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pansy with Daphne

Pansy reckons that 'her' new calf Daphne is just the best.  It's sad that most dairy cows don't get to raise calves, because in our experience they make tremendous mothers and they protect them from anything. We are still getting around six litres of creamy Jersey milk every day - even after Daphne has had her fill ! I'll be picking up another seperator tomorrow, but I'll also have a go at making clotted cream. We have enough cheese and butter already to last us for a while.


Historic vote coming up in NSW to define 'free range'

It now looks almost certain that the 'Truth in Labelling - Free Range Eggs Bill' will pass the NSW Upper House this week.
http://www.smh.com.au/environment/animals/parties-unite-on-freerange-eggs-bill-20111018-1lypc.html

We don't want to count our chickens ..... because the Egg Corporation is a powerful lobby group which will use its clout to bully the lower house politicians in a last ditch effort to dump any outside control over the big business sector which it represents.

 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Great use for eggs - pasta


Keep rolling til it's as thin as you want.
Home made pasta is a great use for our free range eggs. It doesn't take a great deal of time, but it tastes fantastic compared with the dried suff you buy in packets. It can be dropped straight into boiling water if you want a meal straight away, or hang it on a rack to dry for a meal tomorrow - or whenever. The pasts machine makes life a little easier, but it's pretty simple just to use a rolling pin and work the dough until it's the right consistency before cutting it into strips

Monday, October 17, 2011

Chook farming - the way it was

I came across these two old short films about egg farming, posted on YouTube. An interesting look at
'the good old days' ?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22KP21aEhm0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jRq2-kyxaB4

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Truth in Labelling aired on ABC's 7.30 in New South Wales

The ABC's 7.30 program ran an excellent report on Friday night of the scam being organised by the Australian Egg Corporation.  If you missed it (or you aren't in New South Wales) here's the link:
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-10-07/truth-in-labelling-bill-ruffles-feathers/3352920

It took a while to put it all together but the timing is tremendous as the Egg Corp's industry workshops start this Wednesday in Melbourne. Many producers are determined to stop the AECL from undermining the industry and destroying consumer confidence.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

New calf - reduces my milking chores

We had a new calf delivered today - so I don't have to milk Pansy twice a day! She's a real cutie (a Jersey cross) and Pansy thinks she's great. Unfortunately so does the old mare in the front paddock who wants to steal her.
I took a photo of her first session at the milk bar.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Three dogs and a goat

Daisy,Lill, Lexie and Baz the goat, enjoying the sun
The clocks went on to summer time today, so it was a slow start this morning as everyone tried to get used to the clocks going forward an hour.
As it was a very sunny day, the dogs made the most of it - basking in the sunshine just about all day, and they were joing by Baz the goat who thought that just lounging around was a great idea.
Pansy, the Jersey cow wasn't so impressed!!

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Egg Corp accredits 'free range' farms with 50,000 hens per hectare

It seems unbelieveable, but the Australian Egg Corporation has accredited three farms in New South Wales with outdoor stocking densities of 50,000 hens per hectare, even though the Model Code (to which accredited farms are supposed to adhere) suggests a stocking density of 1500 birds per hectare. 
More details on the Free Range Farmers Association website:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

First batch of butter

I made the first batch of butter from Pansy's cream today. 1.5 litres of cream gathered from four milkings yielded 600 grams of butter.  And we will have pancakes tonight made with buttermilk. Yum!
600 g of unsalted butter ready for packaging

In the past I've always used our Cherry Churn to make butter but I cheated today and used the Kenwood Chef- made a bit a mess though. I might go back to using the old churn.It needs a bit of work on one of the paddles - but that won't take long.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Australian Egg Corp squawking

The Australian Egg Corporation's latest newsletter contains this pathetic appeal:
AECL has been subjected to significant media interest during the past week. AECL urges all egg producers to act in a team-spirited manner as we create some very important policies for the industry. As mentioned earlier, the draft ESA will be open for industry consultation next month.
An AECL statement provided to media about the issue is pasted below.
The Australian Egg Corporation Ltd represents all egg production systems and we are in discussions with egg producers about new egg standards for Australia.
This standard must consider consumer expectations, robust science and commercial reality as it relates to bird health and welfare, food safety and environmental stewardship.
Stocking densities of up to two birds per metre square provide hens with the ability to display all their natural behaviours. They can roam while having access to food, water and shelter in the henhouse.
AECL is working to improve the current situation by establishing a cap on free range stocking densities. There is currently no cap on free range stocking densities. his is unacceptable. We believe these changes would be a substantial improvement on the current situation.
We seek this to be legislated and enforced by government.
The egg industry needs to feed a growing population with an affordable source of quality protein. This is our industry’s social responsibility. We believe this
definition will provide clarity, consistency and transparency.
For further information, please contact AECL Communications Manager, Kai Ianssen, on (02) 9409 6909 or
kai@aecl.org.
What a load of ....
Here's FRFA's response to James Kellaway, MD of the Egg Corp
'Our members look forward to the planned workshops on your Egg Standards Australia proposal, which we believe will mislead consumers and damage the environmental sustainability of farms. We note your comment:
'This standard must consider consumer expectations, robust science and commercial reality as it relates to bird health and welfare, food safety and environmental stewardship.'
Unfortunately your proposal does not meet consumer expectations or robust science. Despite an assurance by you that details would be provided, you have failed to provide evidence of the methodology of your 'Consumer Survey' and you have shown no evidence that egg production standards anywhere in the world are even close to your proposed high density 'free range' standard.
It is not credible for you to claim that this proposed standard will meet environmental stewardship requirements. The stocking density you propose would ensure that participating farms would be either mud baths or dust bowls - depending on the time of year.'

Monday, September 19, 2011

New house cow to provide all our milk, cream and butter

It's a few years since we had a house on the farm and I've missed making butter and cheese - as well as the taste of real milk!
But now we have Pansy, the Jersey house cow who is giving us around 8 litres a day - so we will have to get a calf to drink some of the milk !!
I'll probably make the first batch of butter tonight or tomorrow.



Thursday, September 15, 2011

Great story on the front page of SMH

It's not often that the egg industry is able to crack the front page of a major metropolitan newspaper, but we've done it this morning in the Sydney Morning Herald.
Have a look at :
http://www.smh.com.au/environment/animals/farmers-cackle-over-freerange-definition-20110914-1k9s9.html
The Australian Egg Corporation must have been dreaming if it thought it could get away with this! The proposed definition would be a total consumer deception and we are confident that the ACCC will jump on them from a great height if it is implemented.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

UK study shows benefits of trees in free range paddocks

A UK study about the benefits of trees and shubs in the paddocks where free range hens are allowed to roam found that the problems of feather pecking and cannibalism were reduced significantly. This university study (funded by McDonalds) will help in the argument against the Egg Corporation's intensive 'free range' proposal.

Domestic chickens are descended from the red junglefowl of south-east Asia and are found in areas where there is plenty of undergrowth, and overhead cover, which provides shade, shelter and protection from aerial predators (Johnson 1963; Johnsgard 1986). Horton (2006) found that with tree cover present, a higher proportion of hens in commercial freerange flocks ranged, and ranged further, compared to hens without range tree cover; in ranges with tree cover, the maximum numbers of hens outside were 50 m from the house compared with 10 m in ranges without cover.

Hegelund et al (2005) and Zeltner and Hirt (2008) demonstrated that artificial and tree/bush cover on the range can attract more hens away from the area immediately outside the house compared to ranges without cover, and that the variety and quality of cover was more important than the absolute amount of cover. Furthermore, there is a well-established link between range use and IFP (Injurious Feather Pecking) in commercial layinghen flocks; the higher the percentage of flocks using the outdoor range, the lower the prevalence of feather pecking (Green et al 2000; Bestman & Wagenaar 2003; Nicol et al 2003; Lambton et al 2010). In an experimental study by Mahboub et al (2004), a negative correlation was found between percent of time spent outside and plumage damage .

If providing cover on the range improves the number and distribution of hens using the range, and range use is negatively correlated with IFP, it might also be expected that range cover will be correlated with IFP. To our knowledge, however, the relationship between proportion of range cover or canopy cover and IFP has yet to be examined.

The study described the first results from an ongoing collaborative project between a major UK high street restaurant chain and two UK egg-producing companies, McDonald’s Restaurants Ltd, UK (McDonald’s), The Lakes Free Range Egg Co Ltd and Noble Foods Ltd. The aim of the project was to implement animal welfare research on a commercial scale and improve the welfare of laying hens within the McDonald’s supply chain. During 2007 and early 2008, all 286 laying hen producers (approximately one third are Lakes and two-thirds are Noble), were required by McDonald’s to plant, if not present already, 5% of the total range area in trees (decided upon after consultation of existing farm assurance free-range standards, cost and practical considerations). There was a large variation in tree cover because of the proportion of the range on which producers decided to plant trees, the timing of planting prior to flock placements and the presence of existing tree stands.

The objective of this study was to investigate, in a commercial situation, the correlation between: i) proportion of range cover and ii) proportion of canopy cover, with plumage damage of end-of-lay hens.

The full report is available from Universities Federation for Animal Welfare

The Old School, Brewhouse Hill, Wheathampstead,Hertfordshire AL4 8AN, UK

or by contacting us at Freeranger Eggs

Friday, September 09, 2011

ACCC acts on 'roaming' chickens

Major meat chicken suppliers in Victoria are facing court for allegedly claiming their chooks roam freely in spacious barns.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has launched Federal Court action against Baiada Poultry and Bartter Enterprises and Turi Foods, which supply chickens to Steggles and La Ionica respectively, and peak industry body the Australian Chicken Meat Federation Inc.

All three are accused of claiming their chickens have been raised in spacious barns where they can roam freely, similar to free-range birds.

If the action is successful, it will send a great message to all those intensive 'free range' egg producers who are making a fortune out of gullible consumers and slack regulations.

The consumer watchdog claims chickens raised in barns cannot enjoy a free range-type lifestyle because there are so many of them.

"Promotional activities that convey an impression of farming practices are powerful representations which influence many consumer purchases and food choices," the ACCC says.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Today Tonight runs bodgy egg research findings

The lightweight 'news' and magazine TV programme, Today Tonight ran a piece about US researchers claiming to demonstrate that there is no nutritional difference between free range and cage laid eggs.
Of course the study undertaken by North Carolina State University showed there was no difference. The research was funded by the egg industry and the hens used were all beak trimmed.
The 'free range' hens used in the research programme may have been allowed access to the outdoors, but as their beaks were trimmed, they essentially could only eat the same grains and food which were available to the birds in cages. They had great difficulty eating grass, or picking up worms, spiders etc without a full beak.
TV shows like this just perpetuate the myth that 'an egg is an egg'.
Have a look at:
http://au.news.yahoo.com/today-tonight/video/watch/26473133/

Friday, August 26, 2011

Trees are beneficial for free range hens

There's been some research in the UK (paid for by McDonalds) which says that tree cover in paddocks is beneficial for free range hens.

Well bless me! I've known that for around 50 years and I reckon that knowledge has been around for 'a while' before that.

But of course no-one takes any notice until there's a research paper by academics which someone has paid for!

What a load of cobblers. Anyway the link is :
http://www.ufaw.org.uk/documents/BRIGHT.pdf

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New flock just starting to lay

Our new flock of 300 Isa Browns is just starting to lay. Seven eggs yesterday so they should soon be up to speed.
It means that we will have pullets eggs for the Churchill Island Farmers' Market this Saturday..
Lexie is the Maremma charged with looking after them and she is doing a top job.
I've had to rig up a light in the shed which I turn on just before dusk so all the chooks can see to perch - then when they have all settled, it can be turned off.  Some flocks need a bit of light to see what they are supposed to do - but some happily jump in the sheds in the late afternoon and find their own perch. It largely depends on the time of year. Extended evening daylight gives them plenty of time, but we need to give the youngesters a bit of help at this time of year.

Friday, August 12, 2011

New website in action

Our new Freeranger Eggs website is now live at www.freeranger.com.au  I spent a couple of months getting things organised and I revamped the website of the Free Range Farmers Association at the same time.
Have a look at www.freerangefarmers.com.au and tell me what you think.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Goodbye Chicca

Chicca loved the sheep trough on hot days
Yesterday was a bad day. We had to euthanase Chicca, our Breton Pyrenean Mastiff. Medication was changed a couple of times, and although there were improvements, the relapses were devastating.
Rather than a skin infection and a urinary tract infection, which was the original veterinary diagnosis, the underlying problem was an aggressive mammary cancer.
Rather than put her through more pain, we had to make the ultimate decision.
This was the first meeting between Chicca and Berkley (our Maremma who died in March)
Our chooks have lost two of their protectors, and we've lost a couple of friends! Chicca was believed to be the only working Breton Pyrenean Mastiff in Australia - all the others here are show dogs.

Monday, August 01, 2011

NSW Greens introduce their Truth in Labelling Bill

Louise Hall wrote this article in today's Sydney Morning Herald:

THE NSW Greens will introduce legislation into the NSW Parliament this week to create a labelling scheme for caged, barn and free range eggs.

Egg producers will be allowed to label their cartons free range only if there is no more than 750 laying fowl per hectare. Water, shade and shelter must also be provided and beak trimming is prohibited under the Truth in Labelling (Free-Range Eggs) Bill.

Eggs that are not free range or barn must be labelled as cage eggs. The use of advertising or packaging that suggests the laying fowl are not kept in cages would be prohibited.

Corporations would face fines of up to $55,000. Individuals could receive six months’ jail and a $5500 fine.

The Greens MP John Kaye said people were being ripped off by unscrupulous caged egg producers, and legitimate free range producers were unable to compete. He said the absence of legislated definitions and enforceable penalties for false labelling meant in some cases free range "is nothing more than a marketing exercise to boost sales and prices".

The ACT and Tasmania have passed legislation to regulate the production and labelling of eggs.

The industry body, the Australian Egg Corporation, said the cap on stocking densities in the draft bill is "unsustainable and unrealistic".

AECL, dominated by Australia’s three largest egg producers, says it will lobby NSW MPs to vote against the bill.

With the Egg Corporation lobbying hard against it, the Bill will have an uphill battle. Hopefully thee will be a groundswell of support to let the MP's realise that the provisions in the Bill are very sustainable and realistic.
Many commercial free range egg farms are operating with those standards already in place all over Australia. Members of associations affiliated with the Free Range Egg and Poultry Association of Australia  meet those requirements which are recognised by consumers as satisfying their 'free range' expectations.
The Australian Egg Corporation of course wants a plan which allows intensive farming operations to be classified as 'free range' and allow up to 20,000 chickens per hectare and the beak trimming of birds to be accepted as 'normal'.


Saturday, July 30, 2011

The argument for a national definition of 'free range'

There is now a broad agreement in the Australian egg industry that clear, legal definitions need to be established for different methods of production.


A national definition for free range egg production is firmly on the agenda and submissions are being made to the Federal Government to implement a standard.


The Free Range Farmers Association in Victoria and the national industry body, Free Range Egg and Poultry Association of Australia have been pushing for many years that a national definition should be established for free range production systems which meets consumer expectations.


These arguments have been boosted by the Australian Egg Corporation's managing director, James Kellaway, who has called for the definitions of egg-production processes to be enshrined in law. He said: We have definitions that are enforced by the industry but we want to make such definitions more robust and definitive … what we'd like to see is a definition that is clearly enunciated and enforced”


The Free Range Egg and Poultry Association of Australia Inc. welcomes that announcement and has again written to the Minister for Agriculture, Senator Joe Ludwig, re-opening the debate for the development of a clear definition for free range egg production.


The Association has argued that the starting point should be the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals – Domestic Poultry. The definition should require a maximum outdoor stocking density of 1500 hens per hectare and prohibit the beak trimming or de-beaking of birds.


Currently, many producers who label their eggs as 'free range' run stocking densities well above the 1500 bird limit. AECL has revealed that some farms run as many as 40,000 chickens per hectare.


The Model Code requires producers to find alternative measures to combat feather pecking and cannibalism before resorting to beak trimming – but most farms (even those which claim to be free range) make no attempt to find alternatives. Their birds are beaked trimmed at day old or soon after.


The Australian Egg Corporation is currently trying to implement a new standard for a version of free range production that will allow a stocking density of up to 20,000 birds per hectare and will allow beak trimming as a matter of course.


Many successful commercial egg farms have demonstrated that beak trimming is totally unnecessary for hens on a free range farm – unless the farm is over stocked.


We agree with the Australian Egg Corp (for a change)

James Kellaway, managing director of the Australian Egg Corporation is quoted in The Age newspaper today as saying that definitions of egg-production processes should be enshrined in law. “We have definitions that are enforced by the industry but we want to make such definitions more robust and definitive … what we'd like to see is a definition that is clearly enunciated and enforced”.

That's exactly what we have been saying about the problems consumers have with the lack of a real definition of the term 'free range'.

It's great that at last the Egg Corp has come to the same realisation and hopefully they will help to push the Federal Government into making a decision!

The Free Range Farmers Association and the Free Range Egg and Poultry Association of Australia have been trying to get the Minister for Agriculture, (currently Senator Joe Ludwig) to take a serious look at introducing a real definition for 'free range'. So far successive Ministers have ignored us - but with the Egg Corporation also pushing we just might get somewhere.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Carbon Tax - what real benefit?

The Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry has published this brief explanation of the proposed carbon tax in Australia: From July 1, 2012, up to 500 of the top carbon emitting companies will be charged $23 for every tonne of carbon they produce. This will cover up to 60 per cent of Australia’s pollution. This initial cost structure will run for three years, rising by 2.5 per cent a year in real terms, assuming annual inflation of 2.5 per cent (2013/14 ‐ $24.15, 2014/15 ‐ $25.40).

A full emissions trading scheme will then be implemented, allowing the market to set the carbon price.

Allowances and assistance will be made for a number of industries, particularly those heavy on industrial activities such as steel, aluminium, cement and zinc producers, and some manufacturers. A carbon price will not apply to fuel for off‐road and on‐road light transport used by the agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries. Households and small business will also be exempt from a carbon price on fuel.

The Government has committed to boosting its 2050 emissions reduction target from 60 percent to 80 percent. It is also targeting a reduction of between 5 and 25 per cent by 2020 (depending on the level of international action).

Taxing these top 500 companies does have implications for small businesses. An increased price for products and services because of the cost of the carbon tax will be passed on.

As a small agricultural business, we won't be directly subject to the tax, but we will obviously pay through increased electricity prices etc. etc. etc.

We still have not heard from the Government how our carbon positive type of production will be taken into account. Why should we be slugged just as hard as any other business which has taken no steps to reduce its carbon footprint?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Great day for a new lamb!

Our first Suffolk lamb for the season was born today - and what a great day it was. Sun and no wind. Tonight is cold but at least there's no rain and no wind!
The little ewe was standing a drinking within half an hour being born, under the watchful eyes of Manola the Maremma whose task it is to look after the sheep.
We have just bought an understudy for Manola - six month old Tora who is getting used to the farm and bonding with our Suffolk/Dorper ram lamb
First drink

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Free Ranger iphone game

The UK's Noble Foods, which has the brand Happy Egg Company has launched an iphone 'Free Ranger' game to promote its sales.

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/free-ranger/id441507717?mt=8

Is this the shape of things to come?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Chicca's skin infection

Chicca has been aggravating her skin infection by constant licking - so she is now a bucket head (as you can see).
She doesn't like it and thinks I am an evil person for restricting her like this - but we hope it will only be for a couple of weeks.
She's on anti-biotics twice a day and an anti-inflammatory tablet once or sometimes twice a day.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Will the Australian carbon tax work?

The long-awaited carbon tax announcement by the Australian Government looks like a bit of a fizzer to me.

It seems pretty pointless to introduce a tax and then compensate virtually everyone for the extra costs they will face – when the purpose is supposed to be to change behaviour and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

If no-one feels any pain, where is the incentive for people to cut down on their use of petrol, diesel, electricity and all the other pollutants which have become an automatic part of their lives.

On the farm we have reduced our carbon footprint by restricting our delivery policy to within one hour of the farm, using manual production methods (rather than collecting eggs via electricity-driven belts etc.) and maintaining native vegetation on the property.

I don't understand what benefits in terms of a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions the Australian Government expects from a tax which doesn't encourage end users to modify their behaviour.

State Governments seem to understand that the simplest and most effective way to cut down on the use of water is to double the price.

Should be the same with electricity – that will make it more cost-effective to install solar and wind plants – and fuel to cut down on the use of hydro-carbons.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Ag Minister under fire (and he should be)

The Federal Minister for Agriculture, Senator Joe Ludwig, must be a strange bloke. His knee-jerk reaction to ban live cattle exports to Indonesia once massive publicity hit about the treatment of cattle in that country's abattoirs doesn't really sit with his complete indifference to the scams in the egg industry.
It is even worse that the blanket ban on live exports includes Elders whuch has been operating its own state-of-the-art abattoir in Indonesia for some years.  It meets all Australian standards and yet it is not allowed to send cattle there!
Whether or not the live cattle trade should be allowed at all is a separate question. There is much to be said for value-adding here in Australia and re-opening abattoirs in the Northern Territory and Northern Queensland which were forced to close once live exports took off. Interestingly advertisements have just been placed in major newspapers for staff needed at a huge new meat processing facility to be set up in Darwin
But, back to the Minister. If you can act so swiftly Senator Ludwig, why not get off your backside and do something about the eggs in Australia which are labelled as 'free range' when most of them are produced on intensive farms with hens that have been de-beaked (or beak trimmed).

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Chicca's almost back to normal

Chicca is now reaonably happy after a hard few weeks
This was Chicca going for a stroll with me this morning. She hasn't recovered completely yet and is still on antibiotics twice a day - but she's doing well. The picture isn't brilliant because I took it with my mobile phone.
Her weight is back to almost 70kgs after dropping around 15kgs when she picked up the infection.She is still spending most of her days indoors, and I doubt she will appreciate being returned to guard duties once she's fully recovered.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Free Range Farmers Association on Facebook

The Free Range Farmers Association now has a facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Free-Range-Farmers-Association-Inc/214824421880453

The Association accredits free range egg farms in Victoria which meet its standards. Inspections of every member farm are conducted annually to ensure the standards are being continuously met.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Slow combustion cooking


Bread - just out of the oven
Because of the cold weather, we have fired up the slow combustion stove - so we are using that now instead of the electric oven.
Great for stews, roasts and just about everything - even bread.
Temperature control is a bit iffy for bread, but it does work as this photo shows.
It's great coming down to the kitchen early in the morning to a warm room and being able to have a hot drink from the kettle sitting on the stove.
Makes it a pleasure to get up even on a freezing morning!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Consumer deception on a grand scale

Here's an excellent article by Steve Pennells, published in today's West Australian:
Reality lost down on the farm
The most expensive eggs in the supermarket last week came courtesy of Giuseppe, a third-generation egg farmer who lives with his wife, Victoria, and daughter, Annie, on their family farm built from scratch more than 70 years ago on their own "little piece of Australia".


It’s heart-warming stuff, told by Giuseppe on the egg carton in intricate detail, illustrated with family photos and his gratitude for "supporting our family". Sadly he says, Giuseppe Sr, who started the farm in 1948 is no longer with us. But Nonna still lives in the family home. There’s a black and white picture of her there too, laughing next to Giuseppe Sr in happier times.


Except it’s not Nonna and Poppa. The people in the picture never farmed eggs and never set foot in Australia. They’re also not Italian migrants.


The image is a US Library of Congress picture of two Polish immigrant tobacco farmers in Connecticut who were battling poverty in post-Depression America when the photo was taken in 1940.


Almost nothing else on this $7 carton of eggs is real, either.


Despite the family photos and heart-warming history Giuseppe and his family don’t exist.


Even the four happy chooks pictured clucking in the meadow next to the family photos are on foreign grass. That image is a widely used stock US photo which can also be found as the cover of the book Animal Philosophy a weighty tome on animal ethics with a chapter by Nietzsche.


"It’s not misleading," says Brian Ahmed, the managing director of LT’s Egg Farms, which distributes the Down on The Farm gourmet free-range eggs.


"How does it mislead? It’s the story of a family and that farmer is very common with almost every egg farmer in Australia." When contacted about the eggs this week, Mr Ahmed, who also happens to be president of the Victorian Farmers Federation, said Giuseppe’s story was not a lie.


SP: But they (the family) don’t exist.


BA: But the story of egg farmers if you go to every egg farmer in Australia you’ll find that is a similar story where they’ve all been passed on through generations of families that have grown up on egg farms.


SP: So you don’t think people would believe that’s where the eggs are coming from? BA: Well, that’s exactly what’s happening, mate.


SP: Really? So Giuseppe’s grandparents set up an egg farm in 1948? BA: Well, the date might be different but every farm has been set up in the 40s and 50s and it’s passed on in generations and now you find the children are running those farms.


He settles on the term "symbolic" to describe the company’s creative use of fictitious characters, emotive words and archive photos from the US Library of Congress to create the impression that a close-knit Italian migrant family in Australia was responsible for producing a pack of eggs sitting on the shelves of WA supermarkets.


"I can’t say if that’s (the photo) the actual people because what happens is we have a farmer in Western Australia suppling those eggs and we have a Victorian farmer in Victoria doing the same     thing," Mr Ahmed says.


Well, it’s definitely not anyone from WA or Victoria or any other egg farmer in Australia.


That picture of a Mr and Mrs Andrew Lyman, who set up a tobacco farm in America, was taken in September 1940 by Jack Delano, a photographer for the US Farm Security Administration, an organisation set up in the Depression to combat American rural poverty They farmed some vegetables too, but definitely no eggs.


The images and Giuseppe’s whole fabricated story feed into long-outdated myths surrounding the food that gets on our plate.


Photos of happy chickens frolicking across a meadow like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music are products of a time long since gone and belie the grim reality of an industry of mass production.


One of the most interesting things about the whole Australian-Indonesian cattle fiasco is that while we’ve rightly felt outrage at the images of what happened to our cattle overseas, no one has felt the need to look at the Australian food industry with a critical eye or any sort of introspection.


Phrases like "free range" conjure images that don’t match the reality of intensive farming.


Free-range eggs are produced on an industrial scale and some come from flocks of up to 120,000 birds housed in huge sheds that may never find the door to go outside.


Their eggs come off conveyor belts. There is also no national standard defining what constitutes a free-range egg so those labels and their inflated prices should be treated with scepticism. Still, we’re willing to pay more for them because it eases our guilt.


The very reason Giuseppe was concocted is because we still like to subscribe to the romantic notion that the food we eat got to our plate in the best, most ethical and humane ways.


There’s a reason that Australian abattoirs and producers have always been reluctant to have photographs taken in their slaughter operations. They might be operating to best practice but even at best practice, the bloody reality of a slaughter floor is not a pretty place.


The West Australian’s resident food guru, Rob Broacifield, bemoans the consumer naivety: "We have become infantilised toward food production by our increasing distance from it it’s the reason pork consumption plummeted when the movie Babe was released and while many adults express squeamishness in child-like terms when faced with eating, say a f1uffy cute rabbit".


The pressure to work fast - time is money - means that the animals suffer. No one who eats meat can escape responsibility for that, unless perhaps you rear your own animals and slaughter them on the farm." The message is simple: if you eat the meat, take off the blinkers and take ownership of the reality It’s enough to make Giuseppe Sr roll over in his imaginary grave.


Postscript: Brian Ahmed confirmed late yesterday that Giuseppe and his imaginary family would be erased from the future egg cartons, saying the company had no intention to mislead.

Complain to everyone you can think of !!!!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Truth in Labelling for NSW?

New South Wales' Greens upper house member, Dr John Kaye has introduced his long awaited plan to define 'free range' and limit the consumer deception which is rife in the egg industry all over Australia.
His draft Truth in Labelling Bill sets a maximum outdoor stocking density of 1500 birds per hectare (in line with the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Poultry) and also bans the widespread practice of beak trimming birds which are claimed to be 'free range'.
Predictably, the Australian Egg Corporation doesn't like it because it wants to maintain and increase intensive production processes and allow major egg businesses to keep labelling their eggs as 'free range'.


AECL says:
'The draft, titled ‘Truth in Labelling (Free-range Eggs) Bill 2011’, would see free range hen densities reduced to unsustainable levels for a number of egg producers and would also ban legitimate forms of marketing for caged egg producers.
Despite the free range stocking densities suggested by Dr Kaye’s draft Bill representing levels that are currently farmed by some egg farmers, it dismisses the legitimate practices of others. While AECL firmly believes there needs to be a cap on the outside densities for free range production, the cap being suggested in the draft Bill is unsustainable and unrealistic. The commercial realities of free range egg production mean that the suggested low density in the draft Bill would result in the industry not meeting the current demand for free range eggs. AECL is to send a letter to MLC's and MLA's advising them of the consequences of the draft.'


The Egg Corporation is wrong. The stocking densities proposed in the Bill are clearly commercial as there are many free range egg farms currently operating to those standards. The stocking levels outlined in the Bill meet consumer expectations and hopefully buyers of free range eggs, as well as the many genuine free range farmers in New South Wales, will write or talk to their MLC's and MLA's urging them to support this Bill.
The NSW legislation could be the first step in a national definition of the term 'free range' if we can get the Federal Minister for Agriculture, Senator Joe Ludwig to make a decision.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

New FSANZ egg standards to include egg stamping

The new egg standards being introduced by Food Standards Australia and New New Zealand (FSANZ) includes a requirement for all eggs to carry a stamp identifying which farm they are from.
The big operators don't care, they have all the equipment standing by and all they have to do is push a button.
The small operators (like us) don't really mind - it just adds to the daily grind. When I say we don't mind too much - that is as long as the rule applies to everyone selling eggs. Backyard operators who have no idea of food safety procedures are the biggest threat to consumers and if they sell eggs they should have to meet all the same standards.
It's the mid sized operators who are squealing loudest about egg stamping and claiming that it will cost them $20,000 - $30,000 to implement. What they are really worried about is that stamping individual eggs will identify them and hamper egg substitution.
The Australian Egg Corporation could move to clean up the industry, and it will be interesting to see how it responds to the new FSANZ requirements which we are told will be implemented in 18 months. But the AECL usually closes its eyes to the reality of the egg industry, just lke the Meat and Livestock Corporation to the treatment of Australian cattle in Indonesian abattoirs.
AECL has admitted that currently some 'free range' egg producers have stocking densities of 40,000 birds per hectare even though the Model Code recommends a maximum density of 1500. Its only response has been to try to introduce a new standard which allows intensive farms to be called 'free range'.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Chicca's back home

I picked up Chicca from the vet yesterday and she's back on the farm. Looking a whole lot better.

Her temperature is back to normal and she has her appetite back.  We have to keep her inside for a few days until her course of antbiotics is finished (three tablets twice a day) but she doesn't mind as it's pretty wet and miserable outside now.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Quick trip to the vet

Chicca enjoys her 'spa'
We were just about to leave the farm this morning  to head off to Melbourne for an egg industry forum when we noticed that one of our dogs wasn't well.

Chicca didn't want to eat (highly unusual for her) and she seemed to have a high temperature so I rang our local vet straight away and arranged to take her in.

She had dropped heaps of weight (around 15 kgs). They kept her there for some tests and I didn't get back to the farm until midday so it was too late to head off to the city.

This was the forum at which the Australian Egg Corporation says it plans to unveil its new standard for 'free range' egg production - but that will happen whether I am there or not!

I should hear tonight if they went ahead with it, or whether the problems they have encountered made them delay the decision yet again.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

More bodgy 'free range' applications to come

A planning application lodged with Mitchell Shire at Seymour in Victoria looks like one of the first applications for a 'free range' farm being set up under the proposed high density standards which the Australian Egg Corporation is still trying to establish.

Valley Park Farms has lodged a planning application for an 'intensive animal husbandry' facility but in its press releases, the company refers to it as a 'free range' egg farm. Free Range Farmers Association has lodged an objection and asked the Shire to consider the stocking density proposed on the farm.
It pointed out the requirements of The Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals - Domestic Poultry  which allows a maximum stocking density on free range egg farms of 1500 birds per hectare. The total amount of land on which this development is proposed is 84.7 Ha - indicating an absolute maximum farm capacity of 127,000 chickens.
The proponents are suggesting 170,000 birds in a total of ten sheds.
The land will be divided into paddocks and the property will also have ancilliary shedding, roads, laneways, and the application includes a dwelling, which all reduce the amount of land on which the birds can roam to qualify as 'free range'.
FRFA also asked the Council to establish how much of the land will be accessed by the hens every day and impose a permit limit on the number of hens to meet the requirements of the Model Code. The stocking density proposed is likely to have serious off-site implications as a result of contaminated run-off.
The application is Planning Permit No P306142/10 To use and develop the land for intensive animal husbandry with caretaker's dwelling and to remove native vegetation. Goulburn Valley Highway, Seymour.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

New solar hot water on the farm

We called Solahart to come and service the elderly solar hot water service on the farm cottage because it had stopped heating, They sent a plumber along and he fitted a new electric element but said it was pointless carrying out a service as the unit was useless. Not surprising really as we installed it nearly30 years ago. (Solahart still tried to charge us for a full service)
The newly installed Solahart unit
Anyway we got him back a week or so later to install a new system - or rather a second hand one as the casing had been damaged by hail and was an insurance write-off.

While he was here, I asked him to look at the solar unit on our main farmhouse - and that was a mistake.

The evacuated tube solar hot water system on our main house.
It's apparently the most efficient system there is -
but we are not convinced! 
It's an evacuated tube system which had a slight  water leak, so I always turned the water off to it unless we were using it for showers etc.  When he left, the leaks were worse than before he arrived, so I wish I had kept my mouth shut!!!

I'll now have to clamber around on the roof trying to reduce the leaks

As we are now heading into cold weather we need hot water - but we don't want to increase our energy consumption or our carbon footprint.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Get ready for the next round of financial turmoil

Most individuals and businesses don't spend a lot of time thinking about the global economy - after all that's what we pay our politicians and accountants for.

But the ramifications of corporate greed and political incompetence hits us all. Anyone with money in a superannuation fund, investments in the stock market, property, or simply in the business they are running, is vulnerable to problems in international financial markets.

The soaring price of gold is a stark indicator of a loss of confidence in currencies.

On Wednesday, November 3, 2010, Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve announced a second round of quantitative easing (QE2) to stimulate the economy. The plan was to purchase $600 billion of U.S. Treasury securities by the middle 2011. It was just after the November 2, 2010 General Election, and most of the world missed it because the election dominated the headlines.

For those of us who aren't sure what 'quantitative easing' means, here's Wikipedia's definition:

Quantitative easing (QE) is an unconventional monetary policy used by some central banks to stimulate their economy when conventional monetary policy has become ineffective. The central bank buys government bonds and other financial assets, with new money that the bank creates electronically, in order to increase the money supply and the excess reserves of the banking system.

This allowed the U.S. Government to authorise the Treasury Department to print money. No real currency has actually been printed, but the Federal Reserve has been able to electronically credit each commercial bank, allowing them to buy maturing U.S. bonds and treasury notes as part of their liquidity reserves. The Federal Reserve started this even before the financial meltdown of 2008, a policy which is plunging the US (and the rest of the world) into a financial disaster which is likely to last for decades..

As well as the $600 billion quantitative easing announced last November, the Federal Reserve announced that it was "reinvesting" an additional $250 billion to $300 billion from the proceeds of its mortgage portfolio in U.S. Treasury securities - a total injection of about $900 billion.

If at some stage, the Federal Reserve concludes that the U.S. economy is not growing fast enough, and decides more quantitative easing is needed, a third round may begin and then we can all kiss economic stability goodbye! Many economists believe that the Federal Reserve is already out-of-control and that the global economic system is heading for disaster.

The sad thing is that the Federal Reserve seems to believe that the policy has been working.

Accumulated problems within the U.S. economy after many years of neglect, inaction and excessive spending on pointless wars, have now been aggravated by turmoil in the Middle East and natural disasters on a scale which is mind-boggling.

From November 2008 to March 2010, the Federal Reserve bought more than $1.7 trillion in mortgage backed securities and treasury bonds. Through its quantitative easing policy, it created a portfolio of U.S. bonds and notes purchased from banks totalling more than $2.5 trillion by the March 2011. Some critics see the rising price of oil and other commodities as indicators of broader price increases which are set to spiral out of control as the U.S. risks heading into hyper-inflation territory..

Some believe that the Federal Reserve strategy may have helped stabilise the economy in the short-term, but unemployment still remains high (8.8% at the end of March 2011). Monthly U.S. home sales are still close to record low levels. New construction is also at historic lows. Banks tightened their credit criteria and have not been not lending much. As at January 2011, American banks had excess reserves of $1 trillion as customers borrowed less and  bankrupcy rates increased.

Foreign countries are balking at U.S. government's quantitative easy policies, and the U.S. will either have to start paying higher interest rates on government debt in order to attract enough investors, or the Federal Reserve will just have to drop all pretence and permanently start buying up most of the debt. Either way, the financial world will never be the same.