Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Culling male chicks may be a thing of the past

The latest research from the Poultry Cooperative Research Centre will allow the Australian egg industry to almost eliminate the need to cull male chicks at hatcheries. Nearly half of all chicks hatched for the layer industry are males which are generally culled as day-olds. The Australian Poultry CRC, in collaboration with CSIRO Livestock Industries, is patenting a method to control sex determination in birds. This means that in future, the majority of chicks hatched will be females - with clear welfare and economic benefits.
According to Professor Mingan Choct, Chief Executive of the Poultry CRC, “From a welfare perspective, it’s extremely positive because there’ll be far fewer male chicks to cull. From an economic perspective, there’ll be savings because half of the vaccinated eggs will no longer be wasted simply because they hatch as males. This becomes a terribly important point when you realise that all of those vaccinations carry a significant cost and are crucial for flock health.”
The technology uses an existing vaccination method which injects vaccines directly into the fertilised egg at the hatchery. By piggy-backing on existing practices, the technology would be easy to implement and cost-effective. The heart of the system is a method to silence the expression of genes that tell the growing embryo to become female or male, without having to genetically modify the chicken itself.
“We’ll be able to use existing processes in the developing embryo to produce more female than male birds," explained Lloyd Thomson, the Poultry CRC's Commercialisation and Technology Transfer Manager. "The approach is non-GM. Hatcheries, farmers and, most importantly, ethically-minded consumers will all benefit.”
Australians eat 175 eggs each year, up from 150 in 1999 (from more than 15 million hens or nearly 240 million dozen eggs per annum representing $400m gross value at the farm gate). Given that the Australian population will almost double by 2050, sustainable sources of high-quality protein will be crucial for maintaining food security. This CRC innovation will help the Australian egg industry continue to provide this vital staple food.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Looking after the environment and the farm

A federally funded program - the Future Food and Fibre Project ran across Gippsland region last year and the Freranger farm took part . The Project's focus was to increase the uptake of Environmental Management Systems and sustainable management practices in the region.
Thge case study relating to this farm can be downloaded at
Over nine months, the Project:
held field days and workshops to explore different producers' views of sustainability, and how they implement EMS within their businesses; ran a leadership program for nineteen individuals who were already demonstrating a real commitment to EMS or sustainability.This program included the development of a strategic plan for sustainable agriculture in Gippsland;
held strategic meetings with CMAs and industry representatives (dairy, wine, seafood, vegetables, beef, eggs) for increasing the uptake of sustainable agricultural practices across the three CMA regions; offered EMS training, whole farm plan training and ISO14001 EMS peer auditor training.
Phil Westwood, of Freeranger eggs is already an environmental auditor as well as an auditor of the National Egg Quality Assurance Program

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Massive demand from tourists

As usual at this time of year, we are being run off our feet by excess demand for eggs caused by the numbers of tourists in our area.
Restaurants which normally order 6 - 10 trays of eggs a week are now asking for 20 or 25 trays!
We are doing our best to meet those orders from our regular customers - but it's hard because the hens only lay one egg a day each.
We can't pluck extra eggs out of the air - like whipping up another batch of cakes of jam.
Fortunately a couple of members of the Free Range Farmers Association have some spare eggs at this time of year and we are able to buy them to make up some of the orders.
As members of the association, we are only allowed to trade amongst ourselves. Our audit trail has to show where all the eggs we sell have come from to ensure the integrity of our free range label and use of the FRFA logo.