Saturday, February 28, 2009

Egg yolk colour is not a good guide

Most years there is a problem maintaining the rich colour of yolks during summer when there is little green feed around. The majority of egg farms overcome this by putting additives in the feed - but we choose not to include pigmenters in the chook feed.
The colour of the yolk is due to substances called carotenoids. The nutritional value of the egg is not affected in any way by the natural yolk colour but most buyers expect a deep yellow or orange colour - particularly from free range eggs. And that's exactly what our customers get most of the year.
But right now, with the summer heat after an extremely long drought the yolks of our eggs are paler than normal because there is virtually no green feed around.
The most important sources of carotenoids in poultry feed are corn, lucerne and grass meals; these sources contain the pigmenting carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin.
Unfortunately the carotenoid content in the ingredients of poultry feed is not constant; the pigmentation properties of the carotenoids can be weakened or lost and the fluctuations are out of our control. It is these fluctuations in naturally-occurring carotenoids which push most producers to chase consistency by adding yellow and red carotenoids (such as apoester and canthaxanthin) to the feed. That's something we will never do. If we lose customers just because our yolks are paler than normal for a month or so during dry weather, so be it. We won't compromise our undertaking that we use no chemicals on the pastures where the hens roam and we include no additives in the feed to achieve the desired egg yolk colour.
Producers claim that the colouring additives are natural products. What they mean is that they may be derived from natural products. Virtually all of them are made in laboratories by men and women in white coats.
We choose to feed a corn-based mash supplemented by green feed from our veggie garden when there is no green grass in the paddocks.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Hot weather hasn't affected the hens

Our hens are still laying well despite the recent hot conditions and the lack of rain. We are expecting a 36 degree day today so it won't be very comfortable for them (or for us)!

The last 20 birds in our oldest flock are being sold on Sunday to live as backyard chooks - then we start getting the shed ready for the new flock of 300 which will arrive towards the end of March.

We will be a bit busy today spraying water around the sheds and putting ice in the hens' water to keep it cool - as well as the usual chores of egg collection, grading and packing. About 120 dozen eggs will be delivered on our usual weekly run to Phillip Island today and we are packing for the Churchill Island Farmers' Market on Saturday.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fire fighting pumps at the ready!

With the devastating wildfires still roaring through many parts of Victoria, we are very aware of the need to be ready to tackle a local blaze.
We have two fire-fighting pumps (one diesel and one petrol) connected to tanks and one connected to a 600 litre mobile trailer. In addition we have fire extinguishers at all the mobile chook sheds and I've been going around today squirting water to keep the hens cool. We had a slight drop in egg production today but nothing serious and all the hens look pretty happy.
Today is a total fire ban day in our region and thankfully we haven't heard any of the locals riding around on their trail bikes in the bush.
It's amazing just how dumb some people are - because it's their home which are likely to burn if they start a fire.
I couldn't get one of the petrol pumps to start up this morning so I took it down to our local mechanic to see what was up. Apparently it has a fail safe device to prevent it running if the engine is low on oil. So all it needed was a top-up and it ran perfectly.
The motor and pump are new so it's a pity the manufacturer didn't supply a leaflet telling that information!!!!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

What a day!!!

We managed to get through a 45 degree day today without any major hassles. Going around the chook sheds collecting eggs, spraying water and putting ice blocks in the hens' water kept everything on an even keel.
We also had to ensure that the dogs had plenty of water and shade - because they are more suseptible to heat problems than the chickens.
But a cool change went through at around 5 o'clock and the temperature dropped 15 degrees in as many minutes.
Thankfully we had no clowns out in the bush lighting fires - unlike other parts of Victoria. The Strzeleckis are burning again today and if the fire-lighter is grabbed by the right people ...........