Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Freeranger farm is more than carbon neutral

At Freeranger Eggs, we limit the farm's carbon footprint by imposing a food miles policy for deliveries, using recycled materials and equipment whenever we can, using solar power and mechanical processes - such as collecting eggs by hand and hand cultivation of the farm vegetable garden - as well as an effective waste reduction programme.

As a result, the farm generates only about 60 tonnes of CO2 each year.

But we are better than carbon neutral, we are carbon positive. Our average organic matter in soil tests was 4.1 per cent in 2004, in 2006 it was 6.0 per cent, and in 2009 it was 7.9 per cent. Calculations based on 2-inch deep samples, show that over five years we have sequestered about 14 tons of CO2 per acre or four tonnes of carbon per acre on the grasslands on our property.

We apply no chemical fertilisers, herbicides, or pesticides on our land and we believe this policy increases the biological life in the soil and increases the rate of carbon sequestration. All manure is spread on the pastures and in our vegetable garden, minimising methane emissions. We practice rotational grazing on our pastures which has a variable effect with each rotation – taking advantage of photosynthesis to pull CO2 into the plants and then into the roots from where it transfers to the soil.

In addition, over that five year period at least another 5 tonnes of CO2 per acre has been sequestered by the regular growth and replacement of Kangaroo Apples in our main paddocks.

As we have protected native vegetation on approximately 100 acres of the property, regeneration over the five year period has sequestered a further 5 tonnes of CO2 per acre.

This brings a grand total of 1500 tonnes of CO2 sequestered on our property over the five years from 2004 to 2009 – an average rate of 300 tonnes per year compared with the farm's carbon output of around 60 tonnes.

How's that for being carbon positive! A net carbon benefit of 240 tonnes of CO2 per year and no-one pays us a dollar for doing it..

Sunday, September 26, 2010

This is what the Australian Egg Corporation calls 'free range'

The Australian Egg Corporation currently allows beak trimming on all its Egg Corp Assured farms - even if they are called 'free range'. The hens in this photo are on an ECA accredited free range farm and they show the extent of the beak trimming undertaken.
The industry tries to argue that it is now normal practice for a light laser tipping of the upper beak - but this shot, and others, show that claim to be untrue. Consumer research shows clearly that beak trimmng is not acceptable on farms which claim to be 'free range'.
If the Egg Corporation gets away with its plan to change standards for 'free range' egg production, de-beaking will become even more common. Currently, according to the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals - Domestic Poultry, farms are required to find alternative methods to beak trimming which is designed to limit feather-picking and cannibalism in flocks. But the Egg Corporation does nothing to ensure that the Model Code is enforced and allows beak-trimming of hens as a first option. The hens are usually beak-trimmed at day old or soon after.
Beak trimming is completely unnecessary on a genuine free range farm and is prohibited by the Free Range Farmers Association.

This is what real 'free range' is all about

This is part of one flock of our hens just before sunset a couple of evenings ago. There's plenty of room for them and heaps of vegetation - not like the intensive version of 'free range' that the Australian Egg Corporation is still trying to foist on the industry and consumers.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

John Brumby and his locust eradication campaign

The Thorax

(with compliments to Dr Seuss and his magnificent book 'The Lorax' (c) 1971

Here is a story we’ll long recall,
Of a poisonous campaign that was forced on us all,
And the wise old Thorax who warned everyone,
Because he realised why it shouldn’t be done.

He said "I’m the Thorax, I speak for the insects.
And all the wild creatures throughout country districts
I speak for the insects, for they have no tongues,
And I'm asking you, Grumby, at the top of my lungs,
What's that stuff you are spraying on our National Parks?"

And Grumby replied "There's no cause for alarm,
This stuff is organic, I’m doing no harm.
I’m being quite useful, I think you will see,
This stuff kills plague locusts. It's alright by me."

"I repeat" cried the Thorax "I speak for the insects."
"I'm busy" said Grumby "so have some respect."
He rushed 'cross the room and in no time at all,
He picked up the phone and he made a quick call.

He called all his friends in the chemical plants,
And he said "Listen here! Here's a wonderful chance,
For all chemical companies to get mighty rich,
To get rid of that stuff you thought you had to ditch.

We'll offload it on farmers. There won't be a hitch."
And in no time at all, in the chemical plants,
all the chemical companies were grabbing this chance.

Oh! Baby! Oh!
How their business did grow!

Some farmers were buying,
But now there'd be more,
All must spray this stuff now,
Grumby made a new law.

Yet again said the Thorax, “I speak for the insects,
And I am concerned about all of these districts
Which you want to spray just as much as you please,
With no thought for how it will kill native bees!

But I'm also in charge of the fat-tailed dunnarts,
Who live in the grasslands on farms, roads and parks,
And happily lived eating insects at ease.

Now...thanks to your spraying all over the ground,
There are no un-poisoned insects left to be found.
And the fat-tailed dunnarts are getting the crummies,
Because they have poison, not food, in their tummies."

Well, Grumby thought this was a sad thing to know,
His friends are in chemicals and their business must grow,
Regardless of crummies in tummies you know.

Grumby was draining the North with big pipes,
When that old nuisance Thorax came back with more gripes.
"I am the Thorax" he coughed and he whiffed,
He sneezed and he snuffled, he snarggled and sniffed.

"Grumby" he said, with his best Grumby glare,
"Grumby! You're making such poisonous air.
The poor grassland birds...why, they're dropping like flies.
And the health of our farmers has been compromised."

"What's more" he snapped, his dander was up,
"Let me say a few words about this fungus stuff.
Metharizium can mutate, some scientists noticed,
And it will kill far more than just the plague locust.

It can kill fish, frogs and other grasshoppers,
So please take away your planes and your choppers.
This fungus is not safe, to spray near the water.
So why are you telling the people they oughta?"

Grumby said "Look here Thorax, we have our rights too,
We intend to go on doing just what we do.
And, for your information, you Thorax, we're figgering
on staying in government
and biggering

Spraying more land with chemicals and fungus,
And there’s no one on earth with power to stop us!"
And at that very moment, there came a small sound,
A Plains-wanderer fell on the ground.

This bird was endangered, how could we let it fall?
The very last Plains-wanderer of them all.

No more birds. No more insects. No more monitoring to be done.
So Grumby and his cohorts went off, every one.
All went back to parliament, to their everyday lives,
Unconcerned for the damage they'd caused with their lies.

That was long, long ago.
And as years have gone by,
We see the results now and all wonder why,
This locust campaign was allowed to go on,
When the Thorax was warning of what could go wrong.

Through the years, the environment's fallen apart,
We've worried about it, with all of our hearts,
Our health's been effected, our children's health too,
And the fat-tailed dunnart’s only found in the zoo.

Unless someone like YOU cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better, it's not.
Love your environment,
Treat it with care,
Maintain its clean water,
Guard its fresh air.

Protect it from chemicals and fungus sprays,
So you can enjoy it for the rest of your days.

For a real perspective on locusts, have a look at

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Egg Corp stumbles on

A report by Les White in today's Weekly Times says:
THE Australian Egg Corporation has reneged on an agreement to release consumer research paid for with farmer levies, free range egg producers claim.

The research forms the basis of the AEC’s controversial new proposed standards, which allow "beak trimming" and stocking densities of 20,000 hens a hectare.

The Free Range Farmers Association plans to ask newly-elected Greens MP Adam Bandt to present a petition bearing 3500 signatures to parliament in an attempt to keep standards the same. The Greens have pledged to create a legal definition of "free range", which the major parties have failed to do.

It has already written to new Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig asking him to redirect levies from freerange eggs to free-range associations rather than to the AEC.

The AEC said in June: "Cage production systems offer greater safety to hens from disease, parasites, cannibalism and predator attack than free-range did".

AEC spokeswoman Jacqueline Baptista said the corporation would not comply with the FRFA’s request until it received "the final report on the research’’.

Asked why it had released proposed standards without having received the final report, she said: "We don’t want to sit on our hands".

Ms Baptista said some free-range producers were "very supportive" of the changes in the proposed new standards, but could not name them as opinions had been collected anonymously.

"The data I have is that the free-range producers who have been very vocal represent about 0.075 per cent of the (egg) industry," Ms Baptista said.

The Egg Corp figures are very rubbery because many egg producers cannot be bothered to join the AECL or send them any data - however, there is no doubt that genuine free range producers are a tiny minority. Which demonstrates that even with AECL's current standards, most consumers are not getting what they think they are paying for. The only way buyers in Victoria can be sure that the eggs they buy really are free range is to look for the logo of the Free Range Farmers Association.
We have sent the results of our consumer suvey to the Egg Corporation and to the New Minister for Agriculture, Senator Joe Ludwig and advised him that the Egg Corportation plans would mislead consumers.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Results of Free Range Consumer Survey

Here's the results of the Free Range Farmers Association consumer survey on 'What Does Free Range Mean' in response to the Australian Egg Corporation's outrageous attempt to introduce a new standard to define 'free range' egg production which would approve highly intensive and unsustainable farming techniques.

Consolidated Consumer Survey statistics What Does Free Range Mean?
July/August 2010
Views on draft 'Free Range' egg production standard presented by
the Australian Egg Corporation Ltd.

Survey conducted by Free Range Farmers Association Inc.

Information was sought from consumers on-line and face to face with customers at Farmers' Markets attended by members of the Free Range Farmers Association Inc. during July and August 2010.

The responses were to the statement:
The Australian Egg Corporation has revealed plans to change 'free range' standards to allow egg farms to beak trim their hens and to increase the maximum farm stocking density to 20,000 chickens per hectare. We believe that the maximum stocking density should remain at 1500 chickens per hectare and that beak trimming should be prohibited in free range flocks.

As sponsor of the on-line survey, FRFA also had the following statement on the survey site:

Free Range Farmers Association Inc. We are a group of free range egg farmers with strict standards - such as a stocking density of just 750 chickens per hectare, a maximum of 1000 birds per shed and de-beaking (or beak trimming) is prohibited.

On-line and paper-based survey results
On-line survey signatories 2396
Paper survey signatories    1141

                           TOTAL 3537
All signatories agreed that the AECL draft standard did not reflect their views of the term 'free range' and believed that the proposal was unacceptable

We do not have precise information about all participants in the survey but the overwhelming majority are regular purchasers of free range eggs. More than 1000 responded to the survey at Farmers' Markets while they were purchasing eggs.

Approx 36 are believed to be involved in the egg industry and about 90 of the signatories in the online survey appeared to be from overseas.

The results of the consumer survey have been sent to the new Federal Minister for Agriculture, Senator Joe Ludwig.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Chickens in Choppers

For anyone who hasn't seen the Cows With Guns video produced from the Dana Lyons song, here it is

Monday, September 06, 2010

Enlist an army of chickens to fight the locust plague

There seems to be a level of panic in Victoria about the possibility of a locust plague and farmers are being urged to dump tonnes of insecticides on them - chemicals which are just about guaranteed to get into our food chain.

A far better control method is chickens. Chickens love eating locusts and grasshoppers – so if all the millions of chickens in this State are let out of their cages and sheds they could clean up the problem. As each chicken could eat 100 locusts a day, 6 million chickens could account for 600,000,000 locusts every day.

But unfortunately that wouldn't work because the birds have been de-beaked – in fact even the birds on most so-called 'free range' farms have been de-beaked (or beak trimmed is the term the industry prefers to use) and they are unable to graze properly and pick up things like insects or even eat grass.

So its yet another argument not to beak trim chickens.

Locusts tend to lay their eggs in damp, alkaline soils so ducks could also help to eradicate the problem because both chooks and ducks love to eat locust eggs.

Chickens as a method of locust control is not a new idea.  The BBC had this up on their website in 2006:
Pest control officials in North-West China have resorted to desperate measures to tackle a plague of locusts which is infesting a huge area of grassland.

They have brought in an army of 10,000 chickens - backed by air support from thousands of starlings - to gobble up some of the millions of locusts which have descended on Xinjiang in the Uygur autonomous region.
According to Xinhua newsagency, the elite fowl undergo 60 days training shortly after they hatch to prepare them for battle with the locusts.
Worst infestation
And battle it is, because this year's infestation is said to be the worst in the region for a decade, with a quarter of Xinjiang's grasslands affected.
There were no details given of the chicken training programme.
The newspaper China Youth Daily said the chickens had succeeded in taking on the pests where all else failed.
But the insect-eating chickens are only one prong in the region's assault on the swarms of locusts.
Xinjiang pest control officials are also encouraging starlings to settle in the area by placing nests in the grassland area.
Pesticide alternative
Last month environmentalists in the port city of Tianjin released five million wasps to attack insects which had been damaging crops.
The BBC Correspondent in Beijing, Colin Blane, says it is thought Chinese scientists are being encouraged to find ways of reducing the use of chemical pesticides.
The introduction of chickens and starlings as instruments of pest control is a reverse of the disastrous experiment of the 1950s when the whole nation was urged to scare sparrows away from crops by beating drums for hours on end.
Unable to land, the sparrows died from exhaustion and the crops were then destroyed by a booming insect population.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Fraud at the supermarkets

The Sunday papers are carrying a story about the mislabelling of food (including eggs) in supermarkets. The article says: 'AUSTRALIANS are being duped at the supermarket, with one in 10 products the subject of "food fraud".

In some cases, eggs from caged hens are being sold as free range and fresh fruit and vegetables sprayed with pesticides are selling as organic, according to researchers at the University of Western Australia’s forensic research centre.
Professors John Watling, Cameron Scadding and Garry Lee are leading a project to expose producers who fraudulently label their products, as the cost of food fraud tops an estimated $7 billion a year nationally.'
Of course the Australian Egg Corporation will vigorously deny there is any substitution going on. It always defends the big operators.
But it's clear that unless the Federal Government steps in with some real 'truth in labelling' legislation the problem will continue and will even get worse if the Egg Corportion gets away with its proposal to introduce new misleading standards for 'free range' production.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Raising orphan koalas

Raising baby marsupials is always a challenge, especially when they are very young like the little koala on the left. Constant feed and warmth are essential and it takes many long hours of care - including interrupted nights to achieve a good outcome.
You have to start with a dilute low lactose milk formula delivered into the mouth slowly by syringe or pipette every hour or so. Then build up the formula strength to the required level.
Here's a series of pictures which shows that you can have great results in a wildlife shelter.

How could anyone not think that this little fellow is cute?

And here, he's just about ready to get back into the wild!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Egg wars - the Egg Corporation's 'free range' plans

There is an excellent article on Google News about the Australian Egg Corporation's planned changes to 'free range' standards. Here's the link
Egg Wars - The Australian Egg Corporation changes "Free Range" Rules

Hopefully, once we have a new federal government in place we may actually get someone in Canberra to listen!!!

Getting hens out of cages is a good idea, but producers need to be honest about they are doing and the way they describe their production systems.

The Dalai Lama has now clmed intothe debate with a letter to the Humane Society nternational and the Humane Society of the United States.

The Dalai Lama Condemns Cage Confinement of Egg-Laying Hens

WASHINGTON (Aug. 31, 2010) – His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has issued a statement in the wake of the largest egg recall in United States history. In a letter, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate decries the egg industry’s cruel treatment of hens and urges egg buyers to switch to cage-free eggs:

“The abuse we inflict on hens has always been particularly disturbing to me and I have always been particularly concerned toward how these animals are treated in industrial food production. I am troubled to learn about the practice of confining egg laying hens in tiny cages. In these cages, birds cannot engage in their natural behaviours, such as spreading their wings, laying eggs in a nesting area, perching, scratching at the ground, even standing on a solid surface. Each hen has less space to live than the very sheet of paper I have written this letter on. Turning these defenseless animals into egg-producing machines with no consideration for their welfare whatsoever is a degradation of our own humanity. Switching to cage free eggs would reduce the suffering of these animals.”

The Dalai Lama’s statement comes as a major U.S. movement against cruel and inhumane cages on factory egg farms is taking root. Prominent U.S. corporations from Burger King to Safeway are switching to cage-free eggs. Michigan and California have passed laws to phase out the use of cages to confine hens. California has also passed a law requiring that all whole eggs sold statewide be cage-free by 2015. In Ohio, agriculture leaders agreed to a moratorium on the construction of new cage egg facilities.