Sunday, February 26, 2012

We don't just have hens at the Freeranger farm

Although chickens and egg production has been the main focus on the freeranger farm for over 10 years,we also do other things-like cattle, sheep and horses.
Our house cow Pansy is due to calve again in the next few weeks and we have bought another cream separator - so our old faithful Lister separator is now on ebay.
I did think about keeping it, but it may as well be put to good use rather than just sit around in a cupboard.
As well as separating cows milk, they apparently work well with goats milk

Super Bikes keep people away from Churchill Island Farmers' Market

Bass Coast Shire and the Victorian State Government like to boast about how wonderful special events are - like the Superbike racing at the Phillip Island racetrack this weekend.
The reality is that few of those events provide any local benefit. Today has been a case in point. So many locals have either let their houses at enormous rents for the weekend and headed off for a quiet time, or they have stayed indoors with the air conditioning on!
Churchill Island Farmers' Market had about one third of the customers expected at this time of year and not one of the stallholders was happy.
No-one wants to be on the roads with the clowns who think they are on the racetrack and can drive as well as anyone!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Field Guide to regional Food in Victoria

Freeranger Eggs is just one food producer featured in The Field Guide to Victorian Produce. If you would like a copy come to one of our Farmers' Markets or order on line through the freeranger website
One part food media, one part mobile produce store, The Field Guide to Victorian Produce is the first comprehensive guide to Victoria’s regional produce and the people that grow, make and sell it.

The Guide makes it easy for anyone to be a locavore, to access quality produce from their food region, or to enjoy regional food tourism by going direct to the source. The Guide also connects growers to new markets by providing a platform for them to tell their story and sell their goods. In the name of localism and authenticity we celebrate quality regional produce, farming and a healthy life.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Farm sustainability

We get heaps of enquiries about farm sustainability. Here's some info from one of the pages on our freeranger eggs website:

Farm sustainability and economic production can only be acheived and maintained if farms reflect natural ecosystems. In Australia, farm management has frequently adapted to changes in commodity prices, markets, climatic and natural resource conditions. Natural ecosystems are always extremely resilient and utilise only renewable inputs. Over thousands of years they have shown high productivity, an ability to maintain environmental quality, and adaptiveness to any natural disturbance. By weaving together the elements of microclimate, annual and perennial plants, water and soil management with human needs, environmental farming systems have been shown to be energy-efficient and high-yielding. An accepted definition of sustainable farming, is an integrated system of plant and animal production having a site-specific application that will, over the long term:
  • satisfy human food and fibre needs;
  • enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which agricultural economies depend;
  • make the most efficient use of non-renewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls;
  • sustain the economic viability of farm operations; and
  • enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole
It seems like a bit of a mouthful, but it really isn't too hard and it's exactly what we do at Blue Mountain Creek with our Freeranger Egg Farm. The Australian Government's involvement in natural resource management policy has increased since the 1980's, as the scale and complexity of land and water degradation and loss of biodiversity in agricultural landscapes has been recognised. Landcare has been a useful tool in promoting incremental changes to natural resource management which boost the farm system. However, Landcare has limitations as a tool to achieve significant outcomes in biodiversity conservation and controlling off site impacts. Landcare has raised awareness of resource management issues in the rural community but the widespread adoption of more ecologically sustainable farming practices is constrained by a diversion of financial resources into job creation rather than on-ground work, a lack of skills and appropriate management technologies.
Our property is ecologically important because it is a vegetated link between the Grantville Flora & Fauna Reserve and the Bass River and forms part of the only
riparian forest left on the river.
Farm activities were designed to minimise off-site and on-site impacts. All creek lines are vegetated to maintain water quality run off into the Bass. A study backed by the Federal Government's Envirofund program has found that free range farming practices are viable and have minimal impacts on the environment.
The study, carried out on five properties in the Port Phillip and Westernport Catchment Authority area showed that properly managed free range egg farms have many benefits - including long term sustainability.
The Freeranger Farm was one of the participants and we believe that low density production is the key to sustainability. "It doesn't make any real difference whether you are running cattle, sheep or chooks, if your stocking rate is too high you will run into trouble" is our philosophy.
It's hard to justify European farming practices in many parts of Australia - they simply don't work with our soil types and climate. The current drought is a clear example of the stupidity in trying to maintain exotic pastures and growing crops which require huge and unsustainable inputs.
Apart from the massive problems of erosion and salinity, the inputs needed to maintain unrealistically high production levels create unhealthy nutrient loads and reduce farm viability over the years.
The report demonstrates that stocking densities have a direct impact on feed costs. Supplementary feed inputs rose significantly as stocking rates increased.
Once the results were produced in table form it was easy to see that a free range egg farm with a stocking rate of 9 Dry Sheep Equivalent (DSE) per hectare, produced an egg laying rate of 70% with feed consumption of 26 kg per bird per year. A farm with a stocking rate of 75 DSE per hectare produced a lay rate of 65% with feed consumption almost double at 48 kg per bird.
At current prices that's an added cost of nearly $10 a year for each bird - which doesn't sound much until you multiply it over the whole flock. The Freeranger Farm is at the most productive end of the scale.
Pasture management has been aimed at increasing the amount of native grasses in the vegetated cover. The report shows that soils on the farm are acidic and have relatively low nutrient levels.
It was felt to be counter productive to try to change the soil balance to favour exotic grasses and a management style was chosen with a preference for adapting farm practices to fit the naturally occurring soil type.
Microlaena stipoides is one of Australia's most important native grasses with a widespread distribution in the eastern States. Its bright green colour, drought and frost resistance as well as shade tolerance make it superior to any non-native species as it has evolved for thousands of years in the dry and unpredictable Australian climate.
It is easily out-competed by exotic grasses in neutral or alkaline soil conditions, preferring acidic soils like those at Grantville. During the trial, lime was only applied to small test sites. The majority of the pasture had no inputs other than chicken manure from the free-ranging hens and native grass coverage increased by about 25%. There was also a high level of activity by earthworms and dung beetles.
We appear to have two types of
dung beetles on the property because there is evidence of activity all year round and some species are known to be dormant over winter.
The full report on the farm sustainability trials is available from
freeranger or from the Free Range Farmers Association. Detailed sustainable farming information can be found on many websites including and Economics Research, La Trobe University

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Egg enquiry from Malaysia

Today we had an email enquiry about eggs from a Malaysian restaurant chain. Not sure if they are planning to set up in Australia, or they are hoping we can export!
The request was about whether or not our eggs are Omega 3.
Alhough we have not sent our eggs away for analysis, it's likely that they are higher in Omega 3 oils than most eggs as our hens range all day on pasture which includes the plant, Purslane.
Some strange people regard Purslane as a weed. But Purslane contains more omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid in particular) than any other leafy plant. Purslane has 0.01 mg/g of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). EPA is an Omega-3 fatty acid found mostly in fish, some algae, and flax seeds. It also contains vitamins (mainly vitamin A, vitamin C, and some vitamin B and carotenoids), as well as dietary minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, and iron.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Big problems for the chicken meat industry and eggs could be next !

This top article appeared in The Age and other Fairfax papers today:

Hopefully Ben Butler is working on doing a similar expose of the egg industry which suffers from exactly the same problems.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Lace Monitor - just travelling through

Low speed stroll across the paddock

When the dogs started barking this afternoon we thought someone might be coming to visit. Well someone was - this Lace Monitor. It was slowing wandering across one of the horse paddocks - and the horses weren't too sure what to do. It was about half grown - around four and a half feet long and it didn't take kindly to me strolling over to say hello.
Ater a deal of hissing and spitting at me, the monitor (or Tree Goanna) kept going through the fence into the next door property. Ducatti (one of the Maremmas), rather sensibly stayed out of the way.
It was the first one I've seen here for a year or so - but it might explain why some of the dogs go off at night, Maybe it's not just the foxes. 
Letting me know not to come any closer.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Egg Industry's self-destruct wish

The gullibility of our politicians, regulators and egg producers never ceases to amaze me. The Australian Egg Corporation Ltd is simply a private company controlled by major egg producers, and so – understandably – it looks after their interests.

So why is everyone so quick to believe what they say even when the views they express are not backed by any science or even common sense?
One simple example is the headlong rush by AECL to adopt new standards for egg production which will allow intensive farms to label the eggs they produce as 'free range'.
The big operators in the industry seem to believe this is a great idea because they think they will increase profits by labelling their eggs as 'free range' to take advantage of the fastest growing sector in the industry.
However, all it is doing is playing into the hands of the major supermarkets who are in the middle of a price war. They will be able to seize on the new version of 'free range' to offer huge price discounts in their stores to consumers eager to buy any eggs which are labelled as 'free range'.
But the egg producers haven't thought this through. If the price of free range eggs in supermarkets is cut by $1 a dozen, do they really think that the price of cage eggs won't drop? This really is an issue of industry self-destruction.
If Meat and Livestock Australia embarked on a marketing campaign to lower the price of beef, angry cattlemen would camp on their doorstep telling them exactly what they thought. But not the gullible egg boys! Whose interests are the Egg Corporation looking after anyway – the supermarket chains.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Plans to dump the poultry welfare code

Here is a post from the website of the Free Range Farmers Association which is worth repeating:

Changes designed to water down the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals, Domestic Poultry are now being planned by the Australian Egg Corporation. It has arranged a forum to discuss the issues in Sydney on April 4 and it is vital for real Free Range farmers across Australia to have their say.
James Kellaway, AECL Managing Director, always claims that the organisation represents every industry sector when AECL actions make it clear that the Egg Corp only cares about the big operators and takes no notice of the free range sector (unless it's the intensive 'free range' version).
Help us to make your voice heard by telling us what you think about watering down the Model Code which establishes clear guidelines for the free range industry. The fundamentals of the Model Code are stocking density and beak trimming. The current Code is crystal clear on beak trimming - it must only be a last resort when other methods of controlling feather picking and cannibalism have been tried and failed. But the Egg Corporation accredits farms to it Egg Corp Assured programme when they have beak trimmed or de-beaked their birds at day old or soon after - completely contravening the Code which the Egg Corp still claims is a mandatory requirement of its accreditation scheme.
The issue of stocking density was clear to all in the industry until a couple of years ago. It stipulates a maximum outdoor stocking density of 1500 hens per hectare. But then some of the 'smart' operators felt they could exploit what they saw as a loophole and use a clause in the appendix to the Code which allows higher stocking densities for meat birds.
They claim (now supported by AECL) that this permits an unlimited number of birds and some farms are running up to 50,000 hens per hectare - all with the blessing of AECL. The Egg Corporations says it plans to close this 'loophole' by introducing its new standard (which it wants to call Egg Standards Australia) which will impose a ceiling of 20,000 hens per hectare, remove all restrictions on beak trimming and allow birds to be locked up in sheds for 25 weeks.
If you want your voice to be heard at the Egg Corp forum on the Model Code, please contact FRFA with your thoughts.

You can contact FRFA at
This fight has been ongoing for about two years and there are no signs yet that the Egg Corporation will take any notice of egg farmers - so we hope to show politicians the duplistic nature of the AECL's plans.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Dumb Bureaucracy!

We've been having an ongoing battle with Bass Coast Shire Council about our postal address for the last 18 months or so. Over the 30 years we have been here, our address has been Stanley Road, Grantville. But a couple of years ago the Shire decided to do some township boundry realignments and, in their wisdom, we suddenly became part of Glen Forbes.

No problems - we don't care where the Shire says we are physically located. But the mailing address is a different thing. The Shire started sending things like Rates Notices to us at Glen Forbes. The problem with that is that access to Stanley Road is from Grantville, not from Glen Forbes - so the mail was seldom (if ever) delivered if it was addressed to us at Glen Forbes. Our Bank also sent statements etc to us at Glen Forbes - none of them reached us - until we convinced the bank to change our postal address back to Grantville.

We have no idea how much mail has gone astray in the past couple of years thanks to the combined bungling of Bass Coast Shire and Australia Post !

We suggested the solution to Bass Coast Shire when this issue first arose because of their incompetence – leave our location address as Glen Forbes if that's how they get their jollies, but change our postal address back to Grantville - as that's the only way we get mail delivered.

They couldn't have cared less, even when I advised that if we didn't receive rates notices we obviously couldn't pay them. Staff weren't interested and the Shire Mayor (who happens to be our local councillor) was less than helpful.

Bureaucracy sucks.

Here's an email received today from Australia Post:

I am contacting you as a result of difficulties you have experienced lately in having your mail delivered in a timely manner to your property. I have visited the local area in an effort to establish a resolution to this issue. As you are aware, Rural Road Numbering was implemented in your area some time ago in accordance with the state-wide Rural Addressing System. Using your address greatly assists emergency services and other utilities to find your property efficiently, including Australia Post. Although your property is within the Glen Forbes Locality it cannot be accessed by the contractor who services the Glen Forbes area. For this reason and to help us deliver your mail on time to the correct destination, it is necessary to change your postal address to a Private Bag address. This will enable our operations to be more efficient and prevent your mail being delayed.

This is the solution we suggested to Shire ages ago. Leave our residential address as Glen Forbes but continue sending our mail to us at Grantville, as that is the only way it gets delivered.

It's nice to have a win now and then – but lets hope this works!!!

As for the comments about the Rural Addressing System making it easier for emergency services to find our property – how can it be more efficient to tell them that our address is Glen Forbes when the only access to the property is from Grantville?  Our local CFA guys know that Stanley Road is in Grantville, not Glen Forbes, but brigades from further away wouldn't have a clue neither would the State Emergency Service, Police or Ambulance crews. So presumably they would head to Glen Forbes and then ask for directions from locals ..... so much for efficiency.

Thank you Bass Coast Shire.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Australians are eating more eggs than ever

Australians are eating more eggs than ever according to statistics from the Australian Egg Corportion. Egg consumption is up by 7% from 198 per person in 2010 to 213 last year.
The egg industry produced 392 million dozen eggs last year - 12.9 million each day. This figure is 10% higher than 2010 levels and represents a 51% increase since 2000.

More info at

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Egg Corp's plans are unravelling

There's a good piece about the problems in the egg industry on the Sustainable Table website at:
This is on top of  AECL calling an emergency meeting of the 25 biggest egg producers to discuss a looming over supply of eggs which is expected to hit more than one million eggs a day by July unless the size of the national flock is reduced.

The Egg corp still hasn't been able to push through its new standard for intensive 'free range' production.