Tuesday, June 27, 2017

hens need to follow their natural behaviour for best performance

Academic researchers often produce theories and reports designed to demonstrate what 'free range' means in the egg industry. Their findings are usually based on carefully arranged criteria set by an organisation which funded the research and expected specific outcomes. Far better to rely on the experience of those in the industry actually running free range egg farms. Some people are fixated on the issue of animal welfare and they lose sight of matters like food safety and land sustainability. Outdoor stocking density is a key example. Academics found it easy to come up with results from research on small scale or short term projects to demonstrate that stocking densities had little or no impact on hen welfare. But it has been impossible for them to demonstrate that high densities had no detrimental impact on pasture quality, pollution of waterways, groundwater and the long term productivity of the land as a result of excessive nutrient loads. The maximum sustainable stocking density for poultry has been established at 1500 hens per hectare to minimise land degredation and ensure the long-term viability of the land. Laying hens, like most if not all other animals, perform best when they are able to follow their natural behaviour. They clearly need shelter, food and water but they also need to wander around freely to forage, scratch, dust bathe and interact socially with others in the flock. Allowing the hens to follow their natural cycles keeps them happy - so there should be no lights in the sheds to trick them into thinking its still daylight and to keep eating and laying eggs (they need as much sleep as we do!)

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Government regulations ensure the spread of avian influenza

Factory farms are incubating the next outbreak of Avian Influenza in Australia. Ministers who approved an intensive stocking density of 10,000 hens per hectare have put the entire Australian egg industry at risk. Such high densities allow any disease outbreak to spread rapidly. One gram of droppings from a chicken infected with bird flu contains enough viruses to infect the entire flock.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Free range egg farm in Zambia

We have helped many people in Australia to set up free range farms. The way our system of production is easily replicated is one reason we won the Energy Globe Award for Australia in 2012. We have had requests for help from various parts of the world - today we sent off our eBook on setting up a free range egg farm to Zambia. We received a request for technical assistance to assist in setting up a free range egg production farm in Lusaka Zambia. Of course the answer was Yes!

Monday, June 12, 2017

$43 million a year rip off

Tom Godfrey of consumer group, Choice says that the political decision to allow intensively produced eggs to be labelled as 'free range' will rip off consumers to the tune of $43 million a year. Consumers are overpaying for dodgy free range eggs and big producers are being protected from prosecution by changes to the Australian Consumer Law.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

False claims on poultry stocking densities

False assertions by the egg industry that no maximum stocking density was set in the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals (Domestic Poultry) need to be revealed. The industry cobbled together an amended code which they peddle as the real thing and claim that it shows no maximum stocking density. They included in the main body of their version of the code, an edited item from the Appendix which they claim allows unlimited stocking densities.
The actual Appendix states at 2.1.4 “The maximum acceptable densities for free range birds For layer hens a maximum of 1500 hens per hectare.” Then it refers to meat birds.”Meat chickens, a proportionately higher stocking density than for layers may be used.” The intent is crystal clear but in their dodgy version of the code, the industry left out all references to ‘meat birds’. The plan was clearly designed to deceive Ministers and con them into accepting that the Model Code did not establish a maximum stocking density and to accept their arguments and those of the major supermarkets for a 10,000 hen per hectare density.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Small is beautiful

When large numbers of animals are farmed intensively on industrial units to maximise profits, problems are inevitable. Disease control and food safety are prime issues as is environmental sustainability. Since the Second World War, agricultural practices have gone through massive changes, in mechanisation, chemical use and large-scale intensive farming.
As a result of increasing the density of domestic farm animals, reported farm pollution incidents have sky-rocketed. In some areas farm waste is a major problem. Some countries report that about half of all serious water pollution incidents are caused by manure run-off from farms. Poultry, cows and pigs are the farm animals most responsible for the pollution. Livestock production occupies 70% of all land used for agriculture and 30% of the planet’s land surface. It is responsible for 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalents. It also generates 64% of the ammonia, which contributes to acid rain and acidification of ecosystems.
A large quantity of animal waste is generated by concentrated animal feeding operations and disposal of the waste has been a major problem. The industrialised farms collect the animal waste and mix it with water to form slurry. To be spread on paddocks as fertiliser. If the soil or plants are unable to absorb the nutrients the run-off gets into water systems. On Intensive free range farms running 10,000 hens per hectare, the huge volume of manure on paddocks poses an ecological risk to water courses because of the high nutrient load. Farm waste has led to the growth of toxic algae in waterways (algal blooms), the development of parasitic infections on frogs, and other species. This is why all farms should follow an Environmental Management plan and why low stocking densities should be maintained.Small-scale diversified farming is better than monocultures and intensive farming. But there is some way to go before the egg industry and agriculture as a whole is environmentally sustainable.All this led to the reason for us to start developing webinars to encourage people to set up free range egg farms and wed have a crowd funding campaign to ensure it is a top quality offering. https://www.gofundme.com/2tar52c

Best Practice to combat feather pecking

A best practice guide for managing feather pecking and cannibalism in layer hens, put together by Dr Phil Glatz and Geof Runge confirms that beak trimming should be the last option for controlling the problem. The best options are selecting docile breeds in the first place, and limiting competition by reducing stocking densities. Almost certainly the major egg producers will ignore the 'Best Practice' and will continue to use beak trimming as the only method to limit cannibalism. Inappropriate selection of pullets and high stocking densities are the prime causes of aggression amongst flocks which leads to feather pecking and cannibalism – which is one reason a maximum outdoor stocking density of 1500 hens per hectare was established in the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of animals (Domestic Poultry).

Thursday, June 01, 2017

New poultry welfare standards

New Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Poultry are being prepared by Animal Health Australia. the draft standards will be subject to a 90-day public consultation process which is expected to be held later this year.
In addition to welfare issues. there are planning problems with the political stocking density decision. In Victoria, regulations define Intensive animal husbandry: as “Land used to keep or breed farm animals, including birds, by importing most food from outside the enclosures. Which means that such properties will be treated as Lot feeding operations and permits are likely to be refused by most councils. There is no real basis for changing the stocking density recommended in the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals (Domestic Poultry).When the current version of the Code was approved by the Primary Industries Ministerial Council and printed in 2002, it was scheduled for review in 2010. It was a development of an earlier version of the Model Code. it is essential for the free range sector of the egg industry to ensure that intensive production standards are not allowed to stay in place of the extensive requirements of the code. There has no science behind high density free range proposals (other than the certainty of increased profits. No scientific review of production processes has been undertaken to demonstrate that the standards contained within the voluntary Model Code are no longer applicable to the industry. The stocking density of 1500 hens per hectare for free range hens was developed by applying well established principles of agronomy. The issue of the upper limit on the long term stocking rate was debated strongly at the time, following pressure from local Councils and the EPA about how some farms were operating. The experience of people who had farmed free range layers in the 1950’s and 60's, when all egg production was based on free range principles. Hens were often run under citrus trees It was recognised that for an operation to be sustainable, the stocking rate had to be low - less than 300 birds/acre (750/hectare). It was agreed that such a system should be regarded as Free Range egg production and the hens were to have access to the range during daylight hours. There was some dispute by new entrants to the industry who believed that they could design pasture rotation systems around their sheds that would allow higher rates. So it was decided to take an empirical approach and work out what the maximum stocking rate could be to avoid the measurable negative impacts of nutrient run off and soil degradation and still be theoretically possible to maintain pasture cover and avoid the issue of dust. Some argued that as most hens were in sheds at night and may be locked in for part of the day so that only a portion of the hens actually entered the range area, the impact is lessened. The dairy industry was very big at that time and local agronomists had data on the effects of applying very high rates of poultry manure on irrigated pasture. The agronomists studied the data on the maximum nutrient uptake a well maintained irrigated pasture could support and also avoid the problems of salinity build up observed in the dairy pastures. The stocking rate was calculated and a stocking density of up to 600 birds/acre (1500/hectare) was regarded as the maximum possible for long term sustainability. At the time the Code was approved, it was accepted that to maintain consumer credibility, visitors or passers-by had to see the birds out and about on the range. It was also accepted that there is no valid animal management need to lock in the layers in the morning or during inclement weather. Those currently involved in free range egg production agree that the fundamental elements of the Model Code should remain in place and be made mandatory.