Sunday, December 31, 2017

Conditional approval for avian influenza vaccine

Potentially catastrophic problems of Avian influenza may soon be diminished with the wide availability of a vaccine for poultry.The U S Department of Agriculture has conditionally approved the first DNA vaccine for poultry in the battle against avian influenza. The conditional license granted to Montana-based AgriLabs for high pathogenic H5 will provide a tool for US poultry producers if stockpiling is needed for future cases of avian influenza. A spokesman for the company said the move was a major milestone in meeting the promise of DNA vaccines in animal health. DNA vaccines are attractive because they don’t expose the animals being treated to disease-producing organisms and there is no risk of a modified pathogen mutating back to a virulent form. The vaccines also provide the ability to differentiate among infected and vaccinated animals. The approval will allow production of the vaccine to be stockpiled for future use in the event of an outbreak.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Setting up a free range farm

Clear consumer demand for free range eggs has generated a strong increase in the number of people thinking about starting their own free range egg business. A good starting point is reading the eBook on starting a free range farm available on the Freeranger Eggs website: . Detailed information is available on the Freeranger Club downloads page about things like shed requirements, feed,stock management, food safety, egg packaging and labelling. When deciding to set up a free range egg farm, take the time to plan it properly. Find out the zoning of the land and talk to your local Council planning department about their requirements. It’s also worth contacting the State Department of Agriculture. You can find on-line resources in most states. In Victoria, contact: Once that is sorted, talk to your Council Environmental Health Department about any specific requirements they have before you get underway. Mobile sheds provide an ideal and low-cost way to become an egg producer for your local area.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Sustainability and food safety are both vital on free range farms

The Freeranger Eggs farm at Grantville is an example of sustainable farming. The farm management plan takes a three pillars approach to how the farm operates. Animal welfare is one pillar, but equally important are land sustainability and food safety. Growth is not a part of our philosophy. we need to encourage people to set up more farms, not upscale existing farms. We believe that will support more people working the land fairly and will ensure long-term food security. Despite all the political bickering in Canberra over emissions trading scheme targets, some small businesses have been playing their part in addressing the problem. Freeranger Eggs in Victoria has been getting on with mitigating the impact of carbon emissions. The farm's carbon footprint is limited by imposing a food miles policy for deliveries, using recycled materials and equipment whenever possible, utilising solar power and mechanical processes and an effective waste reduction programme. As a result, the 1200-chicken farm generates only about 60 tonnes of CO2 each year. But it is better than carbon neutral, it is carbon positive. The 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 percent. Calculations based on 2-inch deep samples, show that over those five years the farm sequestered about 14 tons of CO2 per acre or four tonnes of carbon per acre on the grasslands. Further testing and calculations have not been carried because there has been a total lack of interest in the results. The farm applies no chemical fertilisers, herbicides, or pesticides and this policy increases the biological life in the soil and increases the rate of carbon sequestration. Rotational grazing is practised on the pastures – taking advantage of photosynthesis to pull CO2 into the plants and then into the roots from where it transfers to the soil. In addition, every year at least another tonne of CO2 per acre continues to be sequestered by the regular regeneration of Kangaroo Apples (Solanum laciniatum) in the main paddocks. Native vegetation has been protected on approximately 100 acres of the property and regeneration there sequesters a further tonne of CO2 per acre. This brings a grand total of 1500 tonnes of CO2 sequestered on this property over five years – an average rate of 300 tonnes per year compared with the farm's carbon output of around 60 tonnes. On days of full sun the solar panels on the farm shed generate 13 - 17kW of electricity a day and as on average the farm consumes just 9kW a day it helps the bottom line. Thw farm is a true free range operation with small flocks of chickens in separate paddocks with mobile roost houses where eggs are laid.An eBook is available on setting up free range eggs farm s and we are developing a series of webinars. Crowd funding is being sought to prepare the webinars . Details on the freeranger eggs website. Freeranger Eggs gained international recognition in 2012 as the Australian winner of the Energy Globe Award.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Colouring additives in poultry feed

There are world-wide problems with colouring additives in poultry feed All major egg producers and many small ones - even those who claim to be free range and organic - use colouring additives in the feed they give their hens. Their use is completely unnecessary in a free range flock, as hens running on quality pasture and at low stocking densities will obtain enough carotenoids from the green feed in the paddock to maintain good yolk colour. The colour will vary – depending on the time of year and what each hen has been eating – but many egg producers want to con consumers by using additives to provide consistent, bright yolk colour. Many of those additives are synthetic - adding to the chemical cocktail mix in food. But even those which are claimed to be 'natural' are manufactured in factories. What the manufacturers mean by using the word 'natural' is that the additives may be derived from natural products but are processed and concentrated into a powder or liquid. Three of the most widely used egg yolk pigmenters are: Canthaxanin or Canthaxanthin which appears to be an unsafe additive. It can cause diarrhoea, nausea, stomach cramps, dry and itchy skin, hives, orange or red body secretions, and other side effects. Do not use canthaxanthin if you experience breathing problems; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, tongue or throat; a skin rash or hives; you are pregnant or breast-feeding or you are allergic to vitamin A or carotenoids. Capsicum Allergic reactions to capsicum may occur. Stop eating eggs with capsicum-based colouring and seek emergency medical attention if you experience symptoms of a serious allergic reaction including difficulty breathing; closing of the throat; swelling of the lips, tongue, or face; or hives. Other less serious side effects have also been reported. Talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider if you experience upset stomach; heartburn; diarrhoea; migraine attacks or burning sensation in the mouth or throat. Use of Capsicum is not recommended if you are pregnant. If you are or will be breast-feeding while eating food containing Capsicum, check with your doctor or pharmacist to discuss the risks to your baby. Capsicum colourings can bring on anaphylactic shock. See details about which plants generate these problems on this site at the University of Maryland: Marigold Some people experience breathing problems, tightness in the chest, swelling of the mouth, tongue or throat. A skin rash or hives may occur. Yolk colour will always vary unless colouring additives are used so if yolks are all the same deep colour - be suspicious.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

How to set up your own free range farm

If you have ever thought about establishing your own free range egg farm. check out the freeranger website for ideas. A detailed eBook is available to guide you through the process. Your enterprise needn't be expensive, unless you want to be big or to have fully automated everything. Free range egg production really is a niche market as part of a boutique industry, with small flock sizes and low density production. As well as having the eBook available we are planning a series of webinars for which we are seeking crowd funding. free range egg production provides additional income for existing farms and smallholdings, as well as for people with no farming background.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

this is a top 20 egg farm blog

Feedspot judges this blog to be one of the top 20 poultry blogs in the world.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Sustainable farm practices are key to long term viability

The stocking density of any farm animals is a critical factor in the long term sustainability of farmland. With chickens, the maximum stocking density of 1500 hens per hectare was established by the industry, academics, politicians and bureaucrats when they prepared the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals (Domestic Poultry). Nutrients and trace elements in manure can accumulate in the soil, making it toxic for vegetation as well as polluting ground and surface water. A laying hen produces half a cubic metre of manure a year. So with a stocking density of 10,000 hens per hectare approved by Ministers for Consumer Affairs, farmers who follow their advice will see their land covered with 5000 cubic metres of manure per hectare every year. As chicken manure has the highest amount of nitrogen,phosphorus, and potassium of all manures, it will likely render the land useless for farming within a few years. Contamination of groundwater and water courses is also likely.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Busy holiday time pushes demand beyond production

We are heading into our busy holiday season, with tourists flocking to Philip Island for Christmas and New Year. So we know we won ‘t be able to keep up with the excessive demand – but we will do our best. We will be able to meet the requirements of our regular shops and restaurants – but we certainly won’t be able to meet new orders even though the hens are laying well and we have a new flock of Isa Browns arriving just prior to Christmas.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Set up more free range farms

Proposed changes to farm planning regulations in Victoria, and the national decision by Ministers for Consumer Affairs to allow a huge stocking density of 10,000 chickens per hectare on free range farms has led to a strong increase in the number of people thinking about starting their own free range egg business. A good starting point is reading the eBook on starting a free range farm available on the Freeranger Eggs website: " When you decide to set up a free range egg farm, take the time to plan it properly. Find out the zoning of the land and talk to your local Council planning department about their requirements. It’s also worth contacting the State Department of Agriculture. You can find on-line resources in most states. In Victoria, contact: Once that is sorted, talk to your Council Environmental Health Department about any specific requirements they have before you get underway.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Gate sales are going strong 24/7

Our gate sales are still going extremely well.Each week they add up to as many or more than we used to sell at markets. Hopefully the yellow cool box inside our front gate will continue to be popular over the summer months as we will have plenty of eggs. A new flock of Isa Brown pullets arrive just before Christmas so they will be in full lay by the middle of January. The cool box is stocked every day and the eggs are available anytime, day or night. Anyone needing a special order (multiple dozens, eggs on trays or specific sizes) just send us an email or ring and we will package your order in the box.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Model Code should be legislated as the free range standard

Political dithering over hen welfare and the definition of free range shows the high level of incompetence displayed by politicians and bureacrats. Rather than dream up a raft of new legislation and standards, simply enshrine into law The Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals (Domestic Poultry). Development of the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals – Domestic Poultry 4th Edition, 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 tare not adopted in place of the extensive requirements of the current code. There has been 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 current 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. Experience was taken into account 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 at any one time, the impact was 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, or other regulations introduced by Governments should be:  a maximum stocking density of 1500 hens per hectare;  stocking density must be reduced in conditions where pasture or other vegetative cover cannot be maintained at the maximum stocking density;  no beak trimming of hens is permitted except when other methods of controlling outbreaks of severe feather pecking or cannibalism have been tried and failed (using the same criteria in the current Model Code); and  pullets must be allowed to range freely once they are fully feathered (about six weeks old).

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

International Egg Commission biosecurity checklist for all egg farms.

The International Egg Commission (IEC) has developed a Practical Biosecurity Check List designed to help egg businesses improve their overall biosecurity. The comprehensive Biosecurity Check List is freely available to the egg industry. It provides practical guidelines for egg farmers and producer businesses, to help reduce the risk of infection. The guide can downloaded here: or from Details are also on the Freeranger Club member downloads page of the Freeranger Eggs website

Monday, December 04, 2017

Intensive egg production facilities dominate in Australia but there's still a place for traditional free range family farms

The increasing scale of large, intensive egg production facilities is demonstrated in this article published by Poultry Hub.There are now very few traditional free range farms left in Australia because of Government red tape and pressure from big business.Only the massive corporate businesses have sufficient volumes to meet the requirements of major supermarkets - so it's a waste of time looking in supermarkets if people want genuine free range eggs. In Australia, the chicken layer industry, or egg industry, is an important intensive animal production system. The egg industry has displayed strong growth over the past decade due to rising per capita consumption of eggs (a little over 200 eggs per year/person). Egg is considered as an alternative source of protein to meat. Eggs have four broad production types: cage, free-range, barn-laid and organic. Backyard egg production is also common in Australia and is closely tied in with Australians fondness of poultry. Over the past five years, there has been increasing demand for free range eggs due to welfare issues in cage egg production system. Free-range egg production system allows hens to roam freely over a greater area, including outdoors. The industry is gradually moving from cage egg production system to free-range egg production system in Australia. Chicken eggs and egg products have traditionally been, and still are, a popular part of the human diet. The egg is formed in the reproductive organs of the female chicken. Most commercial strains of hen can lay over 260 eggs per year and some improved breeds can lay over 300 eggs in a year – this is almost an egg every day. It is not necessary for a hen to mate with a rooster before she can produce an egg. Modern types of hen have been bred so that they will lay even if there is no chance of producing a chick. Layer chicks are sexed and the females are sold as future layers and the males are humanely killed. Production of eggs to meet Australian demand Eggs are collected as soon as possible after being laid and are held in cool storage to protect internal quality. Farmers check eggs for quality using a special lighting (candling) system. Cracked or weak-shelled eggs and other abnormal eggs are discarded. A sample of each batch of collected eggs is checked for internal quality and freshness. The eating value of eggs has long been recognised. An egg contains 12% shell (which is not eaten), however the remainder of the egg is a mix of protein, energy, minerals and vitamins. This means that eggs are a highly nutritious food that forms part of a good mixed diet. Eggs contain the substance cholesterol, which has been seen in the past as an undesirable characteristic. However, this issue has been simplified as there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ forms of cholesterol and eggs have been shown to increase the ‘good’ form of cholesterol in the blood of people who consume eggs (Djousse and Gaziano (2008) AJCN, 87(4):964-969). Reports suggest that consumption of eggs everyday is not associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease. Eggs also contain many other beneficial fats and amino acids. Some producers have marketed specialty eggs which are fat modified (omega-3 enriched). This is done by feeding hens on a specially selected diet. Systems used to produce eggs The farmer who produces eggs is commonly referred to as an egg producer. Extensive Back yard layers There was once a time when every farm and many suburban households had a few chooks scavenging in the yard, getting some household scraps, and sometimes getting a handful of wheat each day. This method of farming is called extensive. The number of these farms decreased as intensive farming methods developed, allowing one person to care for large numbers of birds. Semi-intensive Until the 1950s, commercial egg producers had a few hundred to a few thousand hens housed in a shed with access to a yard surrounded by a 2 m high wire netting fence to keep foxes away. These were called semi-intensive farms and were often located in country areas close to the source of feed ingredients, especially wheat. Similar semi-intensive farms of a few thousand birds had become popular on the outskirts of major cities by the middle of the 1950s. This location was favoured because it was closer to the city market, where most eggs were sold. Intensive Intensive production means large numbers of animals are kept in a small area. With the introduction of layer Free-range can still be intensive cages in the 1960s, farms became more intensive and larger flocks, up to 15,000 birds, became common. In 1979, there were 3200 layer farms in Australia but by 1986 this number had reduced to 1700. A few very large farms, with up to 100,000 birds, developed in the 1970s. Today some farms have over 500,000 hens in multiple level sheds.