Wednesday, January 31, 2018
The revised Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal. Which Trade Minister Steve Ciobo says is great may have negative results for Australian farmers.The deal could see the importation of a wide range of farm products - including eggs. Canadian egg farmers have already expressed their disappointment, describing the deal as a failure to protect the future of Canada's egg farms. They say the deal will result in greater access for foreign eggs. Once fully implemented, Canadian egg farmers say they will lose the right to produce close to 291 million dozen eggs, with an additional 19 million dozen eggs added each year after the implementation phase. The total value of the trade deal represents close to$1 billion dollars in lost farm family income. It seems likely that Australian egg farmers may be hit just as hard.
Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Sustainable land management When we bought our property on the Bass River at Grantville, we soon realised its importance as part of the only remaining riparian forest on the river. Our vegetation also provided the only link between the Grantville Flora and Fauna Reserve and the Bass. Once that was firmly established in our minds we set about ensuring that production here became not only sustainable but renewable. Self-renewing topsoil that is biologically active is essential for productive agriculture as well as a healthy environment. It is the over-riding requirement for the health of plants, animals and people. But unfortunately it's not something that's high on the radar of most farmers. Appropriate management of soil biology in agriculture, horticulture, forestry and conservation areas is hard to find and is one of the most neglected natural resource issues in Australia. Most of our grasslands and croplands are nowhere near as healthy as they should be. They often feature areas of bare ground, sheet and gully erosion, weeds and an almost complete lack of desirable plant species. It's an easy but gullible assumption that removing the weeds and replanting some 'better' species will solve the problems. Decades of experience have demonstrated that this simplistic approach rarely works. The interactions between animals, plants and soil biota remain out of balance because the essential requirement of soil management has not been addressed. The consequent shortfall in ecosystem services, such as nutrient availability, results in costly (and damaging) supplements being added to the soils. Landscapes are not degraded because they lack desirable species. The reality is that desirable species will not flourish when landscapes are degraded. The traditional approach to land management has been to replace native vegetation with something that is 'more productive' (using exotic species and unbalanced chemical fertilisers) rather than adopting a multi-level, multispecies approach. There have been cosmetic attempts to make oversimplified ecosystems 'sustainable'. But it is a battle which cannot be won. Until a preventative rather than a curative approach to land management is adopted, agricultural ‘problems’ such as soil compaction, low fertility, weeds, pests and diseases, salinity etc, will continue indefinitely. Why spend buckets of money every year trying to change the soil balance or structure to meet the needs of exotic plant species (such as rye grass and clover) when there are perfectly adequate native species (such as miocrolaena stipoides) which thrive in low ph soils and out-perform the exotics in dry years. Sustainable poultry management Our free range hens spend as much time as they like outdoors grazing on pasture and doing what they do naturally – scratch around for bugs and worms. There is no need for them to be locked up as birds in each flock are protected from predators 24 hours a day by their Maremma guard dogs. · Our feed (which supplements what our hens find in their paddocks) is from a certified feed mill which uses precise nutritional information to formulate a diet especially for us which ensures a superior, tasty, natural egg. ·The diet containing a balanced selection of grains with no colouring additives. Most egg producers add manufactured colouring agents to the hen's feed to enhance yolk colour. In natural conditions, there is no need for these additives, it's simply cheaper for these farms to buy a standard feed which includes colouring. Yolk colour should vary throughout the year depending on the amount of green feed which is available- if it doesn't, it's almost certain that colouring additives are being used. · The supplementary vegetarian diet we use is high in specific nutrients: OMEGA 3, Vitamin E, Folate. The paddocks used by our hens contain a range of fodder plants, including native grasses such as Microlaena Stipoides, shrubs such as Kangaroo Apple and we encourage plant species like Purslane. Some strange people regard Purslane as a weed. But Purslane contains more Omega 3 fatty acids than any other leafy plant. It has 0.01 mg/g of eicosapentaenoicacid (EPA).We have no lighting in sheds so the hens can maintain their natural life rhythms. On farms where lights are installed in sheds, the hens are tricked into thinking its still daylight so they keep eating on laying eggs. Egg production on real free range farms drops in winter when daylight hours are reduced. For more details, go to our website: http://www.freeranger.com.au/
Monday, January 22, 2018
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.
The cost of complying with a range of national and state regulations adds at least 20% to the cost of eggs in Australia. Legitimate egg farmers are required to meet stringent planning regulations as well as food safety , packaging and labelling laws, while some operators are completely exempt from regulations. This results in unfair competition with many thousands of eggs sold to unsuspecting consumers each week. Those eggs from non-compliant producers have a lower cost base and meet no food safety standards- presenting a severe risk to families. Politicians don't care. Ministers at State and Federal levels ignore the problem. The industry needs a level playing field so that everyone who sells eggs is required to comply with the same standards.
Saturday, January 20, 2018
Anyone who wants to encourage more people to set up genuine free range egg farms can support our Crowd Funding appeal to develop a series of on-line webinars. These will encourage more traditional free range egg farms to be established throughout the country. We are is getting more requests about running workshops from people wanting to enter the free range industry. The extra activity has been brought on by the political decision to allow consumers to be misled by industrial-scale egg producers who are now legally allowed to label their eggs as free range. The Crowd funding appeal is at: https://www.gofundme.com/2tar52c
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
When you first think about starting a farming business, talk to an accountant before you get too far, to ensure that you maximise the benefits.You may be able to set up a farm with little net cost by offsetting existing income -using cash that would otherwise disappear in tax. It’s important to think about the type of business you want to run and the scale of the enterprise. If you need to minimise spending, then setting up a small=scale free range egg farm may be ideal. Get as much information as you can and a good starting point is reading the eBook available from Freeranger eggs. Check out our website at www.freeranger.com.au
Wednesday, January 10, 2018
“Why don’t my eggs taste as good as yours?” Is a question we are often asked, even by people with the same breed of hens – Isa Browns. When I speak to them about how they keep their hens, the answer is often that they are kept in yards and fed layer pellets. Well, that’s the difference, our hens are in paddocks with unrestricted access to pasture including insects, worms etc and a supplementary diet of grains. Commercial layer pellets contain a wide range of fillers, binders and additives including meat meal and colouring pigments whereas our feed is formulated to our specification by a Feed Safe certified mill, Reid Stockfeeds. The quality of each egg is determined by what the hen has eaten. With a natural diet, the eggs will taste as they should. Back yard eggs will seldom taste as good as eggs from genuine free range hens. Because their diet is limited.
Tuesday, January 09, 2018
There are various brands of egg grading machines on the market suitable for free range egg farms Some, such as the egomatic are readily available second hand but other makes are available, such as the Riva Selegg, Zenyer, Mobanette, OvoSelect and the Nuevo grader. Most of them are probably only available new from a dealer.
Our Egg Production and Food Safety Program is available as a free download to all who join the Freeranger Club. It will help new egg producers to establish good systems. Check out details on our website
Wednesday, January 03, 2018
Australian Eggs Ltd is preparing new environmental guidelines for the egg industry However the new guidelines for free range operations probably won't be any improvement on the old ones published in 2008.The industry is dominated by corporate players who don't accept that free range is a niche market with small-scale production. Corporate egg producers want to maximise returns by running at least 10,000 hens per hectare, when the maximum sustainable density is 1500 per hectare.Each hen produces half a cubic metre of manure per year - so at a stocking density of 10,000 hens per hectare, a colossal 5000 cubic metres of manure is dumped on each hectare every year. When large numbers of animals are farmed intensively in industrial units in an attempt 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. 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 various species. This is why all farms should follow an Environmental Management plan and why low stocking densities must be maintained.
Monday, January 01, 2018
Happy New Year to all our customers and fellow farmers. Let's hope that 2018 is a better year because genuine producers of free range eggs have been beset by ridiculous standards and regulations drawn up by incompetent bureaucrats and politicians as well as unfair competition from corporate operators pretending that their eggs are free range and unregulated back-yard operators who pay no registration fees and meet no food safety standards.