Many people keeping poultry as a hobby toy with the idea of developing their interest into a business, and free range production generally tops their wish list. As appealing as the idea is there is a vast difference between managing twenty layers and two hundred, or even two thousand. Until now there has been little information available, but this helpful booklet published by the Free Range Farmers Association Inc will change this. For a small cost you can find out almost everything you need to know about sustainable free range and so make a thorough evaluation of its suitability. Genuine Free Range Eggs is an A4 size budget publication of 34 pages with an accompanying colour chart illustrating internal and external egg quality. The booklet covers five distinct areas: developing a business plan, husbandry, equipment, welfare and sustainability. An introduction outlining the current free range situation precedes the information sections and encourages readers to examine why such a venture may be appropriate and consider reasons mitigating against it.
Section One, which covers the business plan, discusses costings and returns, but also raises issues like suitability of property, rainfall, topography, planning permits, location and customers. Potential farmers are encouraged to evaluate their physical suitability and whether or not they have the skills and mental attitude to deal with the diverse facets involved.
Section Two examines the breeds or strains used for free range, unsuitability of old pure breeds, feeding requirements and consumption, the role of water and green feed, and strategies for maintaining production. This is followed by a section on equipment, including housing, perches and nests, water provision and the importance of electric fencing and predator control. Animal welfare is discussed next and highlights the five freedoms put forward by the Farm Animal Welfare Council: freedom from thirst and hunger; from discomfort; from pain, injury or disease; from fear and distress; and to express normal behaviour.
The final section of the book covers sustainability, and discusses managing land to improve soil, ensure good vegetative cover and to minimise the environmental impact of poultry enterprises. These guidelines are particularly helpful and are derived from the expertise of a number of highly experienced people. The book concludes with the coloured egg chart and several loose pages on training education resources.
The booklet has been the joint initiative of the Free Range Farmers Association Inc of Victoria, and Federal Department of Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business through the Gippsland Area Consultative Committee. It's excellent value at just $20 posted, and provides a comprehensive overview of the issues and requirements of free range production.
Genuine Free Range Eggs, published by Free Range Farmers Association Inc. P.O. Box 526 Drouin, 3818 Email Cost is $20 posted. Please send cheque with order, or use the banking details on the membership page and notify us by email.