This industry information page is exclusively for members of the Freeranger Club.
If you need any further information about free range farming, accreditation systems or any aspect of the egg industry in Australia please email us or send a query through our Contact Us page. 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: http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/farm-management/business-management/permits/guidelines-for-rural-planning-applications. Once that is sorted, talk to your Council Environmental Health Department about any specific requirements they have before you get underway.
Egg farm sustainability
The potentially catastrophic problems of Avian influenza may soon be eliminated 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 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 fort future use in t he event of an outbreak.
Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals (Domestic Poultry is to be replaced by a set of animal welfare standards and guidelines being prepared by Animal Health Australia. When approved, they will apply in every state and territory.
All State Ministers for Consumer Affairs/Fair Trading have agreed to a pathetic national standard for free range egg production. They have allowed farms with stocking densities of 10,000 hens per hectare to label their eggs as free range. Hard to believe. but true.
The lobbying was heavy from the big end of town which pushed for intensive production systems to be the 'free range' definition.
The new standard will not improve the integrity of the labelling system and will not give consumers confidence in the egg industry. Hopefully the new standard won't discourage people from setting up genuine free range farms.
Free Range egg farmers in Australia who follow the outdoor stocking densities set out by Ministers for Consumer Affairs and the Federal Minister for Small Business, in their recent decision on a free range standard are likely to face prosecution by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. The density suggested by the Ministers does not comply with consumer expectations (as already decided by the Federal Court).
The ACCC has produced a guide to help hen egg farmers of all sizes understand their fair trading rights and obligations when promoting or selling free range eggs. The guide also informs consumers and the public about the ACCC’s approach to free range egg claims, which are made on labels.
On 31 March 2016 Australian Consumer Affairs Ministers said they wanted an information standard for free range eggs to be in place within 12 months. The information standard is not currently enforceable as reforms to give effect to the new regulations have not been introduced or passed by Parliament. The ACCC will amend its guidance as the information standard progresses.
On top of that the intensive stocking density will not meet planning requirements and will almost certainly mean that such operations will be treated as feed lots and require a planning permit.
Public consultation on new welfare standards to replace the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals, Domestic Poultry is expected to begin within two months. Animal Health Australia has been preparing the new standards for over a year, in consultation with a variety of major interest groups. Details are at http://www.animalwelfarestandards.net.au/poultry this is part of the submission we will make to AHA. Chickens need to be allowed to follow their normal behaviour rather than be confined. Modern domestic chickens have the same characteristics and habits as the Red Jungle Fowl from which they descended. The Red Jungle Fowl range in small groups on the forest floor. They forage on the ground for seeds, fruit and insects, using their feet to scratch away leaf litter when searching for food. From animal behaviour website https://www.animalbehaviour.net/poultry On modern intensive cage egg laying properties,.chickens are kept in groups of 3–10 birds in cages with space allowances of 350-600 sq cm per bird(Mench and Keeling, 2001). Stocking densities vary around the world, 350 sq cm on average in the United States, to as high as 700-800 sq cm in Norway and Switzerland (Savage, 2000). Meat chicken sheds. These hold from 10,000–70,000 meat birds, housed on litter in either semi-enclosed or environmentally closed houses. Stocking densities vary from 30–50 kg live weight per square metre (Mench and Keeling, 2001). The social organisation differs in these systems but pecking orders emerge in cages. In cages, there is a definite hierarchy established by pecking and threatening when the hens are placed in the cage, usually a few weeks before laying commences The social order in broiler flocks is relatively unimportant as they are generally processed at an age when the establishment of social stratification is just beginning (Siegel, 1984). Laying hens have complex interrelationships involving social rank, aggression, feeding behaviour and egg production (Mench and Keeling, 2001). In large groups kept together for some months, subgroups form and become restricted to an area. This means that birds can recognise their own group members and those of an overlapping territory. It was suggested that this territorial behaviour is important in large flocks as it reduces the numbers of conflicts when strangers meet (McBride and Foenander, 1962). It has also been shown that individuals are more dominant in the area where they spend most time. Thus in larger flocks, hens tend to live in neighbourhoods where they are well-acquainted (Craig and Guhl, 1969). Laying hens choose to feed close to each other when given a choice of feeding locations, which demonstrates the importance of social attraction (Meunier- Salaun and Faure, 1984). Hens that are in the same cage and in neighbouring cages synchronise their feeding. Chickens show socially facilitated feeding, in particular, they peck more at feed when they have company than when alone (Keeling and Hurink, 1996). Caged birds may exhibit some abnormal behaviour such as head flicks and feather pecking, i.e., pecking and pulling the feathers of other birds (Mench and Keeling, 2001). Feather-pecking may be a form of redirected ground pecking (Blokhuis, 1989). Experience in early life with ground pecking may influence pecking behaviour in later life (Blokhuis, 1991). The motivation for the redirection of ground-pecking happens when the incentive value of the ground is low, compared with the incentive value of pecking substrates (Bindara, 1969). In high-density situations, the birds and feathers make up a higher proportion of stimuli relative to the litter area. It is possible that the birds may perceive the feathers as dust and that may cause a redirection of ground pecking to feather-pecking (Hansen and Braastad,1994).
Egg farm sustainability
Egg production in Australia and throughout the world has increased in recent decades, and has reached an annual volume of 68 million tons worldwide. Australian production has hit 460 million dozen. The main reasons are that chicken eggs are a valuable source of protein and are also inexpensive.The huge demand for eggs has led to more intensive production, replacing traditional free range methods. This has resulted in serious environmental impacts. Those impacts will almost certainly increase with a high density outdoor stocking rate of 10,000 hens per hectare approved by Australian Ministers for Consumer Affairs.
Currently, about 7 million tons of eggs are produced each year in the European Union. Spain is one of the largest producers with 1,260 farms and an average of 67,700 chickens each. Together with France, Spain represents about 25 percent of European production, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and Environment.
In addition, the production of eggs, like other intensive produce, generates negative effects on the environment, including the emission of greenhouse gases or the contamination of soil and water.
It was not until the 1980s that intensive livestock farming began to be considered an environmental problem, and since then, few studies have focused on the impact of laying hen farms on the ecosystem. To determine the environmental implications of egg production in Europe, a team of Spanish researchers has taken as model an intensive poultry farm located in Asturias, with 55,000 laying hens and an annual production of more than 13 million eggs. The results are published in theJournal of Cleaner Production.
Read more at https://phys.org/news/2018-04-environmental-footprint-egg-industry.html#jCp
One of the biggest initial issues with setting up a free range egg farm is deciding on the type of shedding. Fixed, permanent sheds will require planning and building permits. Mobile sheds are an ideal alternative. Many people looking to start a free range egg farm have limited funds available, so they need to look for low-cost solutions for shedding to get the business established. This may mean building the sheds on farm, converting caravans, buying them second hand or getting a local business to custom-make them to order. Tell your fabricator what you want and he will build it.
If money isn't a problem there are several high-cost alternatives available. Here are some: http://www.pebbleridge.com.au/poultry-housing-systems/ http://chickencaravan.com/ http://leghornindustries.com.au/
Big fine for false egg labelling
A $300,000 fine plus costs was handed down by the Federal Court against a NSW farm Pirovic Enterprises which claimed its eggs were free range. It was hoped that this decision would help to stamp out consumer deception in the way many eggs are labelled. But the new national standard dashed those hopes Thanks to gutless politicians. The ACCC brought a couple more successful actions in the Federal Court against crooked egg producers. One of these resulted in a WA egg producer having to pay $1 million in fines and costs for deceptive labelling.
Egg farms hit with avian flu costs
All egg farmers in Australia are being forced to pay for the costs of the avian
influenza outbreak in New South Wales even though it was caused by poor
on-farm practices and inadequate biosecurity procedures on the individual farms
A new levy of 1.4 cents on every chick purchased by farmers is being charged, on top of existing levies.
The levy is to repay $395,000 to the Australian Government for the egg industry’s share of costs incurred for the responses associated with an outbreak of LPAI among ducks during January 2012; an outbreak of HPAI among laying hens in
November 2012; and another outbreak of HPAI among laying hens in October 2013.
Specialist poultry industry vet, Dr Peter Scott has said that free range farms should not be established alongside intensive farms and dams should not be sited near poultry flocks (both these problems were evident on the farm at the centre of the latest outbreak).
IEC Biosecurity checklistThe 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 has been developed. This new resource 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:http://1pfp2yazjqr27ku7g3h8zwwx-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/IEC-BIO-BROCHURE-FINAL-11.09.17.pdf or from https://www.internationalegg.com/iec-avian-influenza-expert-groups-new-practical-biosecurity-check-list-is-available-to-download/
Biosecurity guidelines can also be downloaded here:
Download Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals, Domestic Poultry
The Code of Pactice for the Welfare of Animals - Domestic Poultry is currently being reviewed but it will take at least a year before any decision is made. We hope there is wide consultation during the review period and that the decisions are not made solely as a result of discussions between corporate egg producers, bureaucrats and politicians. The current Model Code can be downloaded here: http://www.publish.csiro.au/pid/3451.htm
Changes to Victoria's planning laws for poultry farms can be downloaded here:
Getting to know where to purchase various supplies can be tricky. There are often many sources (including eBay) but here is a brief list to start you off:
Feed: Reid Stockfeeds 54 329273 56 332222
Open Range Poultry mix - available at many feed supply stores
Country Heritage Feeds - available at many feed supply stores
Peters Poultry Mix - available at many feed supply stores
Replacement pullets: Victoria Freerange Hens Mark Plowman 57908523
Abundant Layers Nar Nar Goon http://www.abundantlayers.com.au/
Suburban Chooks http://www.suburbanchooks.com.au/
Specialised Breeders Australia Hyline Brown and Lohmann
NSW Brian Larkin Laying Pullets
Darling Downs Hatchery
South Australia Heaven poultry, Hillier
Day Old Chicks: Baiada http://www.baiada.com.au/operations/hatcheries.htm
Research has been conducted for about 10 years on ways to identify male embryos in eggs at hatcheries, to remove those eggs in the very early stages of incubation. Here are some details https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/27/chicken-embryo-tests-can-prevent-practice-of-gassing-billions-of-cockerels?CMP=share_btn_fbs
Cartons/trays: Australia Pak Footscray
http://www2.huhtamaki.com/web/molded-fiber/egg-packaging/australia order through firstname.lastname@example.org
MyPak Australia http://www.mypak.com
Wagners Coldstream http://www.wagnerspoultry.com.au/egg_cartons.htm
Budget Pack Laverton Vic
Egg Carton Manufacturers
Outer boxes: Echo Cartons Braeside 18 Industrial Drive Braeside Vic
3195 Phone: 03 9587 7955
Eggs - what to look for: http://www.alltech.com/sites/default/files/alltech-egg-shell-quality-poster.pdf
Polystyrene boxes for keeping eggs cool: Frontier Industries Clayton Vic
Polyfoam Australia Dandenong South Vic
Labels: Sheets of self adhesive labels suitable for printing : Austab Labels www.austab.com.au Online Labels
Printed labels for egg cartons can be made by virtually any commercial printer, including Tilba Street Labels at Reservoir email: email@example.com
Poultry Equipment: Bellsouth Narre Warren VIC
Horsley Wholesale NSW http://horsleywholesale.com.au/catalog/POULTRY_CHICKEN_BIRD_SUPPLIES-114-1.html
New regulations mean that all eggs must be stamped with a code to identify the farm. Full details on the new regulations in Victoria and Food Safety for Egg Producers can be found at
Here are a heap of egg stamping options readily available to meet the requirements of the national regulations.
Agriequip Pty Ltd www.agriequip.com.au
Egg Labelling requirements are reasonably straightforward. A guide is available to download. One of the requirements is a Nutrition Information Panel (seems unnecessary as eggs are not processed and there is no requirement for other fresh foods such as meat, fish or vegetables to
have a NIP). The requirements for a Nutrition Info Panel can be seen here: http://www.incredibleegg.org/health-and-nutrition/egg-nutrients/nutrient-label
Egg Grading & Candling Here's some info from the US about candling and grading eggs - the details are relevant here, except we don't believe that eggs should be washed.
Egg Washing If nest boxes are kept clean, and there is no mud around sheds, eggs should be clean. If eggs need to be washed, there is a management problem and it's best to address that problem rather than install a washing machine - but if you feel the need for an egg washer, have a look at http://eshop.bellsouth.com.au/epages/bellsouth.sf/en_AU/?ObjectPath=/Shops/bellsouth/Categories/Eggs/Egg_Washers/Sanitouch_Systems or:
Food safety and eggs. FSANZ has a leaflet about safe egg production:
Environmental Management System
We can help if you wish to set up an Environmental Management System for your business guidelines for the egg industry are available as a download below, and you can also check out a brief outline of the steps here: http://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/rdaguidelines/documents/emp_guideline_publication_october.pdf
Changes to Victorian Planning laws covering poultry famrs can be downloaded here
Low stocking densities on free range farms tend to reduce disease and infection problems, as long as good biosecurity measures are in place. Wild birds (particularly ducks and other water fowl may create problems. so ensure the range area does include a dam or other open water source which may attract ducks. Other measures to combat Avian Influenza are spelled out in a publication by the Government of Vietnam . http://www.fao.org/docs/eims/upload/206313/AImanual_vietnam_en.pdf
Talk to your vet if you suspect your chooks are suffering from a disease. You may get information you need about diagnosis by contacting the Poultry CRC or consult a booklet produced by Intervet - Important Poultry Diseases. or you can read the US publication Diseases of Poultry edited by David Swayne. Some veterinary drug manufacturers publish information sheets on specific diseases.
We are constantly adding to our range of information sheets and they can all be downloaded here:
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Anatomy of a chicken. Here's a useful guide from the Poultry CRC.