Egg farm switches to free range
24 March 2015
FREE RANGE: Sunny Bay Eggs, formerly Van den Broek Poultry, is ending caged hen egg production in favour of free range. General manager Azzan Gorinski holds a production sample marketed under the Morning Harvest brand. Photo Keith Melville D1832-08
AN ownership change is bringing new life to an old Whakatane poultry farm and a huge shift in farm practices from traditional caged-hen farming to free-range and barn farming.
Van den Broek Poultry’s Onepu farm on State Highway 30 has been bought by Sunny Bay Eggs, a business owned by Heyden Farms and Azzan Gorinski, the general manager.
Mr Gorinski said conventional hen cages were being phased out and free range barns phased in, with completion of the switch-over scheduled for the end of 2018, when the farm was required by law to end caged hen farming.
He said without the capital investment brought to the farm by the new owners it would not have had a future.
Heyden Farms, of which former Fonterra chairman Sir Henry van der Heyden is a shareholder, also owns the nearby Golden Lane Poultry Farm on State Highway 34, near Kawerau.
Eggs from Heyden Farms and from Sunny Bay are marketed by a co-operative through New World and Pak’n Save supermarkets under the Morning Harvest brand.
Mr Gorinski said in buying Van den Broek poultry from members of the Turk family – the options were to switch to the new, approved-colony caging system, where hens were confined to cages much bigger than the small cages used traditionally, or to open range and barn farming.
In the open range method hens were kept in a barn with access to an outdoor area.
Mr Gorinski said the farm, which would be known as Sunny Bay Free Range, said the capital requirement for the switch was 25 percent greater than the colony caging system, but free range had been chosen because that was where the market was growing.
He said the company had made the choice, even though it knew that hens held in colony cages had a much lower mortality rate than free range hens.
“Free range hens don’t last as long, but definitely have a happier life.”
Mr Gorinski said that was because they were susceptible to more diseases.
He said 20 percent of the egg market was already for eggs laid in a cage-free environment.
“We feel the free range market will grow.”
The conventional cage sheds would be shut down and replaced with free range barns with 15,000 birds maximum, Mr Goronski said.
The automated free range system included feed lines, perches on several different levels, water drinkers, nesting boxes, automated conveyors for removing manure, and automatic doors to allow access to the outside.
Each level in a free range barn has a plastic grated floor with a conveyor belt underneath.
The first barn – 900 square metres – would have capacity for 9000 hens and half of them would be in production by July.
The first of the automated equipment for the system would arrive in about two months, Mr Gorinski said.
A second barn of 700 square metres was also planned and would have capacity for 7000 birds, he said.
However, he said due to outdoor space limitations the two barns, with their outdoor spaces, would have a maximum of 15,000 birds.
Bird numbers on the farm would be reduced by from 60,000 to between 35,000 and 40,000, Mr Gorinski said.
Of these, 15,000 would be free range and the balance uncaged barn hens without outdoor access.
Mr Gorinski said although bird numbers would be reduced substantially there would be extra staffing requirements
Source: Whakatane Beacon