Sustainable Ethical Support Advice
From a young steel city ‘tradie’
to chook farmer…
I grew up on the shores of Lake Macquarie and attended
school in the, then ‘steel city’ of Newcastle, NSW,
After leaving school I gained an apprenticeship as a
boiler maker. A trade that later was handy when
maintaining poultry equipment.
After completing my apprenticeship as a boiler maker,
myself and my workmates were made redundant.
About to get married I needed a job immediately and my
fiancée's uncle took me to work on a chook farm!
35 years in intensive
I continued to work for some of Australia’s major
poultry meat and egg producers for some 35 years.
Working in all facets from breeding, hatchery,
breeders, broilers (meat) birds, egg layers, egg
On occasion I returned to my trade as a boiler
maker and worked in the mines and heavy
But I seemed to always get ‘drawn’ back to the
Transition from Intensive
to FREE Range
An opportunity arouse to work on an organic free-
range egg production farm
By then in the intensive world of chooks I spent a
lot of my time and expertise ‘fine tuning’ the shed
environment with computers and helping computer
programmers write programs for these computers
that ‘run’ the big sheds.
Time for this big rooster to ‘fly the coop’ of the
‘shed-life’ and go free ranging!
Who Let the Chooks OUT!
While I knew what free-range poultry was about –
nothing prepared me for the first sight of 12,000
hens running on a 1400 acre paddock!
I immediately exclaimed: ‘Who let the chooks out!’
A comment that I have never lived down
My FIRST Biggest Challenge! To
By now in my career as a poultry farm manager - I knew a fair
bit about all aspects of intensive poultry and commercial egg
Problem solving I enjoy and I will go to no end to find a
But now I knew I had a to LEARN about free- range pastured
My initial intention was to increase production of eggs to
BUT firstly I was met with staggering MORTALITY rates!
WHY? What was killing the chooks?
The hens seemed healthy
While post mortems showed some grass impaction
This did not explain the staggering mortality rates…
I suspected foxes but there were Maremma dogs......
So the avid ‘hunter’ in me decided to put up some
of my own night cameras....
And guess what I found....
What was KILLING the chooks?
The camera doesn't LIE
A long and lasting relationship between the
Wombat and the Fox….
One does the digging – the other does the killing...
Forget electrified fencetops – when the wombat can
So to increase productivity: decrease mortality rates
= keep out the WOMBATS..
How to keep out
My next major learning curve was how to keep out
The longstanding morning ritual when came to my
first free range farm – was for 2 farmhands to take
the tractor, get rocks, fill in the wombat holes =
min.2 hours / day per person
Every night the wombats dug out the rocks…and
the foxes followed...
A never ending costly cycle that I felt compelled to
END... But HOW?
The DILEMMA of fencing
I thought the answer was electric fencing!!
There was major infrastructure for 240v electric
fencing – that was no longer utilized. I was told they
had lost the battle with the grass on the kilometers
of fences on an organic farm (yes, no Round-up)
was a unbeatable task.
Electronetting had proved ineffective with the
wombats. Hundreds of meters were stored in the
SCRATCHIN’ my head, laying AWAKE at night…
The KILLING Fields..
After yet another sleepless night and waking to the
FRUSTRATION of dollars being lost to dead chooks
and labour in the never ending cycle of filling in holes
I still battled for the answer: local electric fence experts
said “you’ll never get enough power from solar
electric fences to stop a wombat”.
I kept meeting BRICK walls…
Drinks with a MATE
Sharing my dilemma with my partner, Judy’s
brother, Rod Chant (farm lad, come ‘sparkie’) over a
few drinks too many:
“..forget trying to ressurect the existing 240v
disused electric fencing system..
...stick in some ‘tread ins’, high enough to hit a
wombat on the nose..pull them up, mow and
replace....install battery banks & inverter in a old
fridge & some large solar panels on the outside...”
More GRUNT from the
I needed an electric fence unit to get the wombats
Gallagher had the one I needed.
When I went to purchase all the equipment from
Gallagher they said if this works: “ you’ll be the first
it the world, mate!”
It worked…and Gallagher asked me to write a
testimonial for their website. They said: “Eastern
Europe will love this…!!”
EGGS eggs and more
Mortality plummeted, production increased, sales
These rest was fine tuning: addressing grass
impaction with apple cider vinegar and ‘tweaking’
the feed rations…
Healthy Hens Happy Farmer