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Chris Martin of Wairarapa Eggs with his free- range flock of 24,000 birds.


Chris runs mainly Hyline Brown birds on his farm and them in basic sheds.


bricks and mortar shed as the rest of the industry tend to do, but instead built open air canvas tunnel houses. My goal was to build a free-range farm for the least amount of money I could,” he said.


Chris normally has 20,000 birds actively laying at any one time with 4,000 birds either phasing in or out. The farm has an average laying rate of 84%. “All the houses are connected by conveyor belts to the main grading shed where we hand pack them using a 10,000 eggs per hour grader,” Chris said. “We don’t wash all the eggs, only the soiled ones that a quick buff doesn’t clean. Any cracked eggs with the mem- brane still intact go on for further processing to form a whole egg pulp that normally gets sold to larger bakeries. While leaking or severely soiled eggs go on for animal feed.” Free-range poultry farms in New Zealand are generally quite small and old, therefore the level of investment in technology among farmers is quite low. “On our farm we have invested heavily in technology that monitors feed us- age,” said Chris. “It’s not as flash or as sophisticated as that found on some of the caged hen farms but we don’t have to worry about environment monitoring and fans, as we are naturally vented. We use predominately Hyline Brown birds


Due to market disruption Wairarapa farm had an oversupply of free-range eggs.


as they are more suited to our ‘out of the box’ type sheds. There are also some Shaver Brown birds but they seem to need some fine tuning. We always have issues with them as they just can’t manage our more environmental conditions,” he said.


Managing oversupply Birds are normally culled at Wairarapa Eggs at around 80 weeks old. However, due to the current national egg oversup- ply the national flock size has been deemed too big, forcing Chris to cull 2.5 months early. Desperate measures in desper- ate times. The feed costs for an island nation are always going to be higher than for other parts of the world and New Zea- land is no exception. “Our feed prices are around US$ 710 per tonne and we source form a local feed mill just around the corner. Egg price is always such a sensitive topic around here, but on average farmers receive between US$ 3.50 and US$ 4.50 per dozen taking in all the tray or box size variants.” Looking ahead the main challenge for Chris is the market un- certainty. Even though New Zealand seemed to get Covid-19 under control at an early stage, the food service sector is still to some extent suffering.


▶ POULTRY WORLD | No. 3, 2021 13


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