Pasture-raised works for Bigga egg producer

It's been six weeks since opening their paddocks to chickens to diversify their farming.

Rachel and Heath Davies introduced 1500 Isa Brown hens to supplement their income from cross-bred ewes as well as Angus heifers and calves at 'Lickenhole' in Bigga.

Rachel, Chayse (4) and Heath Davies.

Rachel, Chayse (4) and Heath Davies.

It was a moral decision to let the flock roam free and they're riding the boom of a consumer worried about animal welfare.

"What we're trying to do is target that niche market," Mrs Davies said. "The people that care about how they're birds are kept and where their food comes from.

"We're all about the welfare of the birds and the animals."

The birds graze in a fenced paddock with access to a chicken caravan fit out with perches, nesting boxes, and conveyor egg collection. Chickens are protected by an electric fence and two Maremma dogs. The pen is moved frequently onto fresh pastures.

"We call ours pastured free-range or pasture-raised."

There are consumer laws which prevent any producer using pastured free-range, or pasture raised, and the practice is splitting with the free-range label.

In April 2018, the federal government introduced laws for producers to label cartons with another 12 months to transition. In order to be free range, a bird has to have access to outdoors during daylight hours, able to roam and forage outdoors, and limited to 10,000 hens or less per hectare (the exact number should be displayed on the packaging). This is higher than CSIRO recommendations of 1500 hens per hectare.

Licensing and accreditation company Proof shows there are two types of free range production. Those that have high stocking rates, large flock sizes and static sheds. Others, like the Davies' Greenmantle Valley, which holds 100 chickens per hectare, have low stocking rates, small flock sizes and mobile sheds.

The 210-hectare property has been owned by the Davies for almost four years.

The couple work every day collecting, grading, and packing. Eggs average 600-700 gram cartons and the chickens lay around 1200 per day.

All of their eggs leave the farm within five days of laying and retail between $6.50-$8.50, speciality eggs can retail up to $9.24 per dozen.

Cartons are available at IGAs across NSW, including Crookwell.