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Family Looks to the Future with Free-Range Egg Venture

by 5m Editor
4 July 2011, at 2:00pm

UK - Looking to add value to their outputs and explore new enterprises, Thurlby Grange Farm's decision to diversify into egg production was a radical move for the family who have been farmers for many generations. However, the decision is already paying off with their flock of 16,000 Hy-Line Variety Brown.

Located in Thurlby, Lincolnshire, the family is used to new challenges though having moved to the area in 1975 after their farm in Egleton disappeared under the Rutland Water Reservoir. Principally an arable farm with a beef unit, the farm is owned by Tony and Ruth Reynolds. Daughter Liz and son-in-Law Clive manage the farm and are responsible for the poultry unit helped at the weekends by their two children, Tess and Sam.

With farming fortunes so mixed the family took the decision in 2008 to look at different enterprises to maximise income. After much fact finding the most favourable of these was free-range egg production and following a board meeting, around the kitchen table, the family decided to push ahead into the unknown, as Tony Reynolds explains.

He said: "Planning permission was granted at the beginning of 2010 and on that day we confirmed orders, pushed buttons and everything else that one has to do on a green field site in order for the hens to arrive – which is when the real work began!

"We were obviously new to the poultry business but thankfully our Hy-Line birds have been very good to us. From day one, everyone agreed how well the birds looked. After a very tiring first week getting them used to the equipment – a free-range, 16,000-bird Jansen multi-tier system – we haven't looked back. People are always surprised when they come in the shed by how many birds come straight up to you. In fact, weighing the birds has been the easiest job, as they just seem to line up as if they are saying 'pick me, pick me'. However, the new enterprise hasn't been without its challenges."

Clive explained: "Our first eggs started to arrive quicker than we had anticipated.

"Our concern in the early stages was all the birds wanted to use the nest boxes at the same time, resulting in eggs being laid all over the equipment because there was simply not enough room in the nest boxes. Thankfully, Hy-Line advised us to put an extra hour of light on the end of the day, which worked amazingly straightaway and we went from picking up 400 to 500 eggs per day to only 150. We achieved an impressive 95 per cent peak production and have been currently running at 24 weeks over 90 per cent production.

"Egg weights were also a concern for a while but we managed to control them at 65g with the help and advice from Hy-Line and Noble Foods and they have continued at that level. The birds have all kept their feathers really well and we are pleased with how far they are ranging. We feel the multi-tier system allowing the more dominant birds to fly to the top, with feed tracks and water available on several separate levels can only be beneficial to the more timid birds. We are sure this system has had an effect on our mortality level which at week 48 is currently running at 1.14 per cent, with our daily feed intake averaging 123 grams per bird.

"We couldn't be more pleased with our birds and we are so grateful for all the advice that we have received along the way from the Hy-Line technical team. Although it seems to have totally taken over our lives, we feel it has been the best decision we have made for the long term future of the farm.

"We have ordered the replacement flock of Hy-Line Brown for delivery November 2011," he added.

For more information about Hy-Line UK Ltd, please call +44 (0)1527 850221.

*Noble Foods reared and supplied the Hy-Line Variety Brown hens