Customers clamour for free-range WesEggs

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 5th September 2016

As consumers clamour for free-range locally produced eggs, WesEggs has created a niche market in just three years.

Established in 2013 near Meredith the business uses sustainable methods to produce 650 free-range, chemical-free eggs each day.

A flock of 760 birds grazes in pastures where they can scratch, forage for insects and worms, stretch and flap their wings and bathe in the dust. All natural behaviours for hens.

The flock is guarded by a pair of alpacas which have proven to be extremely effective against all predators be they foxes, eagles or kangaroos.

At night the birds settle in a large custom-designed mobile hen house which provides full protection from the weather and security from rodents and predators.

At present, Wes Eggs is conducting a crowd-funding campaign to enable it to construct a second mobile hen house

The second hen house will allow the business to increase the flock density to 170 birds per hectare from its current 80.

Planned growth is limited to a flock density of 400 birds per hectare in order to avoid behavioural problems in the flock.

Using mobile electric fences, the farm is divided into multiple areas, through which, depending on the season and the weather, the flock rotates in a cycle of between 4 and seven days.

The alpacas serve to keep the grass to a height that allows the birds to forage and add their own fertiliser to the pasture before it is allowed to rest and recover.

The length of the cycle is critical to the health of the land.

In persistently rainy periods, to prevent degradation of the pastures, the hens can only forage for a short time but can stay longer when the grass is growing strongly.

This method of farming results in a superior product which exhibits distinct seasonal variations in egg quality, size and taste.

When the grass is bright green, the yolks are noticeably brighter in colour. and when the hens are able to feed on insects and worms – particularly under trees – the quality of the egg whites is improved.

The hens quickly learn to use the hen house so losses due laying in the pasture are low.

The hen houses are automated so that environment and the health of the flock can be constantly monitored.

Between 60 and 70 percent of the egg production is sold directly to the market through six retail stockists in the Geelong-Bellarine region.

All six stockists report that the demand for Wes Eggs is strong and constantly growing. Lisa from Geelong’s ‘Fresh Food Merchant’ described Wes Eggs a really good local product.

The remaining egg production goes to household consumers in the area who buy on-line.

In keeping with the principle of sustainability, the farm and its functions maintain as small a carbon footprint as possible.

Wes Eggs distributes milk and cheese for the Ballarat-based Inglenook Dairy – an arrangement that allows both businesses to keep distribution costs and fuel bills down.

Wes and Mandy chose to partner with Inglenook Dairy because like them, it uses sustainable non-toxic methods.

For more information about Wes Eggs, and their crowd-funding project, visit their website.