Farmer Focus: Poultry is not for the faint-hearted

The hens are in. Having given ourselves plenty of time to finish off our project, the past couple of weeks have been a mad rush.

I am told this is normal. That is a theme on our steep learning curve – being told something is normal, as well as trying to trust our instincts. 

There are a few problems yet to be resolved. We invested in bird weighers, yet these aren’t working correctly, which is frustrating as we desperately want to track the growth, especially at this early stage. 

Manual weighing is taking place tomorrow. We ran the muck belts for the first time today. Having tried to keep our hens calm and happy since their arrival, it was hard to watch them get completely spooked by the moving belt. 

But they survived it and we move on to the next hurdle – the audits and inspections. With RSPCA, OF&G (Organic Certification) and Lion Code inspections all coming up – poultry paperwork is not for the faint-hearted.

See also: Farmer Focus: BVD eradication plan is a no-brainer

It has been quite a fast-moving project. We put in a planning application at the end of May 2016 and now have a quad-style multitier system with 12,000 hens. We have planted 2,000 trees and hedge plants on our ranges in anticipation of letting them out – but will have to think very carefully before we do as avian influenza is still a risk.

Meanwhile, on the farm we have some small bits of drainage to do before fields are put back to grass after stubble turnips and overwintered stubbles.

The fat cattle have been doing very well, finishing on spec and in good time, with the last load going to Dovecote Park next week. 

Breeding cows have received their mineral bolus and scour vaccine before calving. Ewes have received their mineral bolus, clostridial vaccine and lice/tick treatment prior to lambing.

Calving is due to start on 9 April – which will coincide nicely with egg production and lambing from mid-April. I suspect next month’s article may have a good dose of gibberish about it.

Simon Bainbridge farm a 650ha upland organic farm with 160 suckler cows, 1,500 breeding ewes and 12,000 organic laying hens with his wife, Claire and his parents.  Healthy, maternal livestock and quality feed is a priority.