Festive profit from poultry
CHRISTMAS geese and turkeys are likely to be the most profitable enterprise on one Worcs 320ha (800-acre) mixed farm this year. As other markets fade, this one remains buoyant, but knowing your market and producing a high quality product are essential to guarantee success.
That is the view of Judy Goodman of Walsgrove Farm, Great Witley, Worcs, who launched Goodmans Geese nearly 20 years ago. The company produces, slaughters and dispatches 3000 free range geese and 2500 bronze turkeys a year for the Christmas market.
Goose production started on the unit in the early 1980s with 100 geese. Rapid expansion and a fall in returns from the arable and dairy enterprises means poultry now forms a significant proportion of income.
"Up until this year, poultry has been second to the 160-cow dairy enterprise in profitability terms but this year it may overtake dairy," says Mrs Goodman.
Legarth goslings are sourced as day-olds from John Adlards Norfolk geese. They are introduced to the unit in batches of about 500 from April to late June. Initially goslings are kept in brooder houses for 16-17 days before moving to open sheds.
Mrs Goodmans son, Matthew, is responsible for rearing geese. "A 19% goose starter ration is fed for the first five weeks. Geese then move on to a 16% goose finisher ration until they are 10-weeks old," he says.
"Home-grown wheat is added to finisher crumbs to make up 50% of the total ration from 10-weeks old," says Mr Goodman. Geese eat about 50kg of feed over their lifetime and bought-in feed works out at about £100/t.
From five-weeks old, geese are transferred into 1.2-2ha (three to five acre) paddocks in their original batches, where they remain set-stocked for the rest of their lives. "Paddocks are either grazed by cows or silaged before geese enter them. Geese are shut in poly tunnels at night to stop foxes from attacking them," explains Mrs Goodman.
Slaughtering begins in early December and lasts for three weeks. A low throughput slaughter licence allows geese to be killed on farm. About 15 casual workers are employed to pluck and eviscerate poultry over this period.
"After slaughter, geese are dry-plucked, waxed to remove hairs and hung for 10-14 days to mature before evisceration," says Mrs Goodman. The maturation process is necessary to enhance flavour, she believes.
About 17,000 geese are delivered by the familys van to butchers in towns including Birmingham, London and Wolverhampton. The remainder are either collected by private customers or delivered by an overnight courier.
April to Christmas.
Its not just a frantic rush
for last-minute Christmas
shopping that worries one
Worcs producer as the
festive season approaches.
She has 3000 geese and
2500 turkeys to prepare to
ensure her customers dont
go hungry on Christmas Day.
Marianne Curtis reports
• April to Christmas.
• Pro-active marketing.
• Add value.