Diversification away from the traditional Welsh beef and sheep holding has proved a wise decision for a Welsh farming family.
John and Nicola Peate were looking for a breed that produced long life cycles, less turnarounds, strong birds and not too many in the market. After a lot of research, the Peate’s, from Dan Y Derw Cyfronydd near Welshpool, Wales, established Cross Farm Eggs and plumped for the free-range Dekalb whites, hoping their potential would enable them to keep the flocks in productions for up to 100 weeks.
They currently manage 32,000 birds in 2 x 16,000 Fienhague multi-tier systems on a site at Cross Farm, with the first flock arriving at the beginning of April. Helped by a Farm Business Improvement Scheme (FBIS) grant, the venture has enabled John’s father, Geraint, to concentrate on beef and sheep.
The farm where the poultry shed is sited is 49 acres and located on higher ground. This restricts the type of farming that can be done due to the small acreage of the site, but it was the perfect size to fit a 32,000 free-range laying unit.
The couple give the birds as much attention as possible, keeping diaries of patterns of bird behaviour and working out what may cause changes.
Dekhalb White layers respond well to consistency and routine, and so everyone at Cross Farm always wears the same colour overalls to walk the birds, and stick to the same time, with 5 walks daily.
Music is played in the shed to aid calmness and as Nicola says, “We love them!”
John is equally happy: “With the potential to keep the flocks in production for up to 100 weeks, 3 flocks are managed in the same time as 4 brown flocks, making an overall saving.”
And their management is clearly paying off as they have joined the Dekalb White 500 club, which was recognised by Nick Bailey, of genetics company Joice and Hill, who presented them with a certificate on reaching the milestone.
“These awards acknowledge excellence in welfare, management and the rewards of attention to detail. 500 eggs per cycle is something that was unimaginable just a few years ago,” added Bailey.