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Warm weather a challenge for free range egg farmers

Brett Worthington, Thursday January 30, 2014 - 11:44 EDT
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Free range chook from Woorlong Family Farms, in Merbein in north-west Victoria, escaping the Mallee's hot summer days. - ABC
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Elaine Hentschke from Woorlong Family Farms, in Merbein in north-west Victoria, sorting free range eggs. - ABC
ABC image
Free range eggs from Woorlong Family Farms, in Merbein in north-west Victoria. - ABC
ABC image
Free range eggs from Woorlong Family Farms, in Merbein in north-west Victoria, travelling along a conveyor belt ready for collection. - ABC

Keeping free range chooks alive is a huge concern for egg farmers as the temperature soars.

Unlike people, chooks can't sweat and can die very quickly from heat stress.

Elaine Hentschke, from Woorlong Family Farms in Merbein in north-west Victoria, says citrus trees are popular spots for the chooks to hide under on hot summer days.

"We've got to try and do what we can to keep the chooks cool," she says.

"There's fans, air conditioning and then we put sprinklers on the roof as well to keep that side of it cool.

"We have sprinklers in the block to just to keep pasture going (and) the paddock cool so (the chooks) can have a good scratch around."

Mrs Hentschke and her husband Robin took over Woorlong Family Farm last year and relocated the chooks to their property near Mildura.

Mr Hentschke has previously worked with caged eggs but says switching to free range was an easy decision.

"There seemed to be a demand for free range eggs," he says.

"A small business came on the market so we bought it and shifted it out to this property and because of the demand we've expanded and expanded and expanded.

"(Going into free range) is probably something I should have done when I (shifted) from South Australia."

Mr Hentschke has automated his property to allow fans to turn on when the temperature rises.

A conveyor belt also automatically turns on during peak egg laying periods to move eggs from nests to a collection area.

"After Robin's collected the eggs, we bring them in buckets, Robin puts them on the conveyor belt and that then (sorts the eggs) by weight... and I pack from there," Mrs Hentschke says.

"Some customers come here. I've got restaurants, I've got bakeries and I also do farmers markets just to get rid of any excess eggs."


© ABC 2014

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