A fascinating keynote presentation by Watheroo poultry farmers Robyn Cousins and her daughter Meg was just one of the talks that made this year’s Liebe Women’s Field day just “egg-ceptional” – a fitting outcome for the group’s 20th anniversary event.
Robyn told how she and her husband Lindsay, and their children were keen to diversify their farming operation, with Lindsay initially suggesting they start a free-range chook farm. After a bit of family consultation, Manavi Farm Pastured Eggs was born.
Robyn and Meg said the new venture began its journey with 100, day-old chicks, but things did not initially go as planned. A lot of that first 100 were lost – mainly to foxes and their original Maremma guard dog. However, two new Maremma dogs, and more intensive dog training, soon had things back on track with successful protection from further losses.
The business has since expanded to around 6,000 chooks, with the farm gaining 600, day-old chicks every three months to replace aging ones.
With the chooks having the free-run of a 50 hectare, traditionally poor-performing paddock, the venture is not only utilising otherwise less-productive land, but also increasing the soil health and fertility of the paddock owing to all of the chook manure being deposited.
Meg and Robyn said that eventually the family’s plan is to rotate more of their paddocks by ‘cell grazing’ their chooks; utilising about 50 hectares at a time, while cropping around them.
Some key messages from Robyn and Meg’s presentation:
- It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you are satisfied.
- Persevere! Starting a new business is a slow and long journey and it can seem at times like a big mistake, but there is always light at the end of the tunnel.
- Work together – Communicate and cooperate as a team (even when this seems impossible).
- Take risks, educate yourself and enjoy the journey – Don’t be afraid to have a go!
- When things don’t seem like they are going well, keep pushing through – as you never know where opportunities will take you.