Wheat

No beef about chook caravan benefits

Wednesday 2 April, 2014
A visit to see a nomadic chicken egg production system in action highlighted the many benefits of a chemical-free approach to soil management, says Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority (CMA) Regional Landcare Facilitator (RLF) Charlie Sexton.  Mr Sexton and members of his steering committee, who provide input and advice on how to promote sustainable agriculture practices to the region’s Landcare community, learned more about “chook caravans” during a recent visit to Glenburn beef and chicken producer Tom Abbotsmith-Youl’s property.

A visit to see a nomadic chicken egg production system in action highlighted the many benefits of a chemical-free approach to soil management, says Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority (CMA) Regional Landcare Facilitator (RLF) Charlie Sexton.
  
Mr Sexton and members of his steering committee, who provide input and advice on how to promote sustainable agriculture practices to the region’s Landcare community, learned more about “chook caravans” during a recent visit to Glenburn beef and chicken producer Tom Abbotsmith-Youl’s property.

“Tom’s property is undulating to hilly with about 65ha of it used for grazing cattle,” Mr Sexton said.

“Tom was inspired to start using chook caravans in his egg system after attending a workshop the Goulburn Broken CMA ran in August 2011 that featured renowned USA holistic farming expert Joel Salatin talking about the benefits of using environmentally sustainable, chemical-free practices to improve farm productivity.”

One such approach involves using free-range chickens  - instead of costly chemicals -  to scratch over and fertilise ground that has been grazed by cattle. This also saves on chicken feeding costs as they have access to green forage 24 hours a day.

However, moving large numbers of chickens around a property can be time and resource intensive.

 “This is where chook caravans - hen houses on wheels - come into their own,” Mr Sexton said.  

“Tom decided to head down this path and bought two 2.5m by 8m chook caravans with a conveyor belt system, invested in predator-poof portable electric fencing and hasn’t looked back.”

As well as improved soils and better pasture for his cattle Mr Abbotsmith-Youl has found himself a rather handy alternative revenue source - selling the majority of the organic free-range eggs his chooks produce to nearby cafes and restaurants.

 “The chooks not only improve soil health and productivity for the pasture side of the enterprise, they provide what Tom describes as a ‘pretty good wage’, “ Mr Sexton said. “Tom’s proved that practice change can be done quickly and effectively and that taking an alternative approach to soil and land management can really reap some improved productivity rewards.”

The RLF program is an initiative of the  Australian Government Department of Agriculture and supports activities that will increase the knowledge, participation and skills of landholders and managers engaged in natural resource management, food and fibre production.  For more information, contact Charlie Sexton on charlies@gbcma.vic.gov.au or 0488 196 216.    

For more information about Tom Abbotsmith-Youl’s beef and chook business, visit  www.tomspaddock.com.au

Tom Abbottsmith-Youl's Chook Caravan