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Demographics and practices of semi-intensive free-range farming systems in Australia with an outdoor stocking density of ≤1500 hens/hectare

Singh, M., Ruhnke, I., de Koning, C., Drake, K., Skerman, A. G., Hinch, G. N. and Glatz, P. C. (2017) Demographics and practices of semi-intensive free-range farming systems in Australia with an outdoor stocking density of ≤1500 hens/hectare. PLOS ONE, 12 (10). e0187057.

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Article Link(s): https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0187057

Abstract

Baseline information on demographics and practices on semi-intensive free-range egg farms with an outdoor stocking density of ≤1500 hens/hectare in Australia is presented. Free-range egg production is changing the structure of the egg industry in Australia and a broad variety and tiers of free-range systems have emerged due to lack of concrete legislative standards on outdoor stocking densities in the past. Information was extracted from a pre-existing online free-range poultry survey dataset, consisting of a total of 79 questions related to nutrition, pasture management, welfare and health, animal housing, environmental impact and economics. Forty-one free-range egg farms, with an outdoor stocking density of ≤1500 hens/hectare, were identified in the dataset from all major Australian states. Two types of semi-intensive free-range housing systems were documented: mobile (modified caravan/trailer) housing (56%), and fixed sheds (44%). Seventy-two percent of respondents reported >75% of the hens in the flock used the outdoor range. All respondents reported ingestion of range components by hens in the form of vegetation, insects, stones and grit. Up to 10% mortality was reported by 40% respondents with predation (34%), cannibalism (29%), heat stress (24%) and grass impaction (19.5%) as major causes. Biosecurity on farms was sub-optimal with 8 of the 10 actions implemented by <50% respondents. Customer demand, consumer sentiment and welfare were the major factors for farmers moving into free-range egg production. This study resulted in identification of current practices and key challenges on semi-intensive free-range egg farms. Applied research and communication of results to farmers is highly recommended to ensure optimum health and welfare of free-range laying hens and sustained egg production.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Animal Science
Subjects:Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Agriculture and the environment
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Agricultural structures. Farm buildings
Animal culture > Poultry
Animal culture > Housing and environmental control
Deposited On:10 Jan 2018 04:45
Last Modified:10 Jan 2018 04:46

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