Business Central February 2022

54 | PRODUCTION Hawke’s Bay Eggs Family focused approach works well T Sue Russell Laurie Horsfall: “If they’re not happy they won’t lay.” For three years, having bought a poultry farm near Hastings, Laurie Horsfall commuted from Marton, before settling on the farm. He bought the large-scale poultry business knowing, as he admits it, very little about the business of raising chickens and producing masses of eggs on a viable commercial basis. “I remember coming home from Hawkes Bay and my wife Shirley asked me ‘What are you going to do?’, to which I replied ‘I’m going to buy the poultry farm. Shirley said ‘What the heck do you know about chooks?’ to which I responded, ‘Nothing, but I’m going to learn.’” The business has always been very family focused, with initially Laurie and Shirley running the company and as the children grew they naturally got involved. Today, Laurie’s generation has respectfully distanced itself from the day to day, with daughters Rachael and Shelley each tending to their own responsibilities. “Rachael is the Operations Manager, responsible for all day to day operations and Shelley is the General Manager. “Over the big issues we get together to decide the best course of action and it works well. I come in sometimes when requested to give my thoughts on a particular matter,” Laurie explains. With the codes of industry practice changing away from caged to colony and free-range compliances, Laurie has invested the last decade to being ‘fit for purpose’ and compliant once caged eggs are illegal at the end of this year. “It’s been a time of massive challenges and what has resulted is some of the smaller egg farms having to close down as the costs are prohibitive.” Hawkes Bay Eggs Ltd, is situated 5km from Hastings and supplies 90% of their eggs to the service industry and the farm includes a free range unit of 8000 Shaver hens. “We’ve been running free-range for about 10 years now and we have recently mechanised the collection of eggs. It used to be done by hand.” With the bulk of hens housed in colony sheds Laurie says every care has gone into ensuring the hens are in a comfortable environment, with the temperature inside maintained at about 22°C and supplied 110 gm food per hen per day. Production levels are high over the farm at 96%. Laurie says that, perhaps surprisingly, most people are not aware of how sensitive a hen is to the environment it is living in. “They will certainly let you know if something is not right for them and this is why our quality systems are highly tuned, to ensure consistency across the whole flock.” All chickens are first reared at Bromley Park and Laurie says the importance of a good clean environment can not be over-stated. “If they’re not happy they won’t lay.” In every 24 hour cycle the chooks rest naturally, as they would at night, with an 8 hour dark time. Staff begin at 7.30 am checking on bird health and broken eggs, then on to grading and farm cleaning, checking feed and water supply into the sheds. Currently there are three active sheds and two empty. Feed to keep the hens producing is sourced from Mt Maunganui and is a combination of maize, wheat and additional vitamins and at 90 weeks the new arrivals begin laying. “They lay for 95 weeks then leave us. You know we don’t actually make any money from an individual hen’s eggs until the last six or seven weeks of laying when you factor in the price of the chicken, feed, staff costs, depreciation. That’s why we need to operate at the scale we do.” Laurie proudly says his farm is an ‘open book’, for any-one interested in seeing how a modern, purpose-built, sophisticated egg production farm looks like. The Free Range flock usually venture out at about 9 am in the morning and come back by themselves whenever they are ready. “With free-range, 80% of the birds choose to stay inside. “If they are happy inside, they don’t want to be out in the elements.” In total, to function smoothly Hawkes Bay Egg Co employs 10 staff. Some staff come from the local corrections facility nearby and Laurie says, those that are keen he will consider staying on after their release. “It gives them pride, and an opportunity to work in a real situation so I’m all for it.” The aim is always to deliver eggs to customers in the first 24 hours and Laurie’s trucks, full of eggs, deliver to the Wellington market twice a week. “While waiting for shipment, eggs are kept in the chiller to preserve their freshness. “We’ve been running free-range for about 10 years now and we have recently mechanised the collection of eggs. It used to be done by hand.” We are poultry rearing specialists based in Mangatangi. We raise chickens till they are 18 to 19 weeks old and ready to lay eggs (called point of lay). Rearers of Quality Poultry For further information you can reach us at 09 294 9222. We are looking forward to hearing from you. 1482 Great South Road, RD 3, Drury 2579 Phone: 09 294 9222 Fax: 09 294 9226 Mobile: 027 294 9222 Email: Maketu Poultry Farms Ltd (06) 876 4486 Knowledge & Expertise Personal Service • Financial Results Your local Chartered Accountant