One man who has no doubts whatsoever about the future of Ulster’s poultry industry is Mr Ronald Farrell of Cushwash House, Lisnaskea, who has recently increased his laying flock from 15,000 to 33,000 birds by the addition of a Thornbers’ flat-deck cage and house installation – the first-ever to be erected in Ulster.
But Mr Farrell is quick to point out that if he was “going it alone” he would stand no chance of survival. “The only way to stay in business is to be tied to a company who can market eggs,” he says.
As a member of the AEP group (from who he purchases his replacement pullets and to whom he sends all his eggs), Mr Farrell reasons that his chances of continuing to operate a profitable business are extremely high.
But he appreciates that, however skilled the marketing company, the product they are marketing must be of the highest quality. “When eggs are being sold on a completely free market, brand against brand, the quality will have to be right,” says Mr Farrell, “otherwise the housewife will simply turn to another brand.”
The new 18,000-bird flat-deck unit which Mr Farrell has recently purchased has been supplied by Thornbers as a complete package deal of house, cages and 808 white egg layers which are now 22 weeks of age.
“I looked at flat-deck cages in Holland, Germany and Denmark but was attracted to the Thornber cage for four main reasons – 1, they appear to be extremely strong; 2, a high stocking rate is possible – seven birds to a 24-inch cage; 3, the extra-wide egg collection belt which, if necessary, will take up to three days’ eggs and should keep the number of cracks to the very minimum; 4, the hooper system of feeding as opposed to chain feeders.”
Of the flat-deck cage system itself, Mr Farrell says that it will cut running costs tremendously – one girl will look after the whole house as against the three who would have been required had tiered cages been installed.
It will also make for easier stockmanship due to the fact that the birds can be seen and inspected more easily, while on the environment side every bird will receive the same lighting and ventilation.