A notable feature of the Ulster farming scene during the past three years has been the increase in the number of producers who have gone into the business of intensive egg production.
The Ulster farmer has been traditionally a stockman and it is not surprising that when the traditional stockman’s skill is transferred to large scale egg production there should be some excellent results to report.
Take for example the case of Mr Glen Miller of Lismoney, Cookstown. Three years ago Mr Miller, one of a well-known farming family farming a considerable acreage in this part of Co Derry, decided to add a major income-producing enterprise to the farm economy and decided on eggs.
He obtained a quotation for a wooden controlled environment house 90 feet long by 18 feet wide, and was offered one at £1,000, excluding the cost of the base and the provision of a manure tank.
Mr Miller decided instead on a do-it-yourself operation and with some skilled help, erected a building in concrete block with cavity walls. The roof was asbestos with fibre glass wool insulation sealed with poastic polythene.
The windowless house is ventilated by the use of five multi-speed fans which are thermostatically controlled. This house measures 112 feet by 20 feet by eight feet to the eaves, and was erected complete, including labour costs, for £1,400. The cost of the whole installation, including the house equipment, has worked out at approximately £1 per bird.
The house at Lismoney holds 4,224 birds which are housed six to a cage in Swift cages of which there are four tiers in two ranks. Mr Miller decided to go for point of lay birds, which enables him to keep down the capital investment of the enterprise.
The first lot of 4,225 birds went into the new house at 17 weeks and were housed for 431 days, fed on Bibby Toplay Meal and Peckets.
During this period, egg production averaged 256 eggs per bird.
Feed cost per dozen eggs worked out at 1s 6½d for a feed consumption of 4.90lb per dozen eggs produced, of a feed per bird of 104.59lb. This meant that daily consumption per bird was 3.88 ounces. With the cost of the pullets at 13s 3¾d, total feed cost £1 13s, the margin per bird over pullet and feed cost over egg income per bird worked out at 11s 6½d.