Tucked away in pleasant countryside just off the Co Down coast at Grangee, near Millisle, is Donnybrook Farm, where Mr Bart Walker runs an efficient poultry unit of 2,700 birds.
Mr Walker was born in Northern Ireland but resided for some time in the Republic where he held a position in the musical sphere. On returning permanently to the North, he purchased Donnybrook Farm, which was already established as a thriving egg producing unit.
Shepherd Clean-Ezie cages are standard in the two poultry houses, but on taking over Mr Walker made some alterations, converting every two cages, which formerly took five birds each, into double size cages with eight birds.
Mr Walker prefers the larger cage with more room for the birds and says results have given complete satisfaction.
The present birds are mostly Fairbairn White Links reared by Ardkeen Chicks and placed in the cages last April.
They reached a peak production of over 90 per cent at 29 weeks old and are still giving an egg output of 77 per cent.
“Egg size is splendid,” says Mr Walker, “and the last few egg dockets show well over 50 per cent large. Very few of the eggs are now, in fact, below standard size.”
The birds were formerly fed on Whites Hybrid Layers Mash but have recently been put on Whites Egg-Em-On for their final spurt of laying.
Mr Wilson also improved the ventilation of the houses by adding new or larger extractor fans as he considered necessary. The houses are concrete built with well insulated roofing.
Mr Walker’s unit operates within the Fairbairn SCEPS group which, he says, “takes a lot of uncertainty out of egg production and marketing”.
“Provided one is prepared to work seven days a week,” he says, “poultry keeping is a fine job but, like any other type of livestock, the birds demand attention every day. There can be no question of trying to escape this responsibility since any let-up would only result in reduced earnings, if not a complete loss.”
For that reason, Mr Walker feels there is a definite limit to the number of birds which can be kept without a falling off in returns, or additional outlay on wages.