22 July 2022

Egg producers scrambling to find like-minded farmers in Bega and beyond

| Katrina Condie
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Egg farmers in paddock

Tom and Jos McMillan and their children have 6000 chickens on their free-range egg farm. Photo: Honey Atkinson.

Bega Valley Eggs owners Tom and Jos McMillan are scrambling to keep up with the growing demand for farm fresh eggs, so they’ve put the call out for nearby landowners to consider starting their own egg farms.

The Bemboka farm produces 2000 dozen free-range, pasture-raised eggs each week and supplies nearby supermarkets, health food shops and eateries.

Jos says they don’t have the capacity to produce any more eggs on their property, despite growing consumer demand.

The solution, she believes, is to collaborate with other landowners who may wish to diversify into egg farming, or add to their existing operations.

“We’re at capacity on our land, so we’re looking for other farmers to come on board and grow eggs to our specifications to help supply our market,” Jos said.

“We just can’t keep up with demand, so there’s definitely a window of opportunity there for us to collaborate with other landowners.

“We’re open to discuss the options with any farmers within a half day’s drive from the Bega Valley – so anywhere on the South Coast or into the Monaro region.”

The landowners don’t have to have experience with chickens, just the space to move the birds around to ensure they are free range and pasture raised.

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Jos and Tom set up their egg farm almost three years ago, and they’re willing to help show others how it’s done.

“We’re happy to mentor people through the process and work with start-ups to help them purchase the equipment and set up the mobile sheds,” Jos says.

“It’s a great opportunity for people who may have cattle already, but are looking for another business model to make the most of the land they own.

“Egg farming could provide an additional income source for famers who maybe have kids on the farm and are looking for a way to diversify and keep them employed.”

Bega Valley Eggs has 6000 happy Hyline Brown chickens that are moved around the paddocks, with their mobile shedding, to ensure they have access to a variety of fresh grasses and bugs.

Jos says it’s important that anyone they team up with can also provide the same environment for their chickens.

Bega Valley Egg farmers

Bega Valley Eggs is a family-run farm at Bemboka on the Far South Coast. Photo: Honey Atkinson.

With city areas facing egg shortages during the COVID lockdowns and, more recently as a result of flooding, more South Coast residents are turning to locally produced eggs.

“With the fires, COVID and floods, I think people are starting to realise how fragile our food system is,” Jos says.

“The closer you are to your food source, the less hiccups with supply and transport – and I think people are paying more attention to where their food is coming from.

“They want to eat fresh, locally produced food and to support local farmers, which is great.”

Jos says, once you try farm-fresh eggs, you can’t go back to the mass produced supermarket eggs.

“You can definitely taste the difference in flavour and quality,” she says.

“I think when visitors come to this area they see all the rolling hills and they want to eat the local produce.

“Many local restaurants and cafes use our local eggs and it’s very fulfilling when you see someone with our eggs on their plate or walking down the street with a carton of Bega Valley Eggs.”

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She says the South Coast provides ideal conditions to raise chickens, however production was down at the the start of the year due to weeks of torrential rain.

“We had a shortage of supply from February until the start of June, but have been lucky not to have been hit with the last lot of rain like the North Coast,” Jos says.

“It has been very muddy, and very hard work moving the sheds around the paddocks and sloshing around in the mud, but I love it.

“It’s a hard slog and farming is hectic, but it’s definitely worth it.”

Tom is a second generation farmer and grew up on a dairy just up the road in Quaama and, after moving to the city 16 years ago, he always hoped to move back home to farm as a career. The couple leased the land for their egg farm and one day hope to purchase their own property.

Nearby landowners interested in producing eggs to Bega Valley Eggs specifications can email [email protected] or phone 0413 545 734. For more information on Bega Valley Eggs, visit the website.

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