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Title: Demographics and practices of semi-intensive free-range farming systems in Australia with an outdoor stocking density of ≤1500 hens/hectare
Contributor(s): Singh, Mini (author); Ruhnke, Isabelle  (author)orcid ; de Koning, Carolyn (author); Drake, Kelly (author); Skerman, Alan G (author); Hinch, Geoffrey  (author)orcid ; Glatz, Philip C (author)
Publication Date: 2017
Open Access: Yes
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0187057Open Access Link
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Abstract: Baseline information on demographics and practices on semi-intensive free-range egg farms with an outdoor stocking density of ≤1500 hens/hectare in Australia is presented. Free-range egg production is changing the structure of the egg industry in Australia and a broad variety and tiers of free-range systems have emerged due to lack of concrete legislative standards on outdoor stocking densities in the past. Information was extracted from a pre-existing online free-range poultry survey dataset, consisting of a total of 79 questions related to nutrition, pasture management, welfare and health, animal housing, environmental impact and economics. Forty-one free-range egg farms, with an outdoor stocking density of ≤1500 hens/hectare, were identified in the dataset from all major Australian states. Two types of semi-intensive free-range housing systems were documented: mobile (modified caravan/trailer) housing (56%), and fixed sheds (44%). Seventy-two percent of respondents reported >75% of the hens in the flock used the outdoor range. All respondents reported ingestion of range components by hens in the form of vegetation, insects, stones and grit. Up to 10% mortality was reported by 40% respondents with predation (34%), cannibalism (29%), heat stress (24%) and grass impaction (19.5%) as major causes. Biosecurity on farms was sub-optimal with 8 of the 10 actions implemented by <50% respondents. Customer demand, consumer sentiment and welfare were the major factors for farmers moving into free-range egg production. This study resulted in identification of current practices and key challenges on semi-intensive free-range egg farms. Applied research and communication of results to farmers is highly recommended to ensure optimum health and welfare of free-range laying hens and sustained egg production.
Publication Type: Journal Article
Source of Publication: PLoS One, 12(10), p. 1-19
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Place of Publication: United States of America
ISSN: 1932-6203
Fields of Research (FoR) 2008: 070202 Animal Growth and Development
070203 Animal Management
Fields of Research (FoR) 2020: 300301 Animal growth and development
300302 Animal management
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) 2008: 830309 Poultry
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) 2020: 100411 Poultry
Peer Reviewed: Yes
HERDC Category Description: C1 Refereed Article in a Scholarly Journal
Appears in Collections:Journal Article
School of Environmental and Rural Science

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