Poultry operators adapt to survive

All in a day's work . . . Bloem's Pig and Poultry Farm co-owner Pieter Bloem stacks eggs the hens produced in one day on his farm on Otago Peninsula last week. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY

Dunedin poultry farmers are changing their target market after Covid-19 left them with an overabundance of eggs.

Bloem’s Pig and Poultry Farm co-owner Pieter Bloem said he was responsible for marketing the eggs the 4000 hens produced on his family farm on Otago Peninsula.

His parents, Gysbert and Johanna, bought the farm in Highcliff Rd in September 1954.

“We’ve been doing it for 65 years — it’s in the blood.”

When Covid-19 forced Dunedin eateries to close, it stopped 95% of his sales.

To find buyers, and build a new customer base, he launched a website — www.bloemfarm.co.nz — which offers online sale and delivery of discounted eggs.

The website sales allowed the business to provide contact-less sales and adhere to the lockdown rules.

“We’ve had a fantastic response — it’s been absolutely amazing.”

The egg glut could have been bigger but the timing of the lockdown was serendipitous in terms of changes he had planned for the flock, he said.

At the start of the lockdown he had replaced about 1000 older hens with younger hens, as previously planned.

Younger hens could take up to three weeks to begin producing eggs like the rest of the flock, so he had expected a drop in the number of eggs being produced.

“We were reasonably lucky.”

Brighton Gold Free Range Eggs owner Cavan Jenkinson said he had 3000 hens laying eggs on his farm in Taieri Mouth Rd, south of Brighton.

He started the farm about seven years ago.

When Covid-19 hit, eateries closed and egg sales slumped, meaning some quick decisions had to be made.

Eateries had accounted for about half of his egg sales.

Despite the drop in demand, it was business as usual for his hens, which kept laying eggs and eating.

“It’s a double hit because even if you can’t sell the eggs, you still have to feed them.”

He knew of some farmers who had culled older hens to cut the cost of feeding the flock.

“They are riding it out that way.”

On a small farm, feed made up about half the cost of producing an egg, he said.

He had settled on another plan — maintaining his flock size and delivering the excess eggs to homes in Dunedin.

The home deliveries had taken care of the egg surplus.

The sales had been so good he was investigating introducing 2000 more hens to his flock so he could continue the home delivery arm of the business after his clients reopened their cafes.