Gordon Whiteford  -  Improving bird welfare on free-range systems

BEMB Trust

I am a first generation Farmer having gained the tenancy of a farm on the Fochabers Estate in 2012 (part of the Crown estate) where I now live with my wife, June.  I was brought up on a dairy farm in Ayrshire until the age of ten when my father left the industry.  I decided to pursue a career in agriculture and went on to study at Auchincruive and Craibstone. 

In 2005 I siezed an opportunity to produce organic eggs under contract, and now have expanded to also produce free range eggs as well as packing eggs on farm for a local market place.

My study is to investigate improving bird welfare on free-range systems.

Having started poultry production 9 years ago with no previous experience, I found keeping hens to be a steep learning curve.  Organic hens are not allowed to be beak-trimmed (a practice which removes part of the upper beak to reduce cannibalism normally carried out with infrared at day old) under organic standards.  I have therefore wicknesed at first hand the challenges facing the industry if a beak trimming ban is implemented.

I plan to visit the States where the egg industry is very different to Europe, The Netherlands and Germany where poultry is traditionally big and where much of the poultry equipment is manufactured, and some Scandinavian countries whose priorities are high on animal welfare.