Craigs Poultry

October 2008
At peak production this Herbert based business produces up to half a million eggs a week. The Craig family has been involved in poultry farming in North Otago for three generations, or about 40 years, going back to David Craig's father, Ivan, who established his business at Maheno, beside State Highway 1.

David and Linda Craig bought the Herbert property about 25 years ago, developing it into a poultry farm - originally with 8500 birds on 20ha in 1984.

There's a poultry unit and an arable property attached to it.

It has a fully automated 80,000-bird poultry unit and all eggs are graded and packaged on the property.

The eggs are distributed to supermarkets and other markets in the South Island from Invercargill to Christchurch.

The Craigs grow and mill their own feed and make into mash on site. The eggs are freighted in the farm's own fleet of trucks.

Replacement birds are purchased as day-old chicks and raised in a fully insulated rearing shed which has a capacity of 30,000 birds.

All the hen manure and waste, ie poor grade eggs, are applied back strategically to each paddock. The manure is not stockpiled but loaded via a conveyer belt system from the laying sheds into the manure spreader and spread directly to the paddocks.

Over the past 25 years the farm had been progressively redeveloped and expanded. The enterprise is the third largest egg producer in the South Island

Infrastructure for the poultry unit had been upgraded over the past five years. The new egg grading system was installed three years ago and included German-engineered automated technology which helped cut operating costs and labour. It can check, grade and pack the same number of eggs in an hour that the old machine would have taken a day to process.

Automation aside theres around 20 staff on the property.

The farm is around 280ha of which the majority is cropped.

The property has gently rolling arable downlands with productive Opuha silt loam soils, the fertility is maintained by application of the poultry compost.

The farm, in 11 titles, was laid out to accommodate large grain harvesting machinery.

All the effective land area was used for wheat and barley production, supplying on average about 80% of the poultry's annual feed requirement.

In 2007 the Craigs entered the Ballance Environmental awards. They picked up an Innovation Award and Nutrient Management award as well. They were recognised for the self sufficient way the whole farm is used to grow mainly feed barley to feed the laying birds.

Following harvest all straw is incorporated into the soil rather than burning by using a Disc roller. This practices improves the soil structure and minimises loss of topsoil and nutrients

The new disc roller is working so well that the Aitcheson seed drill can be used soon after harvest without straw blocking up the machinery.

The purchase of an aerator in 2006 is assisting mitigate soil compaction.

Specific soil fertility tests are conducted annually on the arable area and in conjunction with his fertiliser representative and crop adviser, nutrient budgets are prepared. Paddock by paddock crop yields and nutrients are closely monitored.

This data, plus data on the nutrient composition of the hen manure and a good understanding of the requirements needed to grow cereals, enables special fertiliser mixes to be made, thus ensuring successful and sustainable cropping.