Milking Yard Farm

by Oliver Hagen November 13, 2020 4 min read

Milking Yard Farm

Farmers: Bruce & Roz Burton

Location: Trentham, Victoria

Produce: Sommerlad Chicken

Principles: Sustainable, regenerative, free-range, chemical-free, ethical, small-scale and slow-grown – the way nature intended.

Website: www.milkingyardfarm.com.au

Just one taste confirms that Milking Yard chickens are second to none. From one family business to another, we see it as a privilege to retail the chickens that Bruce and Roz have put so much time, attention and care into. The Burton's farming methods reflect true free-range living, a diet free from antibiotics and pesticides, and genetic diversity among their flock. They grow a very special breed of chicken called Sommerlad, which is reminiscent of the famous Bresse and Label Rouge chickens from France, a unique, slow-growing breed with a rich flavour and texture. Their birds thrive in small groups, roaming freely in a purpose-built farm forest and grazing on a diet of wild grubs, seeds, grits, and organic feed. They live healthy, happy and stress-free lives in a natural habitat. Their diet, movement and environment all result in a bird that is tasty and full in flavour.

How are conventional chickens grown?

Industrialised food systems are driven by profit, typically using modified modern breeds that are fast growing that put on weight rapidly, particularly on their prized breast area. Almost every commercial chicken farm grow the same breed of inbred chicken for the mass consumer market where there is no genetic diversity.

To make this system most profitable these chickens must cost as little as possible to grow and to feed. They are killed at a young age, with some chickens in this system only living for 45 days. They live on high volume diets where their movement is restricted so as to grow as big and as quickly as possible. This often means higher stocking densities in their roost and living areas where their food source is central in the shed. This discourages the chickens from exercising and going outside to starch for their food.

With their indoor food source and constant temperature controlled shelter, some of these chickens never set claw outside. High density areas where food and waste are in the same space often results in illness and disease among the flock. The animals are therefore managed with antibiotics and food supplements to ensure lower rates of poor health.

In what ways are the Milking Yard Farm chickens unique?

The Burtons flock reflect interbreeding of over a dozen of the old breed meat birds that no longer used in commercial farming as they are slower to grow than modified modern breeds. These old breeds have been interbred to produce a wealth of diversity among the flock which not only leads to healthier birds that are able to better adapt to a local climate, but that also vary in flavour. These birds are also raised free from pesticides, herbicides and antibiotics.

During the day, they live freely among the open pasture and through the light forest to stay out of the heat where they scratch for food that falls from the trees above and comes from the debris beneath them. At night, they roost in shelters that protect them from the elements and predators. The Burtons use their tractor to move these portable shelters around the paddock intermittently to regenerate the land beneath.

The birds are healthy with bright eyes and clean feet, free from blisters. They are active foragers always on the hunt for food. The chooks diet consists of leaf litter, seeds and bugs that they scratch for along the forest floor and around the paddock.

The Milking Yard Farm chicken’s appearance are significantly different to the birds we see and eat in the mass market. They enjoy a much longer life than conventional chickens and are able to grow to their full size over more than 100 days. There is a terrific fat covering across the keel bone underneath the bird the is nicely muscled.

Their diet, movement and environment all result in a bird that is tasty and full in flavour for us to enjoy.

Bruce and Roz have developed their farm to meet both organic and humane choice certification level, which to them is not a commercial goal or end in itself but rather just an observation of their own farming principles and values. As Bruce puts it;

"profit for us is probably number 4 or 5 on the priority list".

Milking Yard Farm chickens are not certified organic but they are completely free range, are feed on organic feed, grown using organic principles and completely chemical and hormone free. There are two reasons why they are not certified;

  • Firstly they do not have access to an organic abattoir that is in an accessible proximity whereby the farmer wouldn't be driving in excess of 5 plus hours in either direction. Which would put stress both on the farmer and the animals, therefore this would be a break in the chain and would render the product not certified. 
  • Second is cost. Milking Yard Farm is a very small scale producer and we only receive 20-30 birds every two weeks. The cost for certification for the farm is too high and Bruce cannot justify this for the amount of product he produces.

We value working with the Burtons and see it as a privilege to retail the chickens they have put so much time, attention and care into. Our relationship is one family business working with another family business.



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