Wairarapa Eggs Ltd, Carterton, NZ

Phenomenal service and the right nutrition from Sharpes goes a long way in serving the free range ‘chickz’ on the family farm, run by Chris and Alexandra Martin, of Wairarapa Eggs.

In 2011 the couple bought the business from Alexandra’s father, who had operated it for nearly 30 years. There are 24,000 free range chickens on the farm, producing 7.5 million eggs every year. Wairarapa Eggs are sold into the supermarket, food service and export markets, while online sales are also coming along.

Chris explains the chickens live in tunnel houses, where they sleep, eat, drink and lay eggs. They have access to the outdoors 24/7 but Chris says chickens naturally like to have security when laying an egg, so will return to the tunnel houses – though he does pick up the odd egg from the paddock.

A newly installed conveyer belt system under the nesting boxes transports all the eggs to the grading area, which has significantly cut down on labour, and reduces the handling of eggs.

“We always say fresh is best, and being a smaller farm, we can turn over our stock faster, so you definitely get a fresh egg with Wairarapa Eggs. Our farm and family story is the big thing with free range, it’s the paddock to plate idea that consumers are comfortable with and respect. We’re open and honest about our product, what you see is what you get.”

The business is also part of the Trace my Egg programme, which means each egg is stamped with a farm code, making it possible to track and trace the egg back to source. “That fits with what we’re trying to achieve in this business. Our three children are all home schooled and they’re always out on the farm. We’re very family orientated.”

Customer interaction is what Chris loves most about the job. “Dealing with customers and finding out about their food requirements and needs, I love that.”

Chris says Sharpes has been fantastic to deal with and they like the fact the business is their local feed mill. “We’ve been with Sharpes forever. I think we’re their biggest poultry operation now.

“Because they’re so close and want to operate like that ‘mill next door’ we get great service. They offer heaps of flexibility, and we really respect that. It’s the service that really makes us stay with Sharpes.”

Wairarapa Eggs get their feed via auger trucks, which bring in 14-15 tonnes of feed each week. This feed is made of up of three different diets, Phase 1, 2, and 3.

Access to the Sharpes nutritionist, Alun Faulknor, has proved to be another feather in their cap for Chris. “I call him often to talk about things I’m seeing in the eggs. They give me the ability to access professional advice that normally I’d have to pay for. Sam (Orsborn) is also always there to talk, which makes me feel as though we are important to them.”

Chris says the quality of feed fed to the chickens influences everything from how strong the white is and how strong the shell is, to stopping the chickens from pecking things they shouldn’t.

“A good consistent feed source helps with all of these things. As a bird ages it requires different things from its diet, like a different level of calcium for example. All chickens need a good amount of protein, as an egg is mostly protein.

“With Sharpes, we can tweak things at different times of the year, like chickens have a summer and winter diet. In summer the chickens regulate their temperature by eating, and in winter they eat more to keep warm. Having that flexibility to change whatever we need is an awesome reason to be with Sharpes.”

Consistently high quality feed with a high level of protein is essential to maintain bird health, Chris says. It’s also important to ensure the level of amino acids is consistent and accurate, to avoid any feather pecking issues.

Chris also loves the online app for ordering. “The fact they allow us to buy poultry feed through the app is really handy, no other company does ordering like that. Anyone on the team can do an order, and I still maintain overarching support of what’s ordered. It’s really streamlined the process, which is great.”