A news piece from the "Toowoomba Chronicle" by Tom Gillespie | 6th May 2017

https://www.thechronicle.com.au/news/free-range-egg-farm-set-quadruple-after-expansion/3174664/

A FREE-range egg farm in the Toowoomba region hopes to quadruple

its production if an expansion proposal is approved.

Jalbirri Googums Egg Farm presented its plan to the Toowoomba Regional Council this week to increase its current population of hens from 2500 to about 10,000 at a new facility in Evanslea.

The company could then shift nearly 50,000 eggs a week by its own estimates.

Co-owner Andrew Ruhle said the move was necessary to keep up with demand for their free-range eggs, which he said had continued to grow.

"It's not a big expansion - it's a drop in the ocean, but we've got to start somewhere," he said.

"The response from people been great - the easiest part is finding a home for the eggs, we can't keep up with demand."

Mr Ruhle started farming the eggs with his wife Ali back in 2015 as a hobby, with a focus on ensuring each bird had at least 14m of roaming space.

"This was a first for us - we're grain farmers out here and we started it up to see if we could do it," he said.

"At the moment it is a hobby business, but we intend to turn into a fully functioning business - the plan is to get it to that stage.

"The main aim was to test the waters and see if we could do it and see what it would take to market the eggs.

"We're a low stocking density egg farm so it's pushing us into a niche market, but it allows us to get our foot in the door."

Along with its main outlet at the Westridge Fruit and Veg Shop, Mr Ruhle sells eggs at farmers markets across the region.

The expanded facility on Toowoomba-Cecil Plains Rd is nearly 50km outside Toowoomba.

The company's application to the council shows after the eggs are collected, they are cleaned, graded, assessed for cracks and transported to stores.

The gate way to Heaven is built!! We have started the new fence in preparation for the next 450 hens. 2.6ha will be...

Posted by Jalbirri Googums Pty Ltd on Tuesday, 9 February 2016

WHEN Andrew and Ali Ruhle, from Jalbirri Googums, say they have free range chickens, they really mean it.   

On a property at Bongeen, west of Toowoomba, the couple has branched out from paddocks of grain, cotton, corn, sorghum and mung beans to include free range egg production.   

They have one chicken per 14 square metres maximum, ignoring industry standards in order to give their chickens a better life and create a better product.   

"We run 700 chooks per hectare, which the industry standard is 10,000 per hectare, so we are well below that," Mr Ruhle said.   

"Basically the industry governing body (Australia Egg Corporation) came up with, in conjunction with the RSPCA, the 10,000 per ha figure, which most people run to, but that is a chook a metre squared, so that's not terribly free range.   

"The CSIRO came up with the best model code of 1500 to a ha, and that's basically what the soil can handle, and then we just halved that again."  

Mr Ruhle is a third generation farmer in the Bongeen area and currently manages the family farm. 

After a meeting with Peter Andrews (Australia's leading land conservationist and creator of Natural Sequence Farming) Andrew and Ali decided to expand the farming operation.   

It was only in October last year that they sold their first eggs.   

"From talking to him a few things led to another and we thought we would give it a go," Mr Ruhle said.   

"Plus we have always had our backyard chooks here and you never get as good of eggs as that."  

So from about 20 backyard chooks to a delivery of a further 300 bond brown chickens, Jalbirri Googums was born.

They will have another 450 chickens coming to the property around Easter. They will put those next chickens on a neighbouring block they purchased that is not fit farming land. It would be able to hold 14,000 chickens.    

"We started off with 300, basically just testing the water and had really good feedback and sold out of eggs at most markets," Mr Ruhle said.   

While most caged chickens' first laying cycle lasts about 12 months, the Ruhles said they would have the chickens for at least two years.   

Mrs Ruhle said it was because they had such a good life on their farm and after that they would try to rehome as many of them as possible.   

"They have a full area to roam in the day and we don't lock them up at night. They just all go back to the chicken caravan to roost," Mr Ruhle said.   

"They all go to the nest boxes in the chicken caravan to lay eggs and everything is collected from there."  

Eggs are collected three times a day, with a total of about 250 eggs per day and 140 cartons per week.   

"They are graded, sorted, packed and refrigerated and we deliver the eggs within seven days of being laid," Mr Ruhle said.   

Ali and Andrew have been able to supply their eggs to local restaurants, stores and have attended local markets with great success.   

"We have been stoked, you get a lot of the older ladies at the markets coming back and saying that they are just like the eggs they grew up with in their backyard," Mr Ruhle said.   

When they attend markets they bring along pictures of their property, as well as a comparison of eggs of their free range compared to when they first came to their property as caged chickens.   

The couple decided to name their product after the family property Jalbirri and 'googums' because that is what Ali calls eggs.  

Both come from rural backgrounds, with Andrew growing up in the same area before studying engineering and returning to the farm and Ali originally from a cattle property at Longreach.   

The chickens get rain water and layer mash as well as foraging.   

"Most layer mashes have a synthetic colouring agent in it, we had that pulled out. Because they get the colour of the yolk from the green grass so we don't need that," Mr Ruhle said.   

Mr Ruhle said while the egg business was different to what the farm had, it was all blending in together.   

"We had a friend who said most guys try and use a bit of machinery and take it out contracting for a bit to get extra money, but he said what you have just done is very left of field," he said.   

While it will take time to make a profit out of the eggs, they said it was the end game to make it a full commercial business that diversified and strengthened the entire farming operation.  

"We can get to the point where it is a full commercial, viable business without it affecting the farm land," Mr Ruhle said.  

Mrs Ruhle said the chickens were laying at about 86%, which was better than what they had estimated.   

"There is not too much wastage and we have found a home for the eggs with this lot including the markets," she said.   

Despite coming from a farming background, Mr Ruhle said the eggs and the markets were an entirely different experience.   

"It's a whole different world when you are seeing the people buying your product compared to the grains you have sold to a trader," he said.   

"People are really keen to learn, people are asking questions and they are just really interested and like looking at the real deal," Mrs Ruhle said.   

Mr Ruhle said one of the most important things was to be passionate about it.   

"It's easy to just produce something, to actually want to take your time to do a quality product, something you are delivering straight to the consumer, takes that next level of commitment." he said.   

Jalbirri Googums are available at Westridge Fruit and Veg, icooked.com.au, the monthly Toowoomba Farmers' Markets at the Toowoomba Showgrounds and the weekly Mr Local Feast Farmers' Markets at the Empire Theatre.  For more information go jalbirrigoogums.com.au or phone 0458 938 580. 

An article that appeared in the Toowoomba Chronicle by:

Amy  Lyne
| 26th Jan 2016 2:55 PM

This year we will be attending the Felton Food Festival. Come and Say Hello!!!

Last weekend we were lucky to host Megan & David Neilson & their lovely family to our farm. Megan owns & operates Cooked Toowoomba www.icooked.com.au providing amazing home cooked meals using quality ingredients. Everything is made from scratch and delivered to your door!

Megan says:

"Healthy eating is at the core of Cooked Toowoomba food philosophy. We believe that "good life long health" requires eating good food. For this reason everything we prepare at Cooked Toowoomba begins with the best ingredients available."

We are so excited Megan has chosen to use and retail our Free Range Eggs. We have always believed that talented chefs who know quality would love our eggs and Megan is a great example of this.

We highly recommend you check out Megan's website at www.icooked.com.au or pop over to like and share her Facebook page  www.facebook.com/icooked.com.au to keep upto date with her weekly scrumptious meals.

You can now buy Jalbirri Googums exceptionally delicious eggs at Westridge Fruit & Vegetables.

Be the first to try them & drop by today!

While you are there stock up on Luke's beautiful fresh fruit and veg (the very best in Toowoomba!) Huge thanks for taking us on Luke.

The 1st are eggs from day one, and the last is after 7 days of free range pasture.

You can see the change in yoke colour and also the whites have thickened.