Make the most of the chicken and the egg

To slaugh­ter… ‘Our story’

go! Platteland - - FRONT PAGE -

Free-range, eth­i­cal egg farm­ing is no pic­nic but Vicky and Craig Ali­son, own­ers of Highveld Eggs in the KZN Mid­lands, won’t do it any other way.

There’s noth­ing quite like be­ing im­mersed in a flock of 2 500 rusty-brown hens at Highveld, a hill­top farm in KZN’s Dar­gle Val­ley. The hens are nosy and bold, and swarm around you to peck and jab at your boots.

Yet it’s the full-bod­ied and gut­tural sound em­a­nat­ing from their feath­ery chests that re­ally en­gulfs your senses. Their voices fuse into a sea of sooth­ing clucks and coos, and be­fore long you’re un­wit­tingly adding your own song to theirs.

No won­der Vicky and Craig Ali­son of­ten sit with their flock at the end of a tough day. A quote from Win­nie the Pooh, which hangs in the loo of their thatched farm­house, en­cap­su­lates the scene: “Some­times I sits and thinks, and some­times I just sits.”

But at Highveld Eggs they don’t have much time to “just sits”. Their freerange egg busi­ness is boom­ing, with pro­duc­tion and de­mand neck and neck.

“Our big­gest chal­lenge is keep­ing up with de­mand. Our eggs are laid in the morn­ing, and dusted off and packed by lunch time. To­mor­row they’re in the su­per­mar­kets,” says Craig.

While they build their busi­ness, Craig and Vicky are also rais­ing three young chil­dren: An­gus (7), Tessa (6) and Molly (4) – with­out the “help” of tele­vi­sion. “We found that at the end of the day we’d watch telly in­stead of talk­ing, so we got rid of it. Now we play cards and have a glass of wine. We go to bed a lot ear­lier,” says Vicky.

Hatch­ing the plan

Craig’s par­ents, Tony and Carol, bought the 100ha farm in 1995 and used it as a week­end bolt hole for nine years.

“I’ve al­ways wanted to farm – and to farm prop­erly,” says Craig, who has a BSc Agric de­gree and worked on dairy farms in the UK and lo­cally be­fore mov­ing to Highveld in 2004.

The cou­ple ini­tially ven­tured into breed­ing ex­otic birds, but turned to com­mer­cial farm­ing in 2009. They de­cided to try their hand at poul­try be­cause it’s a com­mod­ity that most >

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