Make the most of the chicken and the egg
To slaughter… ‘Our story’
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 >