Won­der­ful water­fowl

We pro­file Bri­tish Water­fowl As­so­ci­a­tion mem­bers. This month: Moon Ridge Farm in Devon, one of the coun­try’s lead­ing water­fowl sup­pli­ers

Country Smallholding - - Inside This Month - Bri­tish Water­fowl As­so­ci­a­tion: www.water­fowl.org.uk NEXT MONTH: Page’s Poul­try in Stafford­shire.

Moon Ridge Farm near Ex­eter of­fers a huge range

Poul­try and water­fowl have al­ways played a role in Merv An­stey’s life, from first years liv­ing on his par­ents farm to now run­ning his own farm four decades later. Merv’s busi­ness, Moon Ridge Farm, is a poul­try and water­fowl cen­tre set in the heart of Devon just two miles west of Ex­eter. He and his wife Kate bought the 37 acres of rolling grass­land in 2004 and cre­ated the busi­ness from scratch. It now sup­ports their fam­ily and they have three em­ploy­ees plus part time help dur­ing the busiest times.

In start­ing out, Merv be­came con­vinced there was po­ten­tial to breed and sell water­fowl in a man­ner that would re­flect how they should be kept. When the farm he was man­ag­ing was look­ing to diver­sify , the ob­vi­ous choice was poul­try and water­fowl, where Merv’s previous ex­pe­ri­ence could be used and de­vel­oped. This led to the for­ma­tion of the Devon Tra­di­tional Breed Cen­tre near Cred­i­ton.

Merv and Kate were still keen to own their own piece of land and had been search­ing for two years for the right plot. Once they found it, de­vel­op­ment be­gan to house the grow­ing breed­ing groups of water­fowl, or­na­men­tal pheas­ants and guinea fowl. Ponds were dug, trees planted and fenc­ing erected to cre­ate water­fowl en­clo­sures. His now size­able col­lec­tion moved onto the farm in 2005.

Ini­tially Merv and Kate lived in a mo­bile

home, bring up their young chi­dren and grow­ing the busi­ness. The col­lec­tion grew rapidly sell­ing young stock from the farm and, in the early years, at auc­tions to ‘spread the word’.

“We are still sup­ply­ing cus­tomers that came to us in 2000 as well as many more,” he said. “In the early days, we stuck to water­fowl, pheas­ants, quail, peafowl and guinea fowl, but with the demise of the Devon­shire Tra­di­tional Breed Cen­tre in 2006 we started breed­ing and sell­ing tra­di­tional breeds of chick­ens and the hy­brid types.

“I still run the poul­try side of the busi­ness with Kate do­ing all the book­work, sales pro­mo­tions, web­site and the shop de­vel­op­ment along with all on­line or­ders and co-or­di­na­tion de­liv­er­ies and col­lec­tions of large or­ders.”

De­vel­op­ment at the farm con­tin­ues. Al­most all the land is be­hind fox­proof fenc­ing and live­stock in­cludes red deer, fal­low deer, pygmy goats, sheep and wal­la­bies as well as Patag­o­nian mara and pigs (Sad­dle­back/Duroc/Lan­drace hy­brids) from which they sell wean­ers. The lat­est project is bees.

Best sell­ers

“The poul­try is pretty much stream­lined into our favourites and the best sell­ers,” said Merv. “Tur­keys, rheas, peafowl, guinea fowl and quail are sold all over the coun­try from in­di­vid­ual birds to many thou­sands in the case of quail to re­tail and whole­sale buy­ers for eggs , meat and pet mar­kets. Chick­ens come in a wide range of va­ri­eties of the hy­brid types plus ban­tams, mainly Pekins.

“Then of course there is the water­fowl. Do­mes­tic geese in­clude African, Chi­nese (white and grey) and Emb­den /Toulouse ta­ble birds. Do­mes­tic ducks in­clude In­dian run­ners in a wide range of colours, Khaki Camp­bells , sil­ver Ap­p­le­yards large and minia­ture, Call ducks and Cayu­gas as well as Mus­covies.

“We also have swans (black and black necked), or­na­men­tal ducks and geese in a wide range of species in­clud­ing the ever

pop­u­lar Man­darins, Caroli­nas, Ring teal , Pin­tail, Whistling ducks and Shell ducks, plus a range of the more un­usual species such a Smew and Eider and Ne-Ne.

“With the range of breeds at our farm we run in­cu­ba­tors all year around. The wild­fowl are al­most ex­clu­sively al­lowed to sit on their own eggs for a min­i­mum for 7-10 days, and then fin­ished in the in­cu­ba­tors. We find the ini­tial days un­der their mother make a huge dif­fer­ence to hatch­a­bil­ity. Find­ing these lit­tle tweaks to the sys­tem each year leads to bet­ter re­sults in hatch­a­bil­ity and live­abil­ity. This is what makes the ‘hobby’ in­ter­est­ing; get­ting the more dif­fi­cult species to breed is al­ways a chal­lenge, but so re­ward­ing when you get it right.

“For the new keeper/prospec­tive keeper out there, water­fowl of­fers huge po­ten­tial with a wide va­ri­ety of choices. There is some­thing for every­one from pet to or­na­men­tal to com­mer­cial. Ducks and geese tend to live longer and carry on pro­duc­ing for longer than chick­ens. They are ca­pa­ble of lay­ing over sev­eral years and tend to suf­fer from less health prob­lems, less ag­gres­sion and, with a wa­ter­proof warm coat, they are ca­pa­ble of liv­ing in even the most ex­posed sites, with ba­sic hous­ing re­quire­ments. Their har­di­ness and abil­ity to for­age widely search­ing for slugs, snails and worms make them a firm favourite for gar­den­ers and small­hold­ers. We de­light in get­ting peo­ple started with water­fowl of any de­scrip­tion, and have seen a move from peo­ple to keep­ing just chick­ens to ven­tur­ing into the duck and geese world.

“There is a huge range avail­able here and, with the re­cent ex­pan­sion of the shop area, there is an even wider range of equip­ment and hous­ing to cover all needs.

“We have been mem­bers of the Bri­tish Water­fowl As­so­ci­a­tion for many years and have hosted open days and at­tended events around the coun­try as well as more lo­cally. We thor­oughly rec­om­mend be­ing a mem­ber; you will get to meet lots of water­fowl en­thu­si­asts and there is ac­cess to a great source of writ­ten in­for­ma­tion on the web­site and in a great mag­a­zine with lots of ar­ti­cles an in­for­ma­tion on breed­ers.” MORE: www.moon­ridge­farm.co.uk For up­dates join their mail­ing list and fol­low them on Face­book and Twit­ter Tel: 01392 851190 or 07891 329538. Moon Ridge Farm, New­ton St Cyres, Ex­eter, Devon EX5 5AA

Carolina, or wood ducks

Merv and Kate An­stey at Moon Ridge Farm, Devon. Hawai­ian Nene are in the fore­ground, Bar­na­cle geese be­hind and, on the left, is an Aus­tralian shell duck

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