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