Nomad Farms lives by land, welfare values

Nomad Farms lives by land, welfare values


Beef
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An office dream has turned into an award-winning venture for Nomad Farms' Tom and Verity.

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WHILE working an office job, Tom Bradman used to devise ways to return to farm life.

His method, which won him and partner Verity Slee a SA Landcare award for innovation in sustainable innovation in 2015, is poultry, beef and occasional hogget production, selling to restaurants and direct to consumers via farmers' markets and online.

Much of the main focus at Nomad Farms, Finniss, is two breeds of "pasture-raised" poultry, which suits their 160-hectare property.

They turn off about 300 white "standard" chickens each week, with the pullets bought in at one-day-old and grown out, then processed at 6.5 to 7.5 weeks old.

They also run their own breeding flock of heritage breed Sommerlad chickens, incubating their own eggs.

In recent months they have grown from incubating about 20 eggs a week to 50. Mr Bradman would like to build to about 100-200 a week. The Sommerlads are generally processed at 12-16 weeks of age.

"They are a lot slower growing but are better to raise on pastures - they are active foragers," he said.

Mr Bradman said it could be difficult to convince people to pay more for this "specialty product" .

"Most people are happy to pay up to $40 a kilogram for red meat but getting them to pay more than $15/kg for chicken meat, when they've been conditioned to not paying over $10/kg (is difficult)," he said. "It's been a job to be involved in creating a market."

The chickens live in mobile hutches and are moved to fresh pasture every day, while also being fed grain sourced from local growers.

Mr Bradman said moving them regularly allowed the manure to be distributed evenly across the paddock, and also minimised disease issues.

"The birds don't come back to the same ground for six months or more," he said.

"We've done all sorts of fertiliser trials on our sandy soils but I've seen next-to-no response from a lot of standard chemicals compared with these birds."

I am firmly of the view, if you eat food, you're invested in agriculture and you get three votes a day about the type of food system you want to see. - TOM BRADMAN

Mr Bradman says their small Angus and Murray Grey herd also works in this system, moving ahead in the rotation, with the chicken hutches following behind.

They do not feed grain to their cattle or sheep, and rarely feed hay, so keep numbers low to allow them to conserve standing feed.

The cattle and sheep are processed at Strathalbyn abattoir while the poultry travel to Kapowie Chickens, Kapunda. Their butchering happens at Ellis Butchers, McLaren Vale, although most birds are sold whole.

Last month, their Nomadic Pastured Heritage Chook - the Sommerlads - were announced as SA winners in the delicious. 2019 paddock awards, having previously won state awards in 2017 and 2018.

They have just sent more of their chickens across to Sydney for the national judging.

Mr Bradman describes their system as "regenerative agriculture".

"It's a term that is bandied about a bit but to us, it means doing things that have a net positive impact in three areas: economical, ecological and social," he said.

"We're doing things, which are profitable, but also improve the condition of the resource base on which we depend."

One of their biggest social goals is helping educate consumers to be able to make to make "informed choices about the type of food system they want to see adopted".

"I am firmly of the view, if you eat food, you're invested in agriculture and you get three votes a day about the type of food system you want to see," he said.

Nomad Farms' is sold at the Willunga Farmers' Markets on Saturdays and the Adelaide Showground Markets on Sundays, which provides consumers the chance to ask questions.

Mr Bradman said he has had chefs up to their farms to see how they produce their food, along with school groups.

He also encourages customers to come pick up orders to see for themselves and hopes to hold open days in the future.

"One of the questions I get asked at farmers' markets is what do people pay for when they buy our product.

"I see it as a vote for a food system - they're buying a set of (animal welfare and environmental) outcomes and not just a piece of meat."

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