Ducks making a splash

Free range ducks making a splash

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To many farmers, 40 hectares is a fly speck compared to their property. But how many can say they successfully run cattle, pigs, chickens and ducks in such a small area?

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TIME OUT: This duck takes a break from life at Tathra Place where the raft help keep pests down and provide moiosture-rich fertiliser before being processed for the table.

TIME OUT: This duck takes a break from life at Tathra Place where the raft help keep pests down and provide moiosture-rich fertiliser before being processed for the table.

To many farmers, 40 hectares is a fly speck compared to their property.

But how many can say they successfully run cattle, pigs, chickens and ducks in such a small area?

Luke and Pia Winder of Tathra Place Free Range Farm, Wombeyan Caves, do exactly that.

A former electrician, Luke went through an excruciating experience that changed the way he looked at his life.

"My dad was diagnosed with a brain tumor and I sat with him for six months until he passed," Luke said.

"Until he lost the ability to speak, he would tell me all his regrets from his life which was pretty harrowing.

"When he did lose his speech, I sat with him and watched stuff on Youtube.

"A video was suggested to me on Joel Salatin and his regenerative farming practices.

"I said I am not going to look at my life and regret doing this.

"So after some hard conversations with my wife, we decided regenerative farming is what we wanted to do."

FLOURISHING: Luke Winder and his sons Thomas (11), Jonathan (2) and Michael (6) enjoy the strong pasture growth at Tathra Place, Wombeyan Caves, NSW.

FLOURISHING: Luke Winder and his sons Thomas (11), Jonathan (2) and Michael (6) enjoy the strong pasture growth at Tathra Place, Wombeyan Caves, NSW.

The mantra at Tathra Place Free Range Farm is - happy, healthy, healing.

Luke believes in happy animals, healthy customers and healing the land: if something he is doing doesn't fit into that then he stops doing it.

He said that every egg, every duck, every chicken, every pig and every bit of beef that comes off his farm is a by-product of his regenerative farming model.

"Every animal on our farm plays a part - they are my machinery," Luke said.

"Our blue Angus cattle fertilise the ground and the chooks run behind them, spreading the cow dung while looking for feed in it, creating more absorption into the soil.

CLEAN UP CREW: Tathra Place initially used Wessex Saddleback and Tokyo-X pigs to clean up the rampant blackberry and tussock. Now it's pork is highly sought after.

CLEAN UP CREW: Tathra Place initially used Wessex Saddleback and Tokyo-X pigs to clean up the rampant blackberry and tussock. Now it's pork is highly sought after.

"The pigs clean up weeds and disturb the soil.

"Our Pekin-Aylesbury ducks provide a very moisture rich fertiliser.

"I feel that after the ducks have been grazing in a cell it is like it has had 10mm of rain.

"Every bit of protein of my place is a by-product of healing the land."

While the ducks play their part in the farm ecosystem, they are becoming very popular in high end restaurants.

Tathra Place bring in week-old ducks from a farm in Kurrajong and they are taken to the abattoir at six weeks-two days of age.

"Pre-covid we were processing 1000 a week and we have a raft size of about 4000," Luke said.

"They are hand-loaded onto the truck, minimising any bruising."

Luke said that using Maremmas and closing the water supply off had made his fatality rates in his ducks nearly non-existent.

"Since we closed the water supply loop off, we have not had any issues with diseases," he said.

"The Wombeyan Caves Aquifier provides excellent clean water for the ducks.

"We have also developed dunk tanks for the ducks which is very important.

"Water fowl need to be able to clean themselves and their beaks for their health."

Luke has plans to expand his business.

"I'm about to start doing meat birds again," he said.

"I'm going to do Bresse which is widely known as the best eating bird in the world.

"We are also designing pens for a pasture raised quail model."

FAMILY AFFAIR: Luke and Pia Winder left Sydney to start regenerative farming. They enjoy the farm with their sons Thomas, Michael, and Jonathan.

FAMILY AFFAIR: Luke and Pia Winder left Sydney to start regenerative farming. They enjoy the farm with their sons Thomas, Michael, and Jonathan.

Promoting soil health is key to enterprise

When Luke and Pia took over the property 70 kilometres from Bowral, NSW, more than 60 per cent of it was blackberry and serrated tussock which was the original purpose of the pigs - weed clean up.

Now Luke and Pia have more than 250 heritage breed pigs at any time and supply pork to restaurants and butchers.

"When we got here, the pastures were nearly non-existent too," Luke said.

"We initially got the pigs in to eat out the blackberry, tussock and weeds, doing a great job of it as they get right down to the roots.

"Now we have no weeds of any kind and if the pastures aren't a metre and a half tall, I'm not happy.

"The pigs also work the soil, but unlike tillage, they only 'massage' it.

"All the animals form a nice balanced eco-system where each one has a role in fertilising and promoting soil health."

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