These chooks are flying high

Award win has Chooks At The Rooke flying high

Smart Farmer News
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Building a new house and expecting their first child in December, one could be forgiven for thinking things couldn't get much better for Xavier Prime and Kimberley Burridge. It did.

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CLUCKING ALONG: Kimberley Burridge and Xavier Prime with some of their award-winning pasture-raised chickens at Cororooke, Victoria.

CLUCKING ALONG: Kimberley Burridge and Xavier Prime with some of their award-winning pasture-raised chickens at Cororooke, Victoria.

Building a new house and expecting their first child in December, one could be forgiven for thinking things couldn't get much better for Xavier Prime and Kimberley Burridge. It did.

The couple's meat bird and egg operation Chooks At The Rooke claimed a Gold Medal in the 2021 delicious Produce Awards.

Running 3,000 layers and 500 cockerels per year on their 65-hectare (160-acre) Queens property at Cororooke, Victoria, Xavier and Kimberley strongly believe in ethical and sustainable production.

Part of that belief is re-homing the older birds to backyards of the general public.

Producing meat chickens ethically and winning a delicious Gold Medal means a lot to the pair.

"It feels amazing, humbling and exciting," Xavier said.

"It means validation for our project.

"We feel like we are on the right track, potentially on the cusp of something big.

"And now we are gaining exposure to the chefs and restaurants that we hope will want to try our product."

Xavier and Kimberley proudly sell their meat chickens to like-minded chefs and restaurants.

"Our meat chickens go into medium to high-end restaurants that have a strong ethos around sustainability and animal welfare at the same time," Xavier said.

"These restaurants love to use our product, one that is award winning, unique and has an interesting story that they can tell to their customers.

"Our process for Chooks At The Rooke is based on our beliefs that nature itself is the best example of sustainable land practises.

"Here we mimic it.

"Thirty Angus cows and calves graze the longest grass.

"The mobile chook sheds follow and scratch the cattle's manure, fertilising more square inches of land naturally.

"We fertilise the farm naturally with our moving chook flocks manure, and the cattle's, rather than synthetic fertiliser.

"The best areas of increased soil health and grass growth are actually directly below the area where the birds perched during the night as there is a good concentration of manure.

"Running our operation as pasture raised is important because we believe it's the best system for the birds' welfare and the environment."

Cororooke has proven to be a good location for the poultry operation.

"Located on the Victorian Volcanic Plains, the high rainfall allows the birds to graze green pastures longer periods throughout the year," Xavier said.

"Green grass is good for natural egg yolk vigour.

"Our birds range on pastures including perennial rye grass, phalaris, wheat grass, sub clover, dutch clover, strawberry clover, annual rye grass and oats.

"To improve our pastures, we oversow annual rye, oats and clover for bulk.

"We supplementary feed our birds with 19.95% CP.

"It's an all rounder mix suitable for different aged birds."

Chooks At The Rooke both self-replace its flock as well as buying in pullets which are started mainly while grain prices are high.

As well as Xavier and Kimberley, four part-time team members help run the operation which, like most livestock productions, has its share of pests and predators.

"We take care of any worms naturally with apple cider vinegar," Xavier said.

"Without the help of our rescue Maremmas, our birds would be susceptible to foxes.

"Our rescue Maremmas come through a dedicated Maremma Rescue group.

"They have all been screened and assessed to make sure they are suitable for guarding poultry.

"So the group has done some of the heavy lifting in advance.

"It's then our job to incorporate them with our system and existing dogs, which has never been a problem."

With their focus on the new house and upcoming birth of their child, Xavier and Kimberley don't have any plans to expand in the near future.

"At this current moment we don't think we will expand the egg laying business above our currents numbers given the climate," Xavier said.

"Also, re-homing 3,000 older birds every year is challenging enough.

"We do think we will focus more time on the cockerels.

"I would also love to build a bigger Angus cow and calf operation."

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