Nuffield Scholar applies what he learnt by 
creating a 21st Century layer farm

Tom and Jo Moore with Billy, Andy and Davie.

By Peter Bedwell

Tom Moore, a Nuffield Scholar with the support of the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Foundation, embarked on a trip in 2019 that would have put Gulliver’s efforts to shame. 

 He visited layer farms throughout Europe, Singapore, The Philippines, Hong Kong, China and the US.

After absorbing what he had learnt, Tom decided that he would transform his family-owned free-range operation into a sustainable and commercially viable operation that offered better hen welfare without compromising
productivity levels. 

One aspect of Tom’s report and presentation that he prepared when he returned to Australia, certainly got the attention of Poultry Digest

“Most poultry farms in Australia do not welcome visitors, but in Europe we were welcomed with open arms and a cup of tea,” Tom said.

Certainly, Tom and his partner Jo, plus their three delightful kids, made our group feel truly at home as Tom explained the aspects of what they do and why they do it.

After Tom’s report on his travels and the conclusions that he reached from his trip to Europe the US, China and the most significant layer farming destinations in SE Asia, our group was keen to see how he had turned his ideas into reality. We were not disappointed.

Given the thought and subsequent research that had gone into the Moore Eggs enterprise, it occurred to Poultry
that we were looking at a farm that may well represent the future of 21st Century layer operations in

The farm is located about 20 km out of Tenterfield and we were driving on the edge of an escarpment at over 1100 m above sea level according to Tom. 

The view to the South, down what Tom told me later was known as the Demon Valley, delivers staggering views that look like a film set to beat ‘Lord of the Rings’.

Tom’s ambition to establish his own layer farming operation moved to reality when he took the opportunity to lease part of a cattle farming property owned and operated by Nev and Sue Grogan, his partner Jo’s parents. 

In 2016 he completed the construction of a single deck shed and free-range area.

However, he was not satisfied that this housing design, common to many free-range poultry farms in Australia, was either the best for his birds or indeed farm productivity on his particular site. 

Plenty of activity around the pop holes with stones that clean the birds feet as they enter the shed.

His subsequent interest in alternatives, led to the trip to see layer farms around the world back in 2019 and he returned with a firm plan to construct a second shed that would not only expand production, but also significantly expand his business opportunities. 

After looking specifically at what layer farmers in Europe were doing, he decided that a tiered aviary system was the way to go.

He thought that the Big Dutchman Natura Primus design best suited his requirements. 

“Not only is it good for hen welfare, the design actually means that for any given floor area you can achieve higher stocking density than could be achieved under government regulations in conventional style housing; effectively three times that of a single deck system on the same floor plan,” Tom explained 

“By using the Natura system, we could work with batches of 10,000 hens and apart from increasing our eggs for sale production, we are able to sell batches of pullets to other layer farm operations in our region. 

“Typically, these batches for rearing would be between 500/1000 birds.

“We run Hy-line Brown birds for our own production and the majority of pullet sales. However,we do offer batches of the white Hy-Line strain as we can segregate them in the Natura system.

“Also, there is the requirement from our pullet buyers for a choice of vaccine program, so we can do that too.”

On the day we visited it was hot and sunny. Typically for free range birds, some adventurous individuals were happy to experience the outdoors, but the majority opted for the cool and darker shed interior. 

The healthy looking flock was at 15 weeks and we were clearly able to see the advantages in housing design that had attracted Tom to the system. 

One of the truly novel features of the farm location is that, though near to the top of the escarpment, there is plentiful clean cool spring water available through a fault line high in the mountain range – ideal for both cattle and a layer farm. 

Water quality is always important in rearing poultry and the Moore Eggs farm has that.

“The nearest large scale poultry operations are about 100k away from our farm and that combined with a quite remote location well off the main highway, gives us high levels of biosecurity which are essential, especially for a free-range layer operation,” Tom stated.

“The area is also drought resistant when compared to much of SE Queensland (their main market area). As we are 1100 meters high, on the farm in winter it can get down to minus 5, though in summer we occasionally see temperatures close to 40.

“Obviously, we have to plan for this, and the shed has the climate control systems to keep optimal temperature levels stable – but this results in some high energy bills. 

“Our diets are now being handled by Tina Grech, a well-known nutritionist who has established expertise in handling layer diets,” Tom said.

“Our customer base for egg production is split between food service and the smaller retail operations in the region. 

“The demand is definitely there and our delivery runs span a wide area.

“Despite the fact that we run a free-range operation, we have managed to stay competitive in pricing, which demonstrates that a well-designed free range set up can deliver efficient production levels. 

“Jo and I plus a small team, look after the packing and sorting and despite the increased feed and energy bills, the business is growing as we had hoped it would.

“We also pack and grade for some other producers,” Tom said.

Apart from all the thought, planning and determined execution of the plan that has gone into the growth and
success of the Moore farm Eggs, there is another critical element that we are sure Tom would acknowledge.

That is the strong extended family unit that is an essential pillar to any farming business. 

Three generations are involved in this enterprise, from Jo’s parents to Tom and Jo’s youngest, not yet one – they are all are part of the fabric of the Moore Eggs story.