On July 19 Poultry Digest caught up with Martin Rohde, recently appointed as Rohde Free Range Eggs Sales and Operations Manager.
Since Poultry Digest first visited the Tarlee, South Australian based free range layer farm, the enterprise has expanded to 16 sheds and in 2016 became one of the first free range layer farms to achieve RSPCA accreditation.
In fact, it is one of only two RSPCA Approved free range egg farms in Australia.
Martin, now a key player in the family enterprise, was a child when Poultry Digest first visited the farm more than 15 years ago, then run by his parents John and Ange. He and his sister Brooke are now the third generation of family members operating the still growing enterprise.
The Rohde’s have been distributing eggs for more than 50 years. The farm was originally started by John’s parents Ian and Jill Rohde back in 1957 when they decided to supplement their farm income by dedicating one area of the Ruradene farm to hens.
Demand continued to grow for the free-range eggs and in 1988, the family expanded the business, employing more staff including John and Ange’s four children.
“We are in the process or acquiring a DA to build four more sheds as demand for our eggs continues to grow,” Martin said.
“The RSPCA accreditation lead to our business being able to supply a number of local Woolies stores as well as a growing take-up by independent retailers both locally and in Adelaide itself.
“Our restaurant, cafe and food service business, the backbone of our sales since the business started, has continued to grow but, obviously was affected by COVID when restrictions were activated.
“On any weekday there are at least 20 full and part time staff working on the farm or performing deliveries of our eggs,” Martin said.
Recently the farm installed the new Riva Selegg E20 egg grader, supplied by Rob Duns from Dunogan Farm Tech.
“The new Riva-Selleg graders are working well and have significantly reduced breakages as well as contributing to a better overall improvement in production efficiency,” said Martin.
The Riva Selegg E20 egg grader has the option of full automatic egg packing of graded eggs into cartons or trays. It has capacity of 20,000 eggs per hour, can grade up to seven weight grades of eggs and has touch screen control.
A feature is a soft air eject system. It has an ethernet slot for internet connection capability with the possibility of remote access management.
The E20 egg grader installed at Rohde Farm has four auto packing lanes with closures and denesters, plus three manual pack lanes.
Automatic vacuum loading is provided whereby eggs are loaded, automatically, 30 per time, onto the egg graders infeed rollers.
A Kuhl egg washer, for washing those eggs that are dirty, is connected in-line with the egg grader.
Rohde’s Free Range Eggs is one of the largest free range egg farms in South Australia.
Currently it has 80,000 free range layers at stocking density of 1,500 birds per hectare with plans to add another 10,000 layers by end of 2021.
Riva Selegg egg graders have been available in Australia and New Zealand for 30 years and have been distributed by Dunogan Farm Tech Pty Ltd.
“Riva Selegg egg graders have proven egg grader technology, are compact in design and have smallest possible layout footprint,” said Rob.
As egg consumption has risen in general and, in particular, for free range products, the Rohde enterprise has expanded to meet demand.
“There is definitely a growing consumer trend and people are very much aware of what they are purchasing and their expectations are getting higher and higher,” John said.
“Rohdes Free Range Eggs strongly follows the model code of practice for free range eggs which should be produced by hens who have access to an outdoor area and that there is a maximum of 1500 hens per hectare.
“Stocking numbers are at 1500 per hectare, providing each chook with 6.5 square metres of personal space.
“This system means it is very labour intensive and there is no way around that,” said John. “We have to collect eggs from every shed twice a day and we mix all our own feed.
“We currently produce around 360,00 eggs each week.
“All our employees love our girls. Looking after their welfare is of major importance around here. We get it right by intreating our hens in a humane way so they can produce more eggs,” said Ange.
“They can choose to have a dust bath, to peck and scratch around outside and can also choose to go back inside if it starts raining. That’s their choice. Every aspect of the business is conducted on farm.
“Before our free range eggs can be distributed to SA retail businesses,
restaurants, cafes, butchers, hotels and motels, they are graded on the property into 300g and 350g half dozen cartons, 600g, 700g, 800g cartons and catering packs ready for immediate sale and use,” said Ange.
“We are audited by the RSPCA around twice a year. It’s a pretty strict audit which is no bad thing,” said John.
Though COVID has halted immigration this will change as hopefully, Australia and the world benefits from vaccination.
If immigration rates go back to where they were prior to the COVID outbreak, the Rohde’s expansion to a 20 shed operation will be more than justified.
For more information about the Riva Selegg egg graders contact email@example.com