Inspiring Poultry’s Generation Next

The Poultry CRC recently sponsored a trip to a Tamworth egg farm for young science students as part of the University of New England’s (UNE) PICSE (Primary Industries Centre for Science Education) Program. The CRC’s Education Officer, Liz Roan, joined PICSE’s Science Education Officer, Susanna Greig and the students on the excursion to Bede Burke’s property, Glendon, just outside Tamworth last month.

PICSE is a collaboration between universities, including UNE, their regional communities and local primary industries, to attract students into tertiary science and to increase the number of skilled professionals in agribusiness and research institutions. The CRC has been sponsoring the UNE PICSE Program since 2009, and the visit to Glendon complemented the Industry Placement Scholarship where students gained firsthand experience of the work of an agricultural scientist at UNE.

“Bede showed the students how a computer system monitored the egg count and explained that eggs were collected and packed one flock at a time,” said Liz. “We observed the hens in their environment, feeding, drinking and laying, and watched the eggs roll down the conveyor belts to the packing station.”

“Bede covered a number of welfare issues and explained the importance of on-farm post-mortems as a tool used to monitor hen health. We also discussed market pressures and pricing mechanisms. Students were shown how everything in the sheds, from temperature to water flow, is electronically monitored and controlled.”

“The PICSE students were extremely lucky to gain entry to this modern and progressive farm. The Burkes are passionate about sustainability and grow wheat, barley and sorghum for their feed mill to produce feed for the birds. Manure from the hens is composted and used as fertiliser on pastures, and they are currently investigating more efficient methods of spent hen disposal. The operation is efficient, innovative and has a low carbon footprint. It’s no wonder that Bede and Narelle were awarded the Brownhill Cup in 2009 for their practice of conservation farming and more recently, were runners up in the 2010 Australian Farmer of the Year award.”

“In these days of very tight bio-security practices, it’s hard to gain access to many poultry farms, and the Poultry CRC would like to thank Bede and Narelle for opening up their enterprise to educate and inform the scientists and farmers of tomorrow.”

It’s clear that the program resonates with the students, too. Casey Thomas, from Tamworth’s Oxley High School, found the visit to Glendon a real eye-opener.

“The highlight for me was seeing Mr. Bede Burke working his family business, Glendon Chicken Farm,” Casey wrote in her report following the visit to Bede’s farm. “It was a very eye-opening experience, as I was a person with very strong views on caging chickens … Seeing the conditions the chickens are privileged enough to live in is amazing, as everything is so carefully controlled … It was exciting to gain a further look into things I hadn’t even imagined … it has been just such a great experience.”

Sign up to the Echook Newsletter
for the latest from PoultryHub