Returning to nature

Holistic farming: Kim and Bryan Kiss, Wellington, pictured here with their Maremma dog Chomp, undertake environmentally friendly practices on their property, Meramie. Photo: Contributed
Holistic farming: Kim and Bryan Kiss, Wellington, pictured here with their Maremma dog Chomp, undertake environmentally friendly practices on their property, Meramie. Photo: Contributed

Husband and wife farming team Kim and Bryan Kiss have been grazing livestock for over 30 years, and have always maintained an environmentally friendly and productive farm, but recently their holistic management approach to farming has been applied to their latest produce, chickens.

Their 1500 hectare property, Meramie, is situated in Wellington on the foothills of the Central West Slopes and Plains.

“Our property vision is to maintain an environmentally friendly and productive farm with healthy perennial pastures,” Kim and Bryan said.

“It’s a return to nature in many ways with a simple, low input philosophy that involves synergistic projects that benefit each other and the land.

“We work to achieve this vision by having a holistic approach to the management of our resources. And we’ve achieved this with our cattle breeding business which has been run in a holistic cell-grazing operation since 1996.”

After trialing birds for two years, their latest venture Grassland Poultry started commercially in 2015.

“We had always eaten our own hand raised poultry so it was just another step forward to develop a system to provide a humane sustainable enterprise that fitted in with what else we do on the farm on a commercial level,” Kim and Bryan said.

At the moment Kim and Bryan process 200 birds a month, which are sold within the local area,

“There is not often a month where we are not sold out of our fresh and smoked chicken products. We are looking to increasing our numbers in 2017 allowing us to expand our market, now we know that we can provide a consistent high quality product under our pasture raised system,” they said.

“Point of difference from other free range pasture-raised operations is that we have moved away from the cob x rosser breed that is used in the commercial barns to a bird that is bred to thrive outdoors.”

Their goal is to farm with integrity with their Sommerlad Birds and other poultry ethically farmed, slow grown and pasture raised on open grasslands.

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Kim and Bryan said the Sommerlad chicken was exclusively developed by the Sommerlad family and Grassland Poultry is the only authorised grower for the Central West area.

The poultry is processed at an abattoir that does not use any chlorine or other irritant chemicals in any of the processing.

“Instead, high-pressure filtration and ultra violet sterilizing is used to treat the water in the processing plant. This fits in with our commitment to avoiding chemicals within the food chain,” Kim and Bryan said.

Their land is grazed by cattle, sheep and chickens, not just chickens, so their holistic approach is quite different to normal free-range methods.

“The shelters are moved every day. No cage shelter are used and there is a maximum of 180 birds per shed 6mx3m, providing plenty of room for the birds at night time,” they said.

“Also the size of our property allows the chicken shelters to be moved around the property so that the area that the chicken forage is always new, spreading the benefits over the whole property.”

To help keep the poultry safe from predators, they have a guard dog named Chomp.

“Chomp our Maremma dog is in training as he is not yet 12 months old. He has already proven himself in protecting the birds from hawks and eagles,” Kim and Bryan said.

Kim said she had noticed more consumers are wanting great-tasting produce that is well looked after.

“Our market is those people who want good tasting food with no chemicals or additives and on top of that is well looked after. Not just with chickens but with other animals too,” Kim said.

Email Kim and Bryan at info@grasslandpoultry.com.au