December 19, 2019 by Clare Hawkins
Eagle-eyed locals may have noticed some exciting developments on Stepney City Farm recently. Work has begun work on the adjoining land being reinstated to us by Crossrail, and everyone is keen to know what we have planned.
The expansion of the Farm is key to our long term strategic plan to increase local food growing, encourage biodiversity, improve visitor amenities, develop local access to nature and green space, and to create better facilities for our animals.
As an educational charity working to improve lives through farming, high-welfare, environmentally-sustainable farming practices are integral to what we do at the Farm. With the growth of our site, rather than increasing our number of animals, we plan to use a third of the additional space for better grazing rotation for the animals that we have, and a new ‘Poultry Paradise’ for our ducks and chickens, doubling the size of their enclosures and providing larger, deeper duck ponds.
To inform our strategy and to develop our plans for the expanded site, in November 2019 we commissioned an independent animal welfare review from ADAS to assess what we have in place, and to make recommendations as to how we can improve.
We were pleased that the review confirmed that “ADAS considers the animal welfare standards at Stepney City Farm to be high and to meet the regulatory requirements”. The reviewer specifically concluded following the audit that the Farm was found to be compliant with the regulatory requirements set out by the Animal Welfare Act of 2006, and the majority of the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations of 2007; recommendations for improvements were related to record keeping, emergency planning and carcass disposal, not directly affecting the welfare of the animals housed on the Farm.
The day to day welfare of the animals was found to be met under each of the five established welfare categories:
- The need for a suitable environment;
- The need for a suitable diet;
- The need to exhibit normal behaviour patterns;
- The need to be housed with or apart from other animals (as appropriate);
- The need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.
The report included several recommendations, two of which – to log and file medical and mortality records for a 3 year period, and to have poultry carcases collected for disposal instead of being composted through an onsite system – are requirements which will be rectified immediately.
Other recommendations have given us useful guidance for ways that we can develop better facilities in future on our expanded site, including building a larger hen house to keep the chickens cooler in the Summer, and providing a more enriched environment for new hens when they have to be kept separate for a few days as they are introduced to our main flock.
Finally, we were advised that plans for emergencies such as extreme weather events should be kept accessible to all staff and volunteers, and that we should keep up to date signed induction records to ensure that all animal volunteers have been trained consistently. Thanks to the team’s hard work over the past two years in strategically fundraising for our expansion, we have now been able to employ a full time Site Manager to implement and improve these processes, and to lead on the many exciting projects to come on the new land in 2020.
Watch this space for more news about the ongoing development of the Farm, or drop in to see for yourself what’s going on, Tuesday to Sunday between 10am and 4pm.
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