We keep a variety of geese on the farm. In the past we have raised geese for Christmas but now we keep a small flock of Wessex, a commercial hybrid and a selection of rare breeds. We sell breeding stock and goose eggs.
The Wessex goose was developed locally, being bred specially for the Christmas market. They resemble the white Embden from Germany. They are slow growing birds that do not put on as much fat as some commercial hybrids. They are smaller in size, with average finished weight being 5 kg, but they make up for this with their wonderful taste. We only keep a small breeding flock and produce a few birds for Christmas for family and friends.
We hatch most of the eggs from the rare-breeds. Once hatched, the goslings are kept inside under heat for about 3 weeks. Then they are allowed out into small runs outside.
They spend the days grazing on grass and mucking around in their miniponds before being led back into their shed at night for protection against foxes.
During the first 12 weeks of their life they get grass and organic goose pellets. During the summer they are fed almost exclusively on grass, just getting a bit of food in their sheds at night to tempt them back in. During the autumn they get organic wheat along with apples. This builds up their layers of fat to see them through the winter.
Our rare breed geese are not kept for commercial purposes but for our own pleasure and to do our little bit towards preserving genetic diversity.
The Exhibition Toulouse geese are huge grey and white birds, often weighing 14kg or more. They have been bred specifically for showing, and have an exaggerated keel, lobes and dewlap. Because of their size and shape, they are very hard to breed successfully. But, like many large animals, they have a placid nature.
We have a flock of Sebastopol geese. These are classed as small geese and they are very easy to identify because they have ‘frizzle’ or ‘curly’ feathers over their body. We have both the frizzle and smooth-breasted varieties. The beaks and legs are orange and the eyes are bright blue. These geese originated around the Black Sea, and took their name from the Sebastopol area.
Our American Buff geese are larger than the Sebastopols, and have brown feathers, hazel eyes and orange feet and beaks. They originated in the USA, mainly from German strains. Buffs are a docile, calm breed, and make very good parents. We have a new pair from Tony Axon and hope to be breeding from them in 2012.