Martin Schmid, Alpigal producer
With Alpigal, our customers can be sure of getting nothing but the very best poultry reared in species-appropriate surroundings. To guarantee this, we work very closely together with our producers – all of our partner farms are certified in accordance with strict and recognised criteria.
We know our farmers by name and work closely together with them in a spirit of trust and partnership. Why not join us in paying a visit to two of these farms: Martin Schmid’s in Unlingen and Daniel Stemmer’s in Uttenweiler?
Daniel Stemmer from Uttenweiler is the first Alpigal poultry producer. A pioneering project in southern Germany, based on a Swiss model – a glimpse behind the first chicken house door.
Uttenweiler-based farmer Daniel Stemmer would not describe himself as being particularly courageous. Yet around two years ago, he took a step that no one else in southern Germany had ventured to date: the young farmer was the first to work together with Oberschwäbische Geflügel to produce regional chickens in accordance with the Alpigal standard.
As Daniel explains: “Above all, it was Alpigal’s focus on animal welfare that appealed to me. I was on the lookout for an additional line of business for our farm and I have been interested in rearing poultry for quite some time. Conventional rearing didn’t appeal to me and then I heard about the Oberschwäbische Geflügel project.”
A solid investment
Since April 2016, Daniel Stemmer has been rearing Alpigal chickens on his farm in Uttenweiler for Oberschwäbische Geflügel GmbH, a subsidiary of Swiss company Micarna SA. Robert Stauss Junior, responsible for planning new partner operations, is more than satisfied with the first results.
“The Alpigal project was a new departure for all of us. Both for farmers like Daniel Stemmer who ventured to build a new chicken house for such a project and for companies like ours, who – although we had the calculations and experience from Switzerland to work with at the time – had no guarantees either.”
This being the case, the project manager is all the more delighted that the venture is working out so well – particularly for the sake of the farmers: “They are our most important partners. It is great to finally have an example that shows that our idea works in practice and is a solid investment.”
Micarna: solid Swiss backing
Daniel Stemmer is also satisfied with the initial entry and exit cycles in his new poultry-rearing operation: “For me, the whole set-up is just right. The flexibility, the security and the business aspect as well – it is all working out great. Above all, it reflects my feelings on animal welfare as well. And I think that this is something that customers are looking for more and more often these days. So I firmly believe that, with Alpigal, we have a project that has a great future.”
This is a project that Daniel could scarcely have envisaged back in 2004 when he, the youngest of five children, took over his father’s business. “Our focus was on pigs – even today, we still keep sows. And cultivate a few crops. Rearing poultry was a new departure for us.”
Nonetheless, the young farmer took the plunge. “I knew that Micarna – a Swiss company with a solid reputation – was behind Alpigal and that I was not rushing blindly into any old project.”
A pioneering project with a bright future
Daniel is proud of his showcase chicken house and full of optimism. “After a year’s experience raising chickens, I look around me and am full of confidence for the future. I truly believe that, with Alpigal, we have created a product that offers a future for farmers and customers alike.”
Martin Schmid from Unlingen treats his chickens to underfloor heating with his own biogas plant and knows how suitable poultry-rearing is for closing agricultural cycles.
The notion of underfloor heating is always a tempting one. And what appeals to people usually also appeals to animals in agricultural settings. The underfloor heating for Martin Schmid’s chickens has been in place for quite some time. And it also allows him to avoid unnecessary CO2emissions.
This is because the farm and the chicken house run by the young family man in Unlingen are powered by his own biogas plant. As Martin explains: “The birds like it and that is plain to see – they like lying on the ground, eat well and are active and alert.” And there is another very practical reason for the underfloor heating: “After washing and disinfecting the chicken house, it normally takes several days for the building – and especially the floor – to reach the required temperature of 35 degrees again. Thanks to the underfloor heating, my chicken house is pleasantly warm again in just a few hours, even the floor.”
Having the courage to break new ground
Since 2016, Martin Schmid has been a partner to Stauss Geflügel, producing regional chickens for southern Germany under the Alpigal brand. When he decided to be a part of this pioneering project, he was one of the first agricultural partners to work to the Alpigal standard: “You have to have the courage to venture into new ground every now and then – to step up and try out something new without a guarantee that it will turn out the way you want it to.”
Martin knows what he’s talking about: after all, his family has been well known for its courage and innovativeness for generations. Take his father, for instance, who decided in the early 2000s to go into energy production by operating his own biogas plant.
At the time, Martin was still in school. When he took over the family business in 2013, it was taken as read that he would expand and professionalise the biogas plant. But at the same time, he wanted something different, something new. “At the time, we had pigs in a pig house that had been built few years previously. I was on the lookout for an alternative. But one that allowed me to make use of the pig house and also gave me the flexibility I needed to oversee the expansion of our biogas plant.”
Good feed conversion and high flexibility
Management decided to join forces with Stauss Geflügel in the Alpigal project and converted his pig house into a modern poultry house with a cold scratching area outside. An investment that proved to be worthwhile: “I have been delighted with the poultry house so far and the birds seem to be very happy there.
The feed conversion rate is very good and there are hardly any problems at all.” Above all, Martin values the flexibility that keeping poultry offers him: “Apart from the day or two when the birds leave and new ones arrive, I am free to plan each working day as I choose. This makes it easy to integrate my poultry-rearing activities within the rest of the family business.”
And this flexibility is of the utmost importance, given that his biogas plant not only supplies the chicken house and his own four walls but also provides power and warmth for the community, with two to three thousand households benefitting from his plant. As well as this, the community succeeded in saving 250,000 litres of heating oil last year.
As the innovative farmer himself explains: “We definitely wanted to harness the warmth from the biogas plant as well, so we looked for a solution that would allow us to make use of the exhaust air from the plant. While on the one hand he provides his chicks with their own unique form of underfloor heating, he provides heating to the village with his own gas pipeline which, among other things, heats the local primary school.
Closing cycles and returning to the field
The plant is operated by fermenting grass and cereals, with over 30 tonnes of feed being processed every day. Martin: “This is an awful lot, but if you bear in mind that this feed cannot be used and would simply go to waste, it does make sense for us to use it to produce heat and energy.”
The feed comes from his own fields and from many other local farmers. The fermentation byproduct is then in turn sold as manure to farmers for use on their own holdings. “In the future, thinking in terms of cycles will be increasingly important for agriculture. In order for us to close cycles such as these, we need good ideas and above all the courage to put such ideas into practice every now and then.”