Canary seed grown by Topflite NZ

Top Seed: What we grow – and why

While we’re best known for limelight-hogging sunflowers there are plenty of other ingredients in Topflite products that start life on our local farms too.

As pet feed producers it’s a special thing to read through an ingredient list on one of your bags and be able to picture the site where each was grown. For us, this close connection with the land is in our DNA. Back in 1974, Topflite began with just one main crop – sunflower seeds that quickly found fans among New Zealand’s aviary bird community. 

Thanks to the quality of Oamaru soils and family knowledge of the land, the original Topflite farm grew highly nutritious seed. It was chock full of the vitamins and minerals birds need and this nutritional profile appealed strongly to bird breeders. For a long time they could only access imported, heat-treated seed, stripped of essential nutrients. The results of feeding fresh homegrown seed became evident in the health of their birds.

Since this early success our range of crops expanded far beyond sunflowers - and family pets of all sizes now nibble on feed made from our South Island-grown grass, grain and seeds.

Here are just a few of the crops that go from paddock to plate (or feed bowl, bird feeder and chicken coop as the case may be). 

Grown by us

Canary seed

This golden, glossy seed is a key ingredient in seed mixes for aviary and wild birds. The canary grass plant is native to the Canary Islands (no surprises there) and produces a seed packed full of quality carbohydrates and proteins for birds. As a shallow rooted plant, it likes a cool, damp growing environment which is perhaps why Topflite’s North Otago farm has become one of New Zealand’s largest producers of canary seed. You’ll find these little gems  in Scratch & Lay, Quail Mix, Seed Bells as well as by the sackful at certain retailers.

Sunflower seed

It’s the darling of the crop farming world, aesthetically speaking, and ours certainly draw their fair share of attention! The sunflowers we grow today come from seed stores that we’ve selected and saved for over 50 years now. Each year we save seeds from the plants that have the right attributes: not too tall, with a single flower that curves and bends over (so birds can’t easily get at it) and a full head of seed. Spot our sunflower seeds, grown on Rosedale Farm in Hen Health Tonic, Scratch & Lay and Soak & Sprout, to name a few. 

Topflite sunflowers about to bloom


We’re proud to say that all ingredients in our best-selling Scratch & Lay poultry feed are grown in New Zealand, and many of them, on our farm. Wheat is central to the mix, and we also sell it as a single ingredient too. In its whole form, wheat is a tasty and nutritious source of carbohydrate that provides chickens with the get-up-and-go to get-up-and-go-lay some eggs.


Our fields of gold produce delicious, energy-rich barley for aviary bird and poultry mixes. New Zealand’s ‘pocket pets’ also benefit from our barley crops. After the combine harvester has rubbed all the seeds out, the barley stalks are dried and go into our bedding straw for keeping pet rabbits and guinea pigs clean, cosy and dry. 

Grown by our partners

As demand for our products increased, the Topflite farm was faced with a dilemma. We could have grown more. But, to keep the soil healthy and production sustainable, we decided to contract some of our growing to local operators.

That’s because, just like a vegetable garden, farmers need to rotate their crops. If you grow potatoes in the same soil year after year it becomes susceptible to pests, disease and weeds. Likewise, but on a much grander scale, we need to grow different crops in our paddocks each year to keep a healthy balance of microorganisms in the soil.

To help us do that, we’ve got a network of local growers who produce a whole lot of other seeds and grains for us. 

This is a huge asset to our work. Very few pet food makers can pop down to a supplier’s fields to see how a crop is coming along. We count ourselves lucky to have cultivation partners committed to keeping that home-grown quality of our products at its very best. 


Otherwise known as ‘flax seed’ (but not the flax that tūī love to drink nectar from, confusing, we know)  linseed contains many beneficial nutrients such as protein, fibre and omega-3 fatty acids. It makes bird plumage shine and it is often fed during moulting or prior to shows.

Oilseed Rape

This crop is a member of the brassica family and is often grown to be pressed for cooking oil. It’s very low in saturated fat and includes plenty of essential fatty acids, such as the Omega 3 – Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA).
Maple peas and blue peas
Locally grown peas are the star of our Soak & Sprout and Super Sprout seed mixes. Feeding sprouted seeds to aviary birds allows access to extra amino acids, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals for optimum bird health.


Oats are a powerhouse of energy for poultry and aviary birds, just as it is for humans! We use locally grown oats in Lucky Duck, Poultry Pecker and our Gourmet Hanging Treats for wild birds, among many other products.


Maize is a cereal crop with rich concentrations of starch. For poultry and large aviary birds, it makes an excellent source of energy especially when it’s kibbled (cracked) to allow easy digestion. You’ll spot it in lots of our poultry products.

Bird feed New Zealand grown NZ Made Sunflowers