ALREADY one of the largest centres of intensive agriculture in Australia, the Western Downs Regional Council (WDRC), Queensland is lobbying to have more large-scale poultry operations make a base in the region.
The introduction of more poultry and other intensive agriculture industries to the district would also be a boost for local growers, who would be well-positioned to supply feed products to the operations.
WDRC acting economic development manager Nicole Franklin discussed the opportunities for the industry at the Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise (TSBE) Protein 2022 Conference at Dalby on Wednesday.
She said intensive agriculture was already one of the region’s key sectors.
“Agriculture is a founding pillar of the Western Downs and it continues to underpin our economy, being the second-largest employer in our region,” Ms Franklin said.
“The livestock industry contributes nearly half the agricultural output, with 47 feedlot operators and 13 piggeries.
“To put these figures in perspective, 42 per cent of the national feedlot occupancy is located within a 200-kilometre radius of Dalby.”
Ms Franklin said on top of the current operations a 65,000-head feedlot has just been approved at Moonie, south-west of Dalby, as well as extensions and upgrades to existing feedlot operations.
She said WDRC was in the perfect location to facilitate further investment from other intensive agriculture industries.
“Intensive agriculture is well established and supported by a strong supply chain, including quality cropping land, local farming enterprises, grain traders, transport companies, vets, nutritionists, and manufacturers.
“Regarding poultry, Council’s point of difference is our proactive approach to attracting the right industries for our region.
“We are aggressively targeting those industries and businesses to develop and invest in the region.
“Our pragmatic approach to development assessment, highly competitive application fees and supportive approach to help navigate the application process demonstrates that we are committed attracting and enabling development.”
WDRC processes makes region attractive
Queensland Chicken Meat Council (QCMC) president David Bray said the Western Downs offered many benefits for poultry businesses looking to open a new facility.
“The WDRC has made significant changes to the Development Application process for sites that meet the Town Planning and Environmental regulations,” Mr Bray said.
“This is attractive for any intensive business wanting to establish greenfield sites.
“The Western Downs is blessed with good-size land parcels, which suits the establishment of greenfield poultry farms, and has relatively good access to power and transport routes.
“The climate is also suitable with lower humidity.”
Location, water-availability issues
Mr Bray said Council would have to address some issues he has found with locating a poultry facility in the district, with travel times to processing sites posing a major drawback, as well as access to water supplies.
“The distance from existing processing facilities is the major impediment.
“Currently the main processing facilities are based closed to Brisbane.
“The completion of the Toowoomba Bypass has improved the travel time significantly, bringing Dalby within 2.5 to 3 hours from these processing facilities.
“Access to good quality, secure water supplies is also a concern.
“Poultry operations do not require large volumes, in comparison to a feedlot, but without secure water supplies, poultry farms will not be established.”
Queensland Farmers Federation intensive animal industries policy advisor Laurie Dowling agreed that access to water and processing facilities would impede any poultry operation in the Western Downs.
Dr Dowling said the proximity to the highly productive grain-growing operations would favour bringing this intensive agriculture industry to the region.
Intensive ag to benefit growers
AgForce Grains president and Warra farmer Brendan Taylor said having more intensive agriculture operations, such as poultry, in the Western Downs could only be positive for local grain producers.
“We are blessed, generally speaking, on the Downs with having domestic markets for our grain pretty close by, feedlots particularly,” Mr Taylor said.
“That is largely why there are so many feedlots and piggeries dotted all around the Downs because of the general reliability of producing grain.
“The bigger the domestic market we can have for our feed grains the better, and the closer it is the better because it cuts down on freight.
“Sorghum is a particularly desired stockfeed grain in the poultry game, and it has been one of the mainstays of the summer crop in the Downs for a long time.”
The Down is already home to two of Queensland’s largest egg operations in McLean Farms and D. A. Hall & Co.
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