ONE of the Tamworth region’s biggest poultry broiler farms has been given the green light to double its capacity.
Russell Chickens, on the Rushes Creek Rd at Manilla has been looking to expand for the past few years and at Tuesday night’s council meeting, councillors threw their support behind a development application to increase the size of the farm.
The farm houses 400,000 birds in its eight existing sheds every 50 days – about 2.5 million birds each year.
At the completion of the expansion in June it will produce about five million birds a year, in 16 sheds on the family-run farm, Brubi.
While demand for birds has increased, the Russell family say the decision to expand now is twofold.
The farm is run by brothers Bruce and Dean Russell and now three of their sons have expressed interest in taking on the family business.
Eighteen-year-old Cameron came onto the farm last year and in 2013, Justin and Josh will be put on the payroll.
Bruce told The Leader the expansion of the farm was in many ways because of the children’s decision to continue the line of generational farming.
“Of course, demand for birds has increased,” he said.
“But in terms of motivation, the boys wanting to come onto the farm was the main reason for us to expand.”
Planning for the expansion began some time ago.
“We canvassed the idea with neighbours about two years ago,” Mr Russell said.
“We have talked to them all the way through and to be honest that’s probably why we had so much success with the development application.”
Consultations also began, around that time, with the Environmental Planning Authority and other government bodies.
“We wanted to set a standard in terms of best practice and maybe create a model for the development application that would help other people looking to expand,” he said.
“The success we have experienced shows if you build the shed in the right place, after you have undertaken the right consultation process, you can get good results.”
Birds come to the Russell farm from the hatchery in Tamworth and stay about 38 days until they are moved to the Tamworth processing plant and finally sent on for sale as Baiada/ Steggles products.
The sheds are cleaned out on about day 50, according to Mr Russell, and the process starts all over again.
“Demand for birds domestically, which is what we grow, increases by about 5 per cent each year, so as well as growing our family business, the expansion is in response to the demand for birds,” Mr Russell said.
He said he hoped the expansion and the success of the development application to expand Brubi would help to push the cause for another chicken processing plant.
“That’s something that has been talked about for a long time and the more farms we have expanding, the more need there will be for it,” he said.
The Brubi expansion will also include an office and amenities block.
Tamworth mayor Col Murray said he was delighted the development would go ahead.
“The poultry industry is one of Tamworth’s biggest,” Cr Murray said.
“It’s great to see a family business going ahead and being an opportunity to expand to meet demands.”
A number of other councillors agreed the expansion was good for the region.
Tamworth councillor Juanita Wilson said being able to support such a development was something the council should be proud of.
Councillor Helen Tickle suggested the development would give other producers the confidence to invest here.
All going to plan, the eight new sheds will be in full use by June next year.