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Contract and independent chicken farms

If you are thinking about starting a meat chicken farm in Queensland, your first major decision is whether to work as a contract grower or as an independent business.

It is important to discuss the proposal with your local council as you may need a development permit to operate.

Contract chicken grower

In Queensland, the majority of meat chickens are grown by farms who are contracted by large processing companies.

Under this business arrangement, the farmers own their land and provide the housing, equipment, management, labour and other inputs required for growing chickens (e.g. electricity and gas). The processing company provides the chicks (which they own), feed and technical expertise (e.g. veterinarians, nutritionists, service managers). Major processors use conventional (in sheds) and free-range production systems to produce chicken meat. Chickens are delivered to growers as day old chicks and are grown for 35-55 days depending on the needs of the processor.

If you are considering contract chicken growing, you will need to contact the processor to determine their interest. Operating under a contract will generally involve a growing fee (per bird) and often includes a performance-based component. Be sure to work with your business adviser before making a decision to grow chickens under contract.

Under Queensland legislation, a group of contract chicken growers has the option of collectively negotiating a supply contract with a processor.

Independent chicken grower

A small number of independent chicken growers currently operate in Queensland. Under this business structure, you will have control over more inputs than contract growers. However, to become an independent chicken grower, you will need to consider the following issues:

  • Do you understand all your responsibilities under legislation?
  • Can you raise the capital for an independent enterprise?
  • Which production system will you use (e.g. shed, free range or organic)?
  • As an independent grower, will you breed your own birds or contact a breeder who will supply day-old chicks to suit your market and production?
  • Will you process your chickens? If so, you need to be familiar with the Australian Code of Practice for Poultry Processing as well as information about food safety regulations.
  • How will you market your product?
  • Do you have enough knowledge of poultry nutrition, health, environmental management, quality assurance, welfare and husbandry? If not, are you prepared to use consultants?

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