NEXT STAGE: Darwalla Milling Company development manager David Bray and managing director Albert Benfer check out progress on the $22 million hatchery being built at Allora.
NEXT STAGE: Darwalla Milling Company development manager David Bray and managing director Albert Benfer check out progress on the $22 million hatchery being built at Allora. Sophie Lester

New $22mil facility just months away

CONTRACTORS from around the Downs have descended on Allora to make moves on a multi-million-dollar hatchery project.

Darwalla Milling Company is on track to open the new $22million facility on Bradfields Rd in late-January.

Development manager David Bray said the high-tech hatchery would then begin operations by the end of February, with up to 800,000 chickens at peak production.

"In the first stage we'll be able to produce 650,000 eggs a week, with the view of expanding in future," Mr Bray said.

"At the moment we have set up most of the buildings and are now working undercover on doing the internal fit-out with hydraulics, electrics and plumbing.

"Most of our equipment is here and the rest arrives at the end of the week.

"Our robotics which will allow for automation comes from Canada, while other equipment is coming from Europe, including world-leading incubators imported from Belgium."

The company has an existing hatchery at Mt Cotton built by its managing director Albert Benfer.

Mr Benfer, whose father started the business in 1933, said the Southern Downs facility was making a big leap forward, with much of the incoming equipment being used for the first time in the Australian industry.

"Each one of our incubators can hold 6000 eggs," he said.

"After 18 days they are moved over to the hatching section of the site and that part can be easily hosed down and cleaned ready for the next lot to come in.

"Modern hatcheries like ours allow for the best incubation stage which means you finish with a much sturdier chicken and much better performance out in the field.

"(The facility) is clean and green, which is important in poultry production, and we'll have tight biosecurity with the workers taking a shower as they go into the facility."

The state-of-the-art technology will help improve welfare and productivity at the facility.

"A lot of the work we do is very manual so there's a high risk to the staff, so bringing in that automation eliminates a lot of that risk as well as being much gentler on the birds," Mr Bray said.

"This project has been in the long-term strategic plan to move west.

"The Southern Downs was selected for proximity to our breeders at Clifton and Victoria Hill, and gives us good access to transport and water."

With Badge Constructions at the helm of the development, contractors from around Warwick and the Darling Downs are on board at the site.

"Most of our concrete for example is coming from Warwick, and we have 46 people on site helping to build," Mr Bray said.

"We've also advertised for staff and appointed five people already and are interviewing for more.

"The plan is that they are on the ground with us during the build so they will understand the hatchery completely because they've been here with us.

"The flow-on effect from the project has been very positive for the town with a lot of the contractors staying in town," he added.

Mr Bray said the company was working with the Southern Downs Regional Council and Allora community to bring the project to life.

"We're hoping to have an official opening day in January," he said.

"We'll have all our staff from our operations across south-east Queensland come through the hatchery before we have to close it up for biosecurity reasons."