Overstock warning for chooks bid

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian
Overstock warning for chooks bid.
Camera IconOverstock warning for chooks bid. Credit: Countryman

WA’s environmental watchdog has flagged overstocking concerns about a leading egg producer’s move to double the size of its operations in the Shire of Gingin.

The Environmental Protection Authority said the proposal raised environmental issues but they were not significant enough to fall within its assessment guidelines.

Snowdale Holdings applied to the Shire of Gingin to increase capacity at its Beermullah farm from 120,000 to 240,000 chickens. The shire referred the matter to the EPA to see if it required impact assessment and, if so, what level of assessment.

The EPA ruling not to assess the plan comes as Snowdale waits for a decision in its Federal Court battle with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

The ACCC alleges Snowdale misled consumers by marketing eggs as free-range when they were not produced on free-range farms. Snowdale rejected the allegations, which do not relate to the Beermullah farm where the company wants to build “four additional free-range chicken sheds”.

Under its plans, the Beermullah farm would have eight poultry sheds each housing 30,000 birds with a paddock or grazing area of about 16 hectares per shed.

The EPA said the environmental issues could be managed by the shire’s local planning scheme and codes of practice for poultry and poultry farming.

In advice to Snowdale and the relevant authorities on inland water quality, the EPA noted the proposed stocking density of 1875 chickens per hectare was higher than maximum accept-able level for free-range layer hens of 1500 birds per hectare.

“Overstocking could lead to a build up of manure exceeding the soil’s capacity to retain and break down nutrients,” it said.

The EPA also warned overstocking could lead to pasture damage and increase the risk of soil erosion. It recommended a stocking density in line with the codes of practice.

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