EGGCELLENT: Dan Carney and the finished product ready to sell.
EGGCELLENT: Dan Carney and the finished product ready to sell.

Controversial Kybong farm is up and running

A CONTROVERSIAL pig and poultry farm basing its operation on the philosophy of healthy soil equals healthy food equals healthy people has started production at Kybong.

With a good Mary River frontage, parts of the property are flood-prone, but manager Dan Carney said they had taken into consideration Queensland government flood levels.

"Most of the structures and animal areas are above the Q100 flood level," Mr Carney said. "That means above the highest recorded flood in 100 years."

Based on sustainable and productive farming practices, the eventual aim of the operation is to build up soil fertility to allow grass-fed and finished beef cattle production along with the free-range egg production and free-range pigs.

Mr Carney, his wife and young family moved to Kybong about two years ago during a lot of developmental work getting ready to bring the bond brown laying hens from the Calliope property Mr Carney previously managed.

"We started production in late November last year after the various required state and local government permits were granted," he said. "We have a five year plan, the changes in soil and pastures take time."

One indication of change already is the presence of "fertility rings" around many of the tree groups.

Mr Carney said the area of increased fertility there had different pasture species coming back and was an indication of what the whole area could be like.

"A washing down area for some of the poultry equipment increased nutrients into that space," he said. "Different pasture species that thrive on increased available nutrients suddenly appeared."

The hens are run on large grassy paddocks with moveable "eggmobiles" that provide shelter, roosting, egg boxes and water, while pellet rations are placed in self feeder troughs.

The eggmobiles are moved on a regular basis so that the hens always have plenty of grass to feed, scratch and sunbathe in.

To keep the poultry safe each paddock has a maremma dog that has been trained to protect their flock.

The pigs and poultry are both used as "tractors" to turn over the soil, with the added bonus of considerable amounts of fertiliser.

Mr Carney said after one pass a cash crop could be sown, pasture re-established and the cycle repeated.

He said all purchased pellet feed was a custom blend that had no GM feed, artificial colouring, hormones or antibiotics included.

"We estimate that both the chooks and pigs get about half their feed from grazing," he said. "Our stocking rate is about 350 birds per hectare compared with an industry ruling of 10,000, that is one bird per square metre.

"We are the only RSPCA certified large scale free range egg producer in the state."

In a large scale egg production system there are always perfectly good eggs that do not fit commercial size requirements and these are donated to school breakfast programs. Eggs are also donated for "lamington drive" type fund raising for schools.