History of Poultry

Rod Woolford

The Department of Agriculture provided extension services with a comprehensive advisory service to the Poultry Industry through farm visits, lectures, publications, poultry schools and demonstrations from 1895, when the first poultry expert and lecturer was appointed. To add to this extension work in 1907, demonstration units were established at small poultry stations at Orroroo, Caltowie, Tanunda, Mt Barker, Goolwa and Mt Gambier. The purpose of these small poultry stations was to demonstrate suitable accommodation, birds and feeding for production, to visiting producers, so that they might improve their production methods. They were reported to be very successful. Consequently larger poultry stations were built at Roseworthy College (1907), Kybybolite (1909) and Murray Bridge (1912).

The stations provided breeding stock and chickens to commercial farms and conducted feeding trials and egg laying competitions, with the exception of Murray Bridge station where laying trials were not held. Valuable information and stock resource was provided to the developing egg industry by the stations.

Consolidation of the extension programs took place and the stations were closed. All activities were transferred to Parafield Poultry Research Station, established in 1911, making it one of the older poultry research centres in Australia. Originally the Parafield site was to become a cemetery for Adelaide, but because the soil was considered unsuitable this scheme was abandoned. The buildings, including the mortuary, were used for storage and incubation rooms for many years. The site was used as a wheat breeding station initially, until it was decided to locate all the Government’s poultry activities at Parafield.

When the Parafield poultry centre was first established it functioned as a demonstration unit for housing and management of poultry. Most of the trial work was directed towards poultry nutrition. The centre was also a major source for purebred poultry stock that was distributed to breeders who produced birds for general sale.

In the early 1970’s, the breeding program was expanded to produce in excess of 25,000 chicks for the centre’s research work and sale to the commercial egg industry. Parafield was the only Government research centre working on commercial poultry breeding in Australia. It and gained world renown with the development of a dwarfing gene that had potential for use by the industry to reduce body size, with the advantage of less feed requirements for birds without egg size being affected.

Other functions performed at Parafield, were Random Sample Layer test and the National Utility Poultry Breeders test. These functions were discontinued because of changes in industry needs. Research programs continued with emphasis towards egg quality, nutrition and bird behavior. During this time the centre supplied purebred stock and chickens to the industry until early in the 1980’s when the structure of the commercial egg industry changed. Changes allowed larger commercial hatcheries, that were better able to provide chickens and after sales services, to supply the industries needs. Parafield continued important research work in general areas of genetics, egg quality, nutrition and bird behavior. After its long service to the poultry industry Parafield Poultry Research Centre was closed in late 1993.

Poultry research work continued with activities being transferred to a new research farm at the Roseworthy Campus of the University of Adelaide combining the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) and the Poultry and Pig Research Institute. The poultry industry will benefit from the information generated from research at this complex.

Other Activities

The Department has always provided an effective health and husbandry service to the poultry industry in Australia, augmenting the Research activities. Activities such as on farm advice, field days, schools and publications have all contributed to the management and well being of the poultry industry in SA. Poultry advisers were situated at Riverton, Kadina, Murray Bridge and Adelaide to allow easy access by farmers seeking information. These advisory services were gradually discontinued as the industry experienced further consolidation and provided their own technical information.

Poultry health officers played a major role in the control of poultry diseases including the eradication of pulloram disease that had a major impact on the economic returns. Again these services were reduced because of industry structural changes.

Industry Administration

The poultry section of the Department of Agriculture has had a significant role in industry administration. In the egg industry senior officers have been appointed to chair the SA Egg Board and Australian Egg Board. Also other industry bodies, such as research and funding usually have an input from the poultry group.

The chicken meat industry trials conducted at Parafield in 1956/57 on chicken meat raising were a fore runner to the important changes that occurred in 1959, a period of rapid industry expansion. Departmental officers had a significant role in formulating legislation that was aimed to help processors and growers, as the industry expanded rapidly during the 1970/80s. Also officers of the Department provided secretariat services for many of the poultry industry committees.

Awards

The following poultry officers received the Australian Poultry Award for service to the poultry industry:

Mr Ray Fuge in 1981
Dr Hugh Bray in 1989
Dr Robert Hughes in 2005