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Chicken farmer inspecting chicks

Victorian Code For Broiler Farms 2009

View this page in PDF format: Victorian Code For Broiler Farms 2009

Contents

1. Introduction
2. Using The Code
3. Scope Of The Code
4. Key Amenity And Environmental Issues
5. Classification Of Broiler Farms
6. Odour Environmental Risk Assessment (Odour Era)
7. Farm Design And Operation Elements
8. Auditing Requirements
9. Application Documentation Requirements
10. Application Process
11. Strategic And Land Use Planning Considerations
12. Relevant Legislation And Other Requirements
13. Glossary
14. Publications
15. Appendices

Foreword

The chicken meat (broiler) industry is a significant component of Victorian agriculture, contributing approximately $400 million annually to the Victorian economy. The industry has an established base in Victoria, with a well-developed network of processors, feed producers, growers and customers. The Victorian Code for Broiler Farms (this Code) has been developed to provide clear environmental standards for those wishing to establish new, or expand existing, broiler farms, and assurance for the surrounding landholders who may be impacted by broiler farming activities.

This Code provides a basis for the planning, design, assessment, approval, construction, operation and management of broiler farms in Victoria. It presents an appropriate balance between the operational needs of the broiler farm industry and the protection of the environment, particularly the air environment for people who live near broiler farms.

The Code acknowledges existing land use rights, but places rigorous conditions on the development of all new broiler farms and the expansion of existing farms.

Compliance with this Code is mandatory for the establishment of all new broiler farms and expansions in Victoria.

This Code was originally developed in 2001 following extensive consultation with industry, community and government stakeholders. The Code became effective in September 2001 when it was incorporated into the Victoria Planning Provisions and all planning schemes in Victoria under the Planning and Environment Act 1987.

The Code was reviewed in 2006–2009 through a consultative process involving the Mornington Peninsula, Golden Plains, Bendigo and Strathbogie shire councils, the Victorian Farmers Federation Chicken Meat Group, the Victorian Chicken Meat Council and a Community Representative. A steering committee comprising representatives of the Department of Primary Industries (DPI), the Department of Innovation, Industry and Regional Development, the Department of Planning and Community Development and the Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA Victoria) was responsible for the development of a draft revised Code which was placed on public exhibition from 6 March 2009 to 8 May 2009. In response to the submissions the final version of the Code was prepared.

This Code (Victorian Code for Broiler Farms 2009) was incorporated into the Victoria Planning Provisions and all planning schemes in Victoria in 2009. It replaces the previous code.

This Code and other supporting documents are available on the DPI website at www.dpi.vic.gov.au/broilercode.

1. Introduction

This section describes the purpose and intent of this Code, how it fits into the planning system, and the roles of the various stakeholders.

Purpose of this Code

The purpose of the Victorian Code for Broiler Farms is to:

  1. deliver sound environmental performance in the planning, design, construction, operation and management of broiler farms
  2. protect local amenity from adverse impacts, including offensive odours, dust, noise and visual impacts
  3. protect the surrounding environment from adverse impacts
  4. permit an economically viable, competitive and sustainable broiler farm industry.

To achieve these outcomes, this Code sets requirements for the:

  • siting and size of broiler farms
  • application of best practice in the design, construction, operation and management of broiler farms to satisfy relevant environmental standards
  • preparation, assessment and determination of broiler farm development proposals through the planning permit system
  • ongoing monitoring of broiler farm operations through routine audits.

This Code provides a framework for the economically and environmentally sustainable development and operation of the broiler farming industry in Victoria, recognising the needs of the industry and the community.

Chicks feeding


Does this Code regulate animal welfare?

No. This Code is an environmental Code to ensure high environmental standards are achieved through the Victorian planning process.

Animal welfare standards and controls are given effect in state regulation such as the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Domestic Fowl) Regulations 2006. In addition Victorian poultry welfare Codes apply to the broiler industry (see also ‘Relevant legislation and other requirements’ section of this Code).

At the time of writing this document, national welfare standards were under development that may replace the Victorian welfare codes for poultry. The most relevant standards and Codes are available on the DPI website1.

What is a broiler farm?

A broiler farm is land used to keep large numbers of chickens that are housed permanently in sheds and reared for meat production. The type of chicken produced is called a ‘broiler’. Chickens are grown to specific processing weight in enclosed sheds, where they are free to roam the shed floor and where they have ready and continuous access to feed and water.

Shed ventilation is typically provided by either natural cross ventilation across the shed width, modern tunnel ventilation systems, or a combination of extraction fans, natural ventilation and / or tunnel ventilation. The shed floor is covered with litter, which is a bedding material

– usually rice hulls or wood shavings. Feed is provided automatically via an auger system in regularly spaced pans, and water is most commonly supplied through a nipple drinking system.

The chickens are grown to an age of five to eight weeks. They are collected for processing at intervals within this period, depending on their weight and the requirements of the chicken meat processor. Following the removal of a complete batch of chickens, the litter bedding is removed, sheds are cleaned and disinfected, and fresh litter is applied, to decrease the risk of disease, and to prepare for the following batch of chickens. Each grower rears an average of approximately five and a half batches a year.

Growers typically rear chickens on behalf of the processing companies, in return for a growing fee. The processing company delivers day-old chicks, provides feed and medication as required, provides management advice throughout the growing period and collects the birds when they are ready to process. The grower provides the infrastructure (shedding and equipment), and the labour required to rear the chickens to processing age.

How does the planning system apply to the use and development of broiler farms?

It is State planning policy to facilitate the establishment and expansion of broiler farms in a manner consistent with orderly and proper planning and protection of the environment.

In all Victorian planning schemes a planning permit is always required to use and develop land for a broiler farm in Victoria. A planning permit can be applied for in the following rural zones:

  1. Farming Zone
  2. Rural Activity Zone
  3. Green Wedge Zone.

Establishment of a new broiler farm is prohibited in all urban zones2, the Rural Conservation Zone, the Green Wedge A Zone and the Rural Living Zone.

Other types of zones may permit the application for a planning permit for a broiler farm. Prospective applicants should consult the responsible authority (council) if they are unsure whether the zoning of their land permits an application for a broiler farm.

This Code is an incorporated document under Clause 81.01 of the Victoria Planning Provisions and all planning schemes.

Under Clause 52.31 of the Victoria Planning Provisions and all planning schemes, all new broiler farms and expansions must comply with the requirements of this Code. However, this Code does not apply to all planning permit applications associated with the development of broiler farms. The section ‘Scope of the Code’ sets out the types of applications that this Code applies to.

Compliance with this Code alone will not ensure all relevant requirements of a planning scheme are met. The Code must be read in conjunction with other parts of the planning scheme including:

  • relevant land use and development polices contained in the State and Local Planning Policy Frameworks
  • the purpose of zones, any overlays or other local controls, and relevant decision guidelines.

Role of the responsible authority

Municipal (local) councils are generally the responsible authority for the administration or enforcement of planning schemes. This means that councils will assess and determine broiler farm planning permit applications. Councils are also responsible for monitoring and enforcing the compliance of broiler farm operators with their planning permit conditions.

Prospective applicants are encouraged to consult with the responsible authority early in the planning stages to identify the responsibilities of the applicant and the permit application requirements.

More advice and information

In addition to the responsible authorities, advice or support is available from the following State Government departments and agencies:

  1. EPA Victoria can provide environmental and technical advice regarding this Code. This Code also requires that EPA Victoria be given notice by the responsible authority of certain types of applications (see the ‘Odour Environmental Risk Assessment (Odour ERA)’ section of this Code).
  2. The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) can provide advice on the requirements of this Code.
  3. The Department of Innovation, Industry and Regional Development (DIIRD) can assist prospective broiler farm investors through provision of the following investment facilitation services:
  • site location service
  • specialist advice on the development approvals process
  • identification of infrastructure and utility requirements.

Industry groups, such as the Victorian Chicken Meat Council and the Victorian Farmers Federation Chicken Meat Group, may be able to help prospective applicants with design, operation and management advice that conforms to industry best practice, training and educational materials, and accreditation under the Victorian Farmers Federation Chicken Care program, an industry environmental care initiative.

Other regulatory considerations

A range of legislation may impose additional requirements on the development and operation of broiler farms. While these requirements may not be relevant to the planning permit process, prospective applicants should be aware of them and build them into the planning of a broiler farm. The ‘Relevant legislation and other requirements’ section of this Code summarises some of the other legislation that may apply to a broiler farm in Victoria.

Future development of the Code

This Code’s standards and approved measures are based on current information, knowledge and practice. Further investigation, research and innovation in farm practice may establish new standards and redefine best practices and measures for the industry.

This Code will be revised as new information and expertise relating to the design, operation, management and environmental impact of broiler farms becomes available. Reviews will be undertaken approximately every five years at which time new information will be considered. Any amendment to this Code will require an amendment to the Victoria Planning Provisions.

2 For example: Residential Zones, Industrial Zones, Business Zones,

chicken shed

2. Using The Code

Overview of the Code

This Code has 13 sections that describe the key considerations for a broiler farm development:

  1. Introduction: This section describes the purpose and intent of this Code, how it fits into the Victoria Planning Provisions and all planning schemes, and the roles of the various stakeholders.
  2. Using the Code: This section provides an overview of the key sections that make up the Code.
  3. Scope of the Code: This section details the type of land uses and proposed developments that must comply with this Code.
  4. Key amenity and environmental issues: This section outlines the key amenity and environmental issues that must be considered in the development of a new broiler farm or expansion, and describes the accepted principles to manage the risks. This will give a general overview to planners and other interested stakeholders who are not familiar with broiler farm operations.
  5. Classification of broiler farms: Broiler farms are classified as Class A, Class B, Special Class or Farm Cluster. The Code applies different information and assessment requirements, and notification and review rights to the different farm classifications. This section details the criteria for the different farm classifications and the land use planning considerations for each farm class.
  6. Odour Environmental Risk Assessment (Odour ERA): This section sets out the requirements to conduct an Odour Environmental Risk Assessment (Odour ERA) for a Special Class Farm or a Farm Cluster.
  7. Farm design and operation elements: This section specifies the six best practice elements of broiler farm siting, design and operation that make up the key components of this Code, and against which all permit applications must be assessed.
  8. Auditing requirements: This section explains that all broiler farms approved under this Code are required to conduct routine audits to ensure the farm’s ongoing compliance with the approved environmental management plan. It outlines the requirements for routine and special audits, and the responsibilities of all parties in association with the audits.
  9. Application documentation requirements: This section outlines the documentation required to submit a planning permit application for a broiler farm.
  10. Application process: This section outlines the process for the submission, assessment and approval of a planning permit application for a new broiler farm or broiler farm expansion. It includes the different processes for Class A, Class B, Special Class and Farm Clusters.
  11. Strategic and land use planning considerations: This section provides guidance on land use planning considerations for new or expanded broiler farms, farm upgrades, and for the development of new sensitive uses close to existing broiler farms. It addresses some of the key planning considerations related to the use of land around a broiler farm, and important matters such as land rezoning, subdivision and development of new sensitive uses near existing broiler farms.
  12. Relevant legislation and other requirements: This section summarises some of the other legislation that may affect the development and management of broiler farms.
  13. Glossary: This section explains key words and phrases used in the Code. Permit applicants and responsible authorities should familiarise themselves with these glossary descriptions when using this Code.

The remainder of the Code provides supporting information that may help permit applicants prepare their application.

3. Scope of The Code

This section details the type of land uses and proposed developments that must comply with this Code.

This Code applies to a planning permit application to use and develop land for a broiler farm that includes any of the following:

  • the establishment of a new broiler farm
  • an increase in the farm capacity of an existing broiler farm (farm expansion)

This Code does not apply to:

  • an existing broiler farm where there is no increase in the farm capacity
  • the use and development of land to keep or breed:
    • poultry for egg production
    • poultry that produce chicks to be supplied to
    • broiler farms for rearing (poultry hatcheries or the raising of pullets and broiler breeders)
    • non-broiler poultry species, such as quail, duck, turkey and geese or
    • chickens for meat production where the chickens have access to an outdoor range and an indoor shelter (free range).

While the Code does not apply in these cases, a planning permit may still be required.

FARM CAPACITY is the maximum number of chickens allowed on the farm at any one time.

For new farm and farm expansion applications, the proposed total farm capacity must be declared in the planning permit application. If a planning permit is granted the farm capacity should be stated on the planning permit in the description of what the permit allows3.

Farm capacity and existing farms

Sometimes it will be necessary to validate the capacity of an existing farm. Where possible, the existing farm capacity is defined within a valid planning permit. Where the existing farm capacity has not been defined within a valid planning permit, the existing farm capacity can be established from (in order of priority):

  1. a current contract or other formal documentation that establishes the bird numbers on farm or
  2. the area of the existing shed floor and determining bird numbers based on a placement density of 21.5 birds/m2.

The placement density value of 21.5 birds/m2 is representative of a typical industry placement density for the young chicks in the shed. This density will be reduced during the batch as birds are removed at intervals for processing. This figure is not mandatory and is used in this Code only for the purposes of establishing a farm capacity number for an existing farm’s current broiler operation in the absence of a planning permit (or other documentation) that otherwise provides the required information. From this information the responsible authority can then determine whether a broiler farm planning permit application is an expansion or an upgrade.

Note: The farm capacity for a new development does not need to be based on the above placement density. Permit applicants may plan a new development based on other densities. For example, some applicants may wish to have a lower placement density (ie less birds/ square metre) in order to grow larger birds or so that they may be able to respond to changing animal welfare requirements in the future.

3 See also Section ‘Application Process’ (Stage 5).

Application of this Code to farm expansions

4 Chicks feeding

Except where explicitly specified otherwise in this Code, where a permit applicant proposes to increase the farm capacity of an existing broiler farm (farm expansion), the facilities and operations of both the existing farm and the proposed expansion must comply with this Code to the satisfaction of the responsible authority. For example, the equipment and farm management practices of the existing farm may be upgraded to satisfy the objectives and standards of this Code, but major upgrades of the existing building or structures may not be practical or necessary.

Existing farms

Broiler farms that were lawfully established before the introduction of this Code may continue to operate in conformity with their previous lawful operations and the conditions of any valid planning permit that pertains to the broiler farm. These rights are referred to as ‘existing use rights’. Sections 6(3), 6(4) and 6(4A) of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 and Clause 63 of the Victoria Planning Provisions and all planning schemes contain existing use provisions.

Existing broiler farm operators are encouraged to regularly undertake improvements and upgrades that improve operating efficiency and / or reduce the impact of the farm on neighbours. Existing farm operators should consult with the relevant responsible authority to determine whether they require a planning permit before undertaking any improvements or upgrades.

Whilst this Code does not apply to farm upgrades that do not increase the farm capacity, the ‘Strategic and land use planning considerations’ section of this Code provides guidance to assist local councils in the assessment of farm upgrade planning applications. Responsible authorities are also encouraged to use the Code as a reference to inform their assessment of an upgrade application.

Establishment of new sensitive uses near existing broiler farms

The ‘Strategic and land use planning considerations’ section of this Code provides guidance to permit applicants and responsible authorities on the land use considerations for the orderly and proper planning of new sensitive uses near existing broiler farm operations.

4. Key Amenity and Environmental Issues

Key amenity and environmental issues must be considered in the development of a new broiler farm or broiler farm expansion.

This section outlines those issues and describes the accepted principles to manage the risks, as a general overview to planners and other interested stakeholders who are not familiar with broiler farm operations.

Amenity issues

Community amenity refers to the comfortable enjoyment of life and property, particularly in terms of air quality (ie odour and dust), noise, lighting and visual appearance. Of these, odour emissions generate more complaints from the community than any other issue in relation to broiler farms.

1. Odour

Raising of broilers is inherently an odour-producing process. It is an intensive form of animal husbandry and like other forms of intensive animal farming (for example, intensive piggeries and cattle feedlots) odours are produced due to the intensity of the processes used.

Odour is produced from the anaerobic decomposition of manure, spilt feed and other organic matter, and also from the birds and bird respiration. High moisture content in the litter assists this biological reaction (anaerobic digestion).

Odour emissions may have adverse impact on the amenity of existing sensitive uses beyond the broiler farm boundary if farms are not well located, sited, designed and operated. Generally, the greater the frequency, intensity, duration and offensiveness of an odour, the more likely it is to cause annoyance and lead to complaints. A number of inter-related factors can influence odour emissions from broiler farms including:

  • the number of birds
  • the age of the birds
  • the broiler farm management and operation
  • disease and digestive upsets in the birds
  • the feed formulation
  • the amount of faecal material in the litter
  • the moisture content of the litter
  • the shedding, equipment and other technologies (for example, odour reduction technologies) employed
  • the waste management practices.

In addition, the likelihood of odour emissions impacting nearby sensitive uses is influenced by:

  • local meteorological conditions (wind, temperature)
  • topographical features (terrain, vegetation) that govern the transport and dispersion of odorous emissions
  • the distance of the receptor (sensitive use) from the odour source(s)
  • the nature and sensitivity of the receptor.

Odour emissions primarily originate from the broiler sheds, although some may be generated from inappropriately sited or managed temporary litter stockpiles, compost piles, or from the spreading of litter.

2. Dust

barn with silos

Dust can be a physical irritant as well as pose a respiratory or allergenic risk. Dust from broiler farms may originate from a number of sources. Within the broiler shed, the birds, feed and litter are significant sources of dust. Dust can include feather particles, skin cells, feed, litter, moulds, fungi, bacteria, and other organic matter from the decomposition of the litter, feed and faeces. All these contribute to the dust load that is expelled from sheds via the ventilation systems.

Other activities associated with broiler farms that could also be sources of dust are:

  • delivery and dumping of litter to spread in sheds before the introduction of a batch of chickens
  • removal of litter from the sheds after the batch of chickens has been harvested
  • stockpiling of used litter on farms before its removal from the farm
  • composting of used litter and reuse as a fertiliser
  • transport movements on farms where vehicles use unsealed internal roads and loading areas
  • transport movement on local roads, especially if they are unsealed or single-lane roads.

Like odours, dust emissions will be dispersed by the prevailing meteorological conditions. However unlike odour emissions, which are dispersed by strong winds, dust emissions from broiler sheds can be exacerbated by strong winds stirring up dust from surfaces such as unsealed roads and loading areas.

3. Noise

While activities around the broiler shed and the broiler shed fans may generate some noise, truck and tractor movements are the main source of noise impact.

The impact of noise emissions can be affected by many factors, including atmospheric conditions, local topography, and natural and artificial barriers. Residents are more sensitive to noise during the evening and night, when there is greater potential to interrupt sleep.

4. Light spill

Light spill can impact nearby residences if lights from roadways, parking areas and broiler sheds are visible, particularly during the night (for example, during the night-time collection of birds).

5. Visual amenity

While broiler sheds, like other agricultural buildings, are an acceptable part of the rural landscape, the construction of several large sheds may significantly alter the landscape character.

Avoiding the adverse amenity impacts

Three ways of avoiding the above emissions from adversely impacting the amenity of nearby sensitive uses is to:

  1. set any new broiler sheds, temporary litter stockpiles or compost piles back from the broiler farm boundary (the boundary setback or ‘boundary buffer’ in the previous Code).
  2. provide a separation distance between the broiler shed and existing or potential sensitive uses.
  3. employ best practice in the design, siting, operation and management of the broiler farm (including landscaping).

1. Boundary setbacks

The boundary setback is defined in this Code as the fixed setback of at least 100 m required between the nearest external edge of any new broiler shed (or litter stockpile / compost pile) and the broiler farm boundary. Boundary setbacks mitigate visual amenity issues, and the immediate impact of odour, noise and dust emissions from broiler sheds, litter stockpiles or compost piles on the amenity of the surrounding area.

2. Separation distances

The separation distance is the distance from the nearest external edge of the new or existing broiler shed to the nearest external edge of the sensitive use (that is the nearest edge of the house) on land beyond the broiler farm property. It excludes sensitive uses directly associated with the broiler farm operations – eg. dwellings on the broiler farm property.

The separation distance is therefore the distance from the new or existing broiler sheds within which no sensitive use is located.

The Code uses a formula to determine the required minimum separation distance and which is based on the proposed farm capacity and the requirements set out in the ‘Classification of broiler farms’ section of this Code.

Separation distances provide sufficient space to minimise the risk of offensive odour and dust emissions under both routine and abnormal (or upset) conditions adversely impacting the amenity of existing sensitive uses. The greater the separation distance and the boundary setback, the lower the probability of offensive odour and dust adversely impacting the surrounding community.

3. Best practice planning and management

Broiler farms cannot rely solely on boundary setback and separation distances to avoid off-site impacts and associated complaints. Broiler farms must also employ best practice to manage and control emissions and wastes. The separation distance requirements in this Code were established assuming that the design and ongoing management of broiler farms employ best practice.

In addition to effective ‘boundary setback’ and separating broiler sheds from sensitive uses (‘separation distances’), a combination of sound shed design, good farm management practices, including regular cleaning and maintenance of facilities, and effective waste management is essential to minimise the risk of offensive odour and dust emissions.

  • Dust: The management of dust from broiler sheds is primarily dealt with through the provision of adequate separation distances for minimising the adverse impacts of odour emissions. If appropriate measures are taken to ensure the odour impact on sensitive uses is avoided, then there is a low risk of dust adversely impacting sensitive uses.

    The management of dust from litter stockpiles, compost piles and re-spreading areas is dealt with by meeting the required setback distances from the broiler farm boundary and sensitive uses. Good management of the litter at all stages of use is essential. Covering stockpiles can also help to avoid potential adverse impacts of dust on nearby sensitive uses.
  • Noise: Management of noise associated with vehicle movements requires consideration of the layout of internal roads and parking areas so that these are located away from sensitive uses as far as practicable. Consideration of noise when selecting farm equipment and vehicles may also be beneficial, as would shielding noisy equipment and activities.
  • Visual amenity: Visual amenity can be managed through landscaping and siting that utilises existing topography and vegetation.

Regulation of odour, dust and noise in Victoria

The Environment Protection Act 1970 is the statutory basis to protect against odour, dust and environmental noise. More specific requirements to control odour, dust and noise are included in the following documents:

  • State Environment Protection Policy (Air Quality Management) (SEPP (AQM))
  • State Environment Protection Policy (Control of Noise from Commerce, Industry and Trade) No. N-1 (in metropolitan Melbourne) (or SEPP N-1).
  • Interim Guidelines for Control of Noise from Industry in Country Victoria (EPA Victoria publication no. 3/89, or its most recent update).

More information on these policies and guidelines is provided in the ‘Relevant legislation and other requirements’ section of this Code.

Under Clause 15 of the Victoria Planning Provisions and all planning schemes, the decision making by planning and responsible authorities must be consistent with any relevant aspects of the above documents.

Environmental issues

The key environmental issues pertaining to broiler farms are associated with the run-off of nutrients or waste to the surrounding environment – that is, into ground and surface waters, particularly waterways. Although runoff is usually well controlled on broiler farms, the main potential source of run-off is waste areas such as temporary litter piles, compost piles and litter spreading areas that are inappropriately sited or managed. However all aspects of the broiler farm operation (including the broiler sheds and stormwater systems) must be designed to avoid nutrient run-off to ground and surface waters.

The main waste products associated with broiler

farms are:

  • spent litter
  • dead birds
  • general farm waste, including chemicals.

Note: Most processors will have set protocols for the management of waste such as spent litter and dead birds. The applicant should consult with the processor to ensure their intended management system complies with the specific requirements of the processing company.

1. Spent litter management

Litter is the bedding material applied to the shed floor for each batch of birds. Typically, rice hulls, wood shavings and saw dust are used for litter. At the end of each batch, the spent litter is removed and a fresh batch of litter is applied for the next batch of birds. Spent litter contains a mixture of the bedding material, urine, faeces, feathers, spilt feed and other organic matter.

There are several systems to manage spent litter:

  1. removing spent litter off farm at the end of the batch (which may include short-term or temporary stockpiling of litter before removal off farm)
  2. composting litter on farm before removing it off farm
  3. partially or fully re-using spent composted litter on farm.
  • Removing litter off farm at the end of the batch:
    The immediate removal of litter is the most effective means to avoid the risk of nutrient farm run-off discharging to groundwater and waterways, and the risk of dust and odour emissions, and it is required for some flood-prone areas. Best practice is based on prompt removal after each batch directly from the sheds (via transport off farm in enclosed vehicles) and prompt clean-up of any spillage.

    Some temporary storage (stockpiling) of litter on farms may be required for a few days (up to three days) to match the seasonal or other demand patterns of the end users. Long term storage of litter (more than three days) can have additional adverse odour impacts particularly when the stockpile is disturbed. Storage of litter for longer than 3 days should be under cover to protect the pile from weather and to protect nearby sensitive uses from offensive odour and dust emissions.

    Assessment of proposals to remove litter off farm at the end of the batch should identify the best siting, construction and management of suitable temporary litter stockpiling areas (if required).
  • Composting litter on farm: Composting is the controlled biological decomposition or treatment of an organic part of a material (in this case, spent litter) to a condition sufficiently stable for nuisance-free storage and for safe and beneficial use in land applications. Composting of spent litter on farm may be a favourable option for some operations, particularly larger farms that have the land available to ensure composting can be conducted away from the broiler sheds and away from nearby sensitive uses. Composting can reduce the odour of the stockpile, destroy weed seeds and pathogens, and produce a more consistent product for re-use than raw spent litter because the larger organic material is broken down. Organic matter and nutrients are stabilised in the composting process which reduces the potentially negative impacts of atmospheric emissions (for example from odorous and ‘greenhouse’ gases) and nutrient leaching when spent litter is applied to land.

    Composting requires active management of the pile with regular turning, aerating, and ensuring adequate moisture content and temperature is maintained. Further technical advice should be obtained to ensure composting is appropriately and adequately undertaken.

    Other conditions, too, may govern the composting of manure on farm. Composting must be conducted in accordance with the Environmental Guidelines for Composting and Other Organic Recycling Facilities.

    Assessments of proposals to compost litter on farm must consider the suitability of this system for the property, and identify the best siting, construction and management of suitable composting areas. Consultation with the relevant water authority or flood plain management authority may be warranted.
  • Re-using litter on farm: Litter must not be fed to livestock. Litter re-use must not pose any biosecurity risk to the poultry farm or surrounding poultry farms.

    Only composted litter should be spread on the farm. This is generally suitable for larger farms (which accommodate larger separation distances between sheds and nearby sensitive uses), which may benefit from re-using litter on the additional land. Re-use of composted litter must be carefully managed to take into account the potential for odour and adverse impacts on nearby sensitive uses. Spreading of compost should be undertaken at time when the weather is suitable to this activity (for example not windy). Rates of application must be managed to prevent nutrient build-up, leaching or off-site run-off to ground or surface waters. It is recommended that periodic soil tests are carried out to ensure that rates of compost application are sustainable.

    Assessments of proposals to re-use composted litter on farm must consider the suitability of this system for the property, and identify the best siting and management of the litter spreading areas.

For existing farms, the management of waste – including spent litter and dead birds – must be conducted in accordance with the conditions of the existing planning permit. For example, farms may not stockpile, compost or spread litter if the permit conditions require removal of all litter directly off-farm.

2. Dead bird management

The disposal of dead birds is a daily operation on a broiler farm. There are several management systems

to dispose of dead birds:

  1. store dead birds short term, then remove off farm
  2. compost dead birds on farm.
  • Storing dead birds then removing off farm: Where dead birds are regularly removed from the farm, they are collected from the shed, placed in an enclosed container, and either taken off site daily or stored in freezers until the regular collection. Dedicated freezers must have sufficient capacity to handle carcasses between collections.

    To manage on farm biosecurity, the collection point must be as far as practical away from the farm site so the collection vehicle does not enter the site. For public amenity, dead birds (or bird bins) must not be left in public view.

    Dead birds must be disposed of legally at licensed composting facilities, rendering plants or licensed landfills. In addition to existing systems, new technologies are under development that may provide efficient alternatives for the disposal of dead birds (and spent litter) with improved environmental outcomes for the industry. Such technologies may include, for example, digestors and pyrolysis systems. Responsible authorities should be receptive to the use of such technologies if their environmental benefits are established.
  • Composting dead birds on farm: Dead birds can be composted with the spent litter on farm. Composted correctly, this system can provide a nutrient-rich product that can be used as a fertiliser. The composting must be carefully managed, however, to minimise biosecurity risks, run-off of nutrients to ground or waterways, vermin issues and / or adverse impacts on local amenity from dust or odour emissions.

For further guidance on best practice waste management on broiler farms, see the Victorian Farmers Federation Chicken Care program (an industry environmental care initiative)4, the National Environmental Management System for the Meat Chicken Industry5 or EPA Victoria’s Environmental Guidelines for Composting and Other Organic Recycling Facilities6.

4 See www.vff.vic.org.au or contact the Victorian Farmers Federation Chicken Meat Group (03 9207 5570).

5See Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) 2003 under the ‘Publications’ section of this Code.

6See EPA Victoria 1996a under the ‘Publications’ section of this code.

conveyer belt of feeders

5. Classification of Broiler Farms

Broiler farms are classified as Class A, Class B, Special Class or Farm Cluster.

The Code applies different information and assessment requirements, and notification and review rights to the different farm classifications. This section details the criteria for the different farm classifications and the land use planning considerations for each farm class.

The potential for broiler farm emissions to adversely impact on sensitive uses largely depends on:

  • the distance to nearby sensitive uses that the proposed development may affect
  • the number of birds kept on the farm
  • the design, management and operation of the farm
  • local environmental conditions (including meteorology and topography).

The risk associated with a proposed development varies depending on the separation of emission sources from sensitive uses. This Code includes a formula that must be used to calculate the required separation distance between broiler sheds and sensitive use beyond the broiler farm boundary.

This Code classifies farms according to different levels of environmental and amenity risk, and applies different approval requirements and notification and review rights to planning permit applications. The farm classification is dependent on:

  • the number of birds kept on the farm
  • the ability to contain the separation distance within the broiler farm boundary
  • the proximity to other existing and proposed broiler farms.
The Code applies different requirements, and notification and review rights to the different farm classes. As such, the first key step in preparing a planning permit application is to determine the farm classification of the proposed development.


The SEPARATION DISTANCE is the distance from the nearest external edge of the new or existing broiler shed to the nearest external edge of the sensitive use (that is the nearest edge of the house) on land beyond the broiler farm property. It excludes sensitive uses directly associated with the broiler farm operations – eg. dwellings on the broiler farm property.

The separation distance is therefore the distance from the new or existing broiler sheds within which no sensitive use is located.

Formula 1 sets out the minimum separation distance requirements for Class A and Class B farms.

The separation distance is required to minimise the risk of routine and abnormal odour and dust emissions from the broiler sheds adversely impacting on nearby sensitive uses.

CLASS A BROILER FARM

A broiler farm is classified as Class A if all of the following apply:

  • the farm capacity is less than or equal to 400,000 birds
  • the minimum separation distance requirement (as defined by Formula 1) is fully contained within the broiler farm boundary.

While a planning permit is required, Clause 52.31 of the Victoria Planning Provisions and all planning schemes exempts these applications from the notification requirements and objector review rights under the Planning and Environment Act 1987. The permit applicant retains the right of review of any decision of the responsible authority.

Note: Depending on the proposal, notification and objector review rights may be in place if the proposal triggers other types of planning permit applications (eg. native vegetation removal).

CLASS B BROILER FARM

A broiler farm is classified as Class B if all of the following apply:

  • the farm capacity is less than or equal to 400,000 birds
  • the development can meet the minimum separation distance requirement (as defined by Formula 1) but this distance is not fully contained within the broiler farm boundary.

SPECIAL CLASS BROILER FARM

A broiler farm is classified as Special Class if any of the following apply:

  • the farm capacity is greater than 400,000 birds or
  • the development is unable to meet the minimum separation distance requirement (as defined by Formula 1) but a reduction in separation distance is arranted through the adoption of odour reduction technology on farm (see ‘Farms that cannot meet the minimum separation distance requirements’ below).

An Odour Environmental Risk Assessment (Odour ERA) must be completed in accordance with Section 6 of this Code.

Under Clause 66.05 of the Victoria Planning Provisions and all planning schemes, notice of an application for a Special Class broiler farm must be given to EPA Victoria in accordance with Section 52(1)(c) of the Planning and Environment Act 1987.

FARM CLUSTER

A broiler farm is classified as a Farm Cluster (or part of a farm cluster) if all of the following apply:

  • the minimum separation distance requirement (as defined by Formula 1) overlaps with the minimum separation distance requirement of any existing broiler farm, a broiler farm approved by a planning permit or a proposed broiler farm that is the subject of a permit application that has been lodged with the responsible authority
  • the combined farm capacity of the broiler farms with overlapping minimum separation distances (as defined by Formula 1) is greater than 400,000 birds.

An Odour ERA must be completed in accordance with Section 6 of this Code.

Under Clause 66.05 of the Victoria Planning Provisions and all planning schemes, notice of an application for a Farm Cluster must be given to EPA Victoria in accordance with Section 52(1)(c) of the Planning and Environment Act 1987.

BROILER FARMS THAT CANNOT MEET THE MINIMUM SEPARATION DISTANCE REQUIREMENTS

No new broiler farm development or expansion is permitted for farms that cannot meet the minimum separation distance requirements (defined by Formula 1).

However, the responsible authority may approve a reduction in the separation distance if odour reduction technology is incorporated into the farm design. This type of application is to be assessed as a Special Class Farm.

See ‘Odour Reduction Technology’ in the ‘Odour Environmental Risk Assessment (Odour ERA)’ section of this Code.

Formula for the calculation of separation distances

FORMULA 1:

The separation distance for a Class A or Class B broiler farm must be at least 250m or as otherwise calculated in accordance with the following formula (whichever is larger):

D = 27 x N0.54

D = Separation Distance (metres) N = farm capacity /1000

0.54 is an exponential factor that is applied to N.

The formula is applicable to farms up to or equal to 400,000 birds.

For example, for a 100,000 bird farm:
D = 27 x (100)0.54 = 325m

Table 1 and Figure 1 illustrate the minimum separation distances required for a range of farm sizes based on the above formula.

TABLE 1: Examples of separation distance requirements for Class A and Class B farms

FARM CAPACITY
(number of birds)
MINIMUM SEPARATION DISTANCE
(measured from the external edge of a broiler shed)
MINIMUM 250 m
100,000 325 m
150,000 404 m
200,000 472 m
250,000 532 m
300,000 588 m
350,000 638 m
400,000 686 m

Figure 1: Minimum separation distances required for a range of farm sizes based on the above formula.


Line Graph


Figure 2: Broiler Farm 300,000

Example of Separation Distance for a 300,000 bird, class B farm. (Not to Scale)

Diagram