Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Poultry producer investing $3 million in new barns

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Group Westco, the New Brunswick poultry producer, is investing more than $3 million to build three new broiler-chicken barns near Arnaud, Man., to replace the company's aging Neepawa operations.

Group Westco, a large player in the New Brunswick market, acquired Neepawa Food Processors Ltd. from the late Oscar Grubert in 2006. It is the second-largest chicken producer in the province.

Ray St. Hilaire, Group Westco's Manitoba representative, said it is hoped construction of the new barns will begin this spring and become operational in late fall.

The Neepawa operations would be phased out gradually around the same time.

Because of automated technology, the new operation will probably need fewer than three employees to operate it. The new barns put the operation in much closer proximity to its supplier, Carleton Hatcheries in Grunthal, and to the Dun-Rite processing facility in Winnipeg.

Those two facilities were acquired by Sunrise Farms of B.C. in November 2012.

"You can see the synergies and economics at play," St. Hilaire said. "The Arnaud location is about a half-hour drive from the (Carleton) hatchery (in Grunthal). From Grunthal to Neepawa it is about a three-hour drive."

The three 52,800-square-foot broiler houses will hold 212,000 broiler chickens at a time and produce close to three million kilograms per year of broiler chickens with new chicks introduced approximately every seven weeks.

Wayne Hilz, executive director of Manitoba Chicken Producers, the farmer-run organization that oversees the supply management market in Manitoba, said the industry welcomes the new investment.

"Anything that makes our producers more efficient is a benefit to the industry," Hilz said. "We certainly have producers with older barns who have done an unbelievable job updating their operations. But any reinvestment is good for production efficiency."

Group Westco's operation is one of two in the province that were grandfathered to allow it to produce more than the current maximum amount of 1.4 million kilograms of broiler chickens per year.

According to the provincial quota regulations, Group Westco cannot produce more than it currently does in its Neepawa location.

Group Wescto's fully integrated operation in New Brunswick produces 51 per cent of that province's broiler chickens and 67 per cent of the turkeys.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 13, 2014 B6

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