‘How we plan to future proof our 900 head emu farm’

Tooraweenah couple's bold plans for emu farm


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Nicole and Dan Harte, Macanbar, Tooraweenah, with some of their emus. Pictures: Lucy Kinbacher

Nicole and Dan Harte, Macanbar, Tooraweenah, with some of their emus. Pictures: Lucy Kinbacher

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Her parents started out with oil but now Nicole Harte and her husband Dan are making big changes to keep their industry alive.

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THE next-generation of a major emu farm at Tooraweenah have bold plans to better utilise the whole bird and future proof themselves in the industry.

Nicole and Dan Harte, Macanbar, Tooraweenah, are slowly taking over the reins of Nicole’s parents, Phil and Penny Henley, who first introduced the birds onto their 1200 acre sheep and cattle property in 1996.

Back then the potential for emu oil as a medicinal product was high but with their property now one of only about 20 emu growing licenses in Australia, imported products from foreign countries are impacting oil prospects.

As a result, the Hartes have started utilising the whole bird and selling their own jerky range, feathers and eggs with plans to install an on-farm abattoir by January, pending approvals.

The family run about 900 birds on their property and incubate 100 eggs each year.

The family run about 900 birds on their property and incubate 100 eggs each year.

Currently their birds are processed in Victoria, and with only about 110 birds fitting on a double deck truck at a time, it’s proving to be a major cost.

“When they were getting processed in Victoria I’d say the majority of the meat was getting dumped, not even dog food,” Mr Harte said.

“It’s too good of a meat and it’s really high in iron, twice the iron of beef.”

Emu oil is made from the bird’s fat but during the breeding season in April their stores are lower, making January to March the best time for processing. 

The Hartes are passionate about the emu industry and keeping an Austrlaian product on shelves.

The Hartes are passionate about the emu industry and keeping an Austrlaian product on shelves.

Ms Harte said they were currently running about 900 emus on 250 acres with the birds only laying down optimum fat at three years of age.

“If we could process our own birds this season would be great because either way we are either going to have to process a lot of we are going to have to buy the food,” she said.

“The way the season is looking it’s going to cost the same to set up a processing plant rather than buy the feed in.

“We have just hit the stage where we need to be able to do that.” 

The couple look to turn off 400 to 500 birds a year and moved away from selling their products in bulk to supply direct to their online and farm gate shop.

Within the last nine months they also began utilising the birds’ meat and creating their own jerky range. 

The emus are fed grain supplements, however this year has been particularly difficult to source feed given the dry conditions.

The emus are fed grain supplements, however this year has been particularly difficult to source feed given the dry conditions.

While they had previously tried to offer the meat fresh, the jerky eliminates additional infrastructure and storage demands for refrigerated items.

Their product is drier to traditional jerky but has increased protein and iron levels with less calories, cholesterol and saturated fat. 

Their jerky products are currently sold online and through their store.

Their jerky products are currently sold online and through their store.

With today’s consumer increasingly health conscious, the couple believe there is a place for their products in the future.

But, they’ll have to reinvent what the business was established on.

“(The industry) is dwindling because people have struggled to make a living out of it but Mum and Dad have stuck with it and we have got into it because we have just seen too many people that oil has helped so it’s not worth giving up on,” Ms Harte said.

“We don’t want other countries to go ahead with it, hence the meat, and I’ve been doing feathers for so many years.

The young chicks.

The young chicks.

“It’s just trying to use the whole bird to make it more viable so we aren’t wasting it and it makes it more of a viable business to keep everything ticking along together.” 

For more information visit www.harteyjerky.com.au 

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