Three generations of the Quast family have raised turkeys on their property at Tintinhull since 1950. Today, the business produces approximately 60,000 turkeys each year … it’s a true local success story. With Christmas just around the corner, perhaps now’s the time to place an online order for your fabulously succulent, locally raised turkey products …
Hi Colin. What’s the history behind Quast Turkeys?
My dad (Colin Senior) started off with 100 acres of land from scratch back in 1950. There were no improvements on the block at all. He’s 86 now!
Why turkeys in particular? Dad looked around for something that no one else was doing; he visited a turkey farm in Newcastle, which gave him the idea to start production here.
Originally, he had Bonze Wing Turkeys and introduced white turkeys in the 1960s. In 1975 we began our breeding program and have developed a vertical business since then.
I started working with Dad when I was 17, and I asked my son, Colin James (we call him James) if he wanted to come and work with me as well … and he’s still here, 10 years later!
Family is important to me, and to work alongside them is very special.
How do you raise your turkeys — are they barn or paddock raised?
We produce both barn-raised and paddock-raised birds. We don’t produce a lot of paddock-raised birds — it’s a smaller percentage of our production; we do more of this closer to Christmas, as a lot of our customers like free-range birds.
We breed for 12 months of the year. A turkey will naturally only breed in spring/summer, but we control the lighting so the birds lay all year round.
The eggs are collected 5 – 6 times a day, they’re stored in a cool room – which keeps them dormant – and from there, they go in an incubator. Twenty-eight days later, they all start to hatch, as they were all set in the incubator at the same time.
Turkeys need a fair amount of heat over the first few weeks. Turkeys are grown more slowly than chickens in the beginning and take longer to develop their feathers. We keep them warm in brooder houses (climate-controlled sheds) up to the age of about 5 – 6 weeks. They then move into grower sheds, which are barn style, open sheds with blinds.
The birds are processed anywhere between 9 – 18 weeks. It’s mainly the female birds that are processed between 9 – 12 weeks for the Christmas whole bird market. Most of the male birds are grown through to 14 – 18 weeks and are further processed, depending on what’s required for breast meat production.
Is all of your own processing done on-site?
Yes, we do all of our own processing. We breed, grow and process everything on farm and make 90 per cent of our own feed on-farm as well. In a good year, we grow most of our own grain … unfortunately, we haven’t been able to do this for the past two years.
We’re nearly self-sufficient in a good year. The manure from the sheds goes on to our grain/cropping paddocks, and the straw from those same paddocks is baled up and comes back into the sheds as floor litter.
We also do our own marketing, with a large client base covering every state of Australia, but we don’t sell to any of the big supermarkets.
Quality control is extremely important in our business. We hang our hat on the quality of our product, and the feedback we receive tells us that we’re meeting this goal. We have customers who have been dealing with us for 40 plus years – and they keep coming back because they realise the consistent quality of our birds.
What turkey products do you actually sell?
We sell whole birds of various sizes, and buffe – which is the breast meat on the bone – it’s all white meat. Buffe has had the thigh, and the drumsticks cut off but still has the drumette, or the first wing joint.
Buffe is a very popular product. We cook a turkey buffe every Christmas. It really is a matter of personal preference – some people like the drumsticks and dark meat.
Cooking a turkey is VERY different from cooking a chicken. It must be done slowly at a lower temperature. Instructions can be found on our website.
We also sell turkey rolls (turkey breast rolled in a net), turkey sausages, rissoles and mince from our great little shop on site.
What do you see as being the benefits of turkey meat?
Turkey has less fat and cholesterol than most other meats … and it’s a very tasty meat. Cooked properly, it’s wonderful.
Our children have been brought up eating turkey, and on the odd occasion when we’ve used beef mince to make a spaghetti bolognese – they didn’t enjoy it! Turkey mince in a spaghetti bolognese is very, very tasty.
You’ve mentioned not being able to grow your own grain recently, but what other impacts has the drought had on your business?
At the moment, we’re OK with our water supply. We have bores on the farm, which have been great – but with bores, you never really know what’s underground. We know it’s not an endless supply of water!
Other than that, feed/grain is currently our biggest expense. In December last year, grain delivered to Tamworth was double what it had been two years previously.
Most of our customers have been very understanding that we’ve needed to put prices up because of the drought. It’s very concerning … we’re looking down the barrel of our second year without being able to grow grain in this district, so we have to freight it in. We’re currently having grain freighted in from the Riverina, and it’s expensive.
So far, with the help of our customers, we’re hanging in there. We haven’t had to cut back production, lose market share, or lose long term, loyal staff, whom we just couldn’t replace.
How many turkeys do you produce on the farm each year?
We produce around 60,000 birds per year. It seems like a lot, but there are two main producers who produce millions of birds, so there’s a huge gap between them and us as the next biggest in Australia.
There are a few smaller farms as well, so it’s an interesting market. We feel we fill a bit of a niche; we have that personal touch with our customers.
You mentioned wholesaling your birds … but how else do you market/sell them?
We have a shop here that we open on the first Saturday of each month, February to November, and we’re also open seven days right throughout December, for those who want to purchase their Christmas turkey.
Our client base consists of wholesalers, retailers, butchers’ shops, cafés, and individuals.
Most people prefer to order their whole birds for Christmas in advance, and we’re happy to take online orders.
Our turkey rolls are also very popular at this time of year in this area – we’ve been producing these for around 35 years; they’re so quick and easy to cook!
What’s the best way to touch base with you?
There’s a contact form you can fill in on the website. There’s also a place on the website to go for Christmas orders, so you can let us know what size bird you’d like and when you’d like to collect it.