Turkey expansion hits speed bump

Turkey expansion hits speed bump

Judy Leadoux is happiest when sheʼs among her turkeys on her 21-acre farm at Ellaswood, just outside Bairnsdale.

As the matriarch of the family business Leadoux Turkeys which has been operating in East Gippsland since 1982, Mrs Leadoux had been looking forward to expanding the enterprise on a new site more visible to passing trade.

Producing 33 different turkey cuts, the business was ripe for expansion and a highly visible location promised a more lucrative income.

However, her plans have come unstuck after her bank effectively reneged on plans to fund her new venture.

Mrs Leadoux believes a tightening of the banking regulations following the Royal Commission into banking misconduct has resulted in her bank making the process more complicated for her.

“Before the Royal Commission my bank told me ‘no worries Jude, you’ll be right’, but since then there’s been some back pedalling,” Mrs Leadoux said.

“I think that the timing of our venture was unfortunate for us, with the banks really closing up and putting such stringent conditions on borrowing money.”

In the meantime, Mrs Leadoux had purchased 100 acres of land near the corner of the Princes Highway and Hillside Lane in Bairnsdale and was preparing the property in readiness to expand the turkey farm.

The Victorian Government had even extended a small grant to Leadoux Turkeys, which would have enabled the business to increase its employee base from six full time positions to 23 within two years.

Mrs Leadoux says when the time came to start building the sheds and processing plant at the new site, the bank informed her they would need a valuation “of what the business would be worth once the relocation was completed”.

“At the end of the day, the bank would only lend us 50 per cent of the valuation and the valuation equated to approximately two thirds of what the venture was costing us,” Mrs Leadoux said.

“I’m a fairly resilient person, but now my health is suffering and I have simply run out of puff.”

Leadoux Turkeys is now looking for a new owner.

The property at Ellaswood has been subdivided into five lots and Mrs Leadoux says a prospective buyer could still continue to operate the business from that site until shedding and a new processing plant is constructed at the Bairnsdale farm.

Mrs Leadoux says it’s been “a huge decision to sell”.

“It’s taken me a while to come to terms with it,” she said.

Leadoux Turkeys is listed with a business broker in Melbourne and Mrs Leadoux says her turkey farm is already receiving inquiries from interested parties.

She says she is willing to make herself available to the new buyers as a consultant until they become familiar with the business.

Leadoux Turkeys grows 10,000 turkeys each year and currently supplies 45 butcher shops and farmers markets across the state.

There is also potential to tap into the export market for the right business orientated person.

Mrs Leadoux admits it won’t be easy bidding farewell to her birds but looks forward to a new chapter in her life.

“I have had a lot of satisfaction building this business up from nothing to reach where we are today, but there is so much scope to go bigger and better,” she said.

“Putting it on the highway would be a goldmine. Position is everything.”

Mrs Leadoux admits she’d be devastated if the business was closed for good.

“It would distress me greatly if it disappeared. It’s an icon of Bairnsdale.”

PICTURED: Judy Leadoux, of Leadoux Turkeys, surrounded by her beloved birds, is hoping to find a buyer for her farm.