Modern Manure Management to Boost Local Image

OHIO, US - A profile of the recently modernised facilities of Ohio Fresh Eggs at Croton.
calendar icon 4 July 2011
clock icon 6 minute read

The long and narrow one-story buildings do not look particularly impressive from the outside, but inside, millions of chickens sit in small cages in rows as far as the eye can see, reports Coshocton Tribune.

There were 2.1 million chickens, capable of producing about 120,000 dozen eggs per day, at Croton Layer 4, at 11492 Westley Chapel Road in Croton. The standard cage size is 67 square inches.

From the outside, it might appear nothing has changed at the Ohio Fresh Eggs production facilities in northwest Licking County, but the interior of the barns show a different story.

The inside does not match the filthy, smelly stereotype of a chicken farm, mostly because the manure now is removed from the building on conveyor belts and dried, rather than falling into a deep pit on the floor of the barn, where it accumulated moisture, attracted flies and spread an odour upsetting to area residents.

Buckeye Egg Farm, owned by Antonn Pohlmann until he sold to Ohio Fresh Eggs, was ordered to shut down by the Agriculture Director, Fred Dailey, in 2003 because the farm failed to meet the requirements of its operating permits, with at least eight contempt of court charges.

Citations and complaints became routine because of fly outbreaks, odours and toxic spills into nearby waterways and violations of disposal requirements resulting in millions of dollars in fines.

Two Iowa farm families, the Deans and the Hennings, entered into an agreement to lease and manage Ohio Fresh Eggs facilities in Licking, Hardin and Wyandot counties. They are negotiating a lease-purchase agreement for the company assets, but they already are running the operation.

Fresh approach

A new era might be under way at Ohio Fresh Eggs, according to Coshocton Tribune, as the new management group not only embraces changes already in place, but promises more open communication with the community, better compliance with state environmental and safety standards and a more stable business structure.

J.T. Dean, a member of the proposed ownership group, said: "I think tremendous steps have been made in compliance the last couple years and I want to continue that, and add to it. I think we need some more.

"I think it all comes down to your people, finding the right people and putting the right people in right positions and making sure the right people are managing those pieces. At times, in the past here, there was a lack of middle management."

Mr Dean already has met with the Licking County commissioners, the media and the Ohio Department of Agriculture to say: "This is who we are and this is what we intend to do."

Joe Laffoon, the Ohio Fresh Eggs general manager who has been with the company almost four years, says he likes what he sees.

He said: "I think it's a positive change. I came out here from Iowa. I always heard they were a top-notch group. When I heard they were coming, I was pleased because I knew they did things the right way.

"There's definitely a different philosophy. I think it's a positive one, (to) put in more middle management, which I always wanted to have here. It's what I think will help the company."

More chickens, traffic, jobs

Coshocton Tribune reports that changes planned at Ohio Fresh Eggs will add more chickens and put more vehicles on county roads but also will add employees.

The capital improvement projects planned at Ohio Fresh Eggs in Licking, Hardin and Wyandot counties will cost about $80 million in the next three or four years, Mr Dean said.

The farm is permitted to have 5.3 million birds at the Croton area facilities but it has requested permits to allow for up to 8.3 million.

County Engineer, Tim Lollo, said it looks like there could be 130 to 140 semi-truck loads per day and Johnstown Village Administrator, Jim Lenner, said he is concerned about the impact on the village.

Mr Lollo explained: "Croton Road is a pretty good road. It's got a good base. It's a federal aid route, which means we qualify for federal money to pave it and maintain it. So that doesn't concern me terribly.

"Most of them are going through Johnstown. It's going to affect Johnstown more than it will us. All those extra semis will be there at (Ohio) 37 and (US) 62."

The increase in heavy trucks is inevitable, Mr Dean acknowledged.

He said: "Any industry that produces things and employs people, any economic development will generate more traffic."

John Smith, a resident of La Rue, located west of Marion, said he wants the Ohio Fresh Eggs truck drivers in his area to slow down.

The company employs between 450 and 480 people now, Mr Dean said, with about two-thirds of the work force in the Croton area. The Croton-area expansion will bring about 50 to 60 more employees.

New business strategies

The business model used by Ohio Fresh Eggs will be changed somewhat, Dean said, with the Marseilles and Mount Victory farms converted to liquidate facilities, but eggs will continue to be distributed from Croton, reports Coshocton Tribune.

The combination of involvement in both the liquid industrial market and the shell egg market will help the company manage the ups and downs of the market, Mr Dean said.

Another change will be ending sales of manure to area farmers, who apply it to their farms, where it eventually can run-off into area waterways.

Mr Dean explained: "It will reduce significantly what's being applied today. It takes a potential problem off the table."

Instead, Ohio Fresh Eggs will negotiate with companies interested in the manure to process, bag and sell and a commercial-type fertiliser.

He continued: "It will be a different product. It's gone through a composting step and gets turned into a different product – and more expensive than the farmers would want.

"The return to the company will be less, but it helps with the neighbors and the perception of what's going on."

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