Sustainable egg production virtual field trip

Producing eggs; protecting the environment. In a virtual field trip sponsored by the Ohio Poultry Association, Trillium Farms, and GrowNextGen, we learned how those two things are being done here in our state.

Ohio is number 2 in egg production in the nation. Trillium Farms is a major producer of those eggs. Industry expert Nic Watson, business unit leader at Trillium Farms, said, “I manage the day-to-day operations for our entire site. We house 2.2-2.3 million chickens here in Croton, and our chickens lay 150,000 dozen eggs a day,” Watson said. Trillium has 5 complexes of this size in Ohio, as well as sister farms in Iowa, Washington, and Oregon. The Croton plant ships eggs all over Ohio and the entire Midwest.

Technology is very important in the farm operation. Automatic environmental controls allow constant monitoring of every barn, making sure feed, light, air, water, and sanitation systems are functioning correctly. Fans circulate cool, clean air in the barns and filters catch particulate such as dander or dust.

Technology also helps as the eggs are gathered and made ready to go to market. Each egg is counted and their progress through the packaging machinery is paced, so that only 2% of the eggs are cracked.

Inside each barn, belts under each cage collects manure and moves it away to another building while air is drying the manure. Matt Simmons, environmental compliance manager, shared about the next step in manure management. “We manage the manure to keep it dry, help control flies, and produce about 30,000 tons of manure. That manure goes out to area farms as fertilizers high in phosphorus and nitrogen to provide nutrients to the field. Those crops then come back this way to feed the birds.”

Trillium purchases grains from local farmers—corn or soybean—to produce feed for their birds. Each stage of bird development has specific nutritional needs, so a different formula is created for each stage.

Regular cage audits check on the health of the bird—is it consuming enough feed and water? Is it doing well? Biosecurity is critical to prevent an outbreak of avian flu or other poultry diseases. A bird drinks roughly twice as much as it eats, so monitoring water intake is important in checking bird health.

Trillium works toward sustainable practices that benefit the environment. All the barns are lit with LED bulbs, using less electricity. The water lines are monitored for leaks so there is no waste. Water used to wash the eggs is sent to a lagoon and filtered through a sand bed. To protect ground water, it is tested before being released into local creeks or being sprayed on nearby fields.