BEATRICE – A rural Adams poultry operation that is a large producer of eggs, has received preliminary approval for an expansion.
The Gage County Planning Commission Tuesday night recommended that a special use permit be granted to Sunny Yolk Farms, operated by Rodney and Taylor Tekolste.

The operation is located about four miles southwest of Adams. It is a contract laying hen operation, working with Michael Foods, Inc. Taylor Tekolste says Sunny Yolk’s operation is moving toward a cage-free designation.

"I'm proposing a 210,000 bird cage-free laying barn. It's a two-level barn with a hundred thousand hens approximately on each level...with an attached manure barn with concrete floors and concrete walls. The manure barn will have manure belts that will convey the chicken manure daily, out to it."

Tekolste says the expansion would put the operation over the five-thousand animal unit threshold which requires a one-mile setback from homes under county regulations. Tekolste says the operation has met with the two nearest homeowners, who have agreed to sign a distance waiver. Sunny Yolk has six employees, and the expansion would add another three to five employees.

"We typically have between 290 and 319-thousand layers in three different barns on site. Each barn is considered a single flock with 103,120 hen capacity in the south two layer barns....and then 113,400 capacity in the north layer barn."

Tekolste says the farm uses laying hens at 16 weeks of age, then ships them out for processing at about 86 weeks. The owners provided a detailed report on the operation before the county’s planning commission, including an emphasis on strict biosecurity during a time avian influenza is a concern in the Midwest.
"In addition to a USDA auditor, our operation is audited quarterly, by an internal Michael Foods animal welfare, quality assurance and biosecurity officer. This Michael Foods officer was put in place after the 2015 avian influenza outbreak. The National Poultry Improvement Plan standards are biosecurity standards that must be followed to qualify our farm for federal indemnity payments if there was to be another avian influenza outbreak. Right now, we're starting to see similarities to 2015."

The operation contracts with other producers to provide manure, loading trucks every month with a one-to-two-year waiting list for the fertilizer.
The permit application received support at Tuesday night’s meeting from the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture and from the coordinator of the Livestock Friendly program in Nebraska. Kris Bousquet is with the Alliance.

"I've sat through a lot of these testimonies...from producers. This is the best put-together package that I've ever heard. It's amazing the depth of what Taylor has gone through to provide information. I commend him as well as your zoning administrator for working with him to get all that information together."

Allisson Troyer of the Nebraska Agriculture Department’s Livestock Friendly program also spoke in support of the expansion. The 7-0 commission vote recommending approval of the special use permit application now goes to the Gage County Board for a hearing, and decision.