Congressman Smith visits local farm
Eli Skaggs’ dream of opening a commercial poultry farm became a reality with the arrival of their first shipment of pullets August 20. They received 21,624 females and 2,754 males. The farm will ultimately house 40,000 chicks in all.
“The chicks arrived yesterday,” Eli Skaggs said. “They were shipped in rows and stacks of crates on the truck, filling the conditioned box trailer.”
The family has recently completed construction of four 40’ x 450’ barns that house the young pullets. The facility is state of the art with security and computer systems for monitoring and regulating its temperature and conditions.
This pullet farm is a part of the parent-breeding operation for Tyson. “This is the first pullet operation in Madison County,” Tim Wilson, the Live Production Manager with Tyson said. “The company (Tyson) are working toward no GMO or growth hormone, targeted in five years,” Wilson explained.
There are minimum specifications provided by Tyson to the poultry farm owners for the construction of contractual facilities. Some of the necessary construction materials can only be obtained from a limited number of sources. “There is a select group of people that sell the specific type of equipment required,” Wilson said. “It’s a very specialized niche.” Much of the construction labor, however, was contracted locally.
When Congressman Smith became aware that the farm is family owned and operated, he vocalized his support of the Skaggs’s success at keeping the farm and land in the family. The Madison County family has passed down the farm land and the business aspect of the farm for generations. Eli Skaggs is the sixth generation to farm on this property.
According to Ruth Ann Skaggs, her family has kept land that her great-great-grandfather Joseph Schulte owned in the family. Joseph Schulte and his brother Antone started acquiring the farm land in 1870. Part of the farm is designated as a Century Farm. The Skaggs’ had to let go of a portion of land for a period of time. However, Eli Skaggs parents, Robby and Missy Skaggs, were able to buy this property back in the years leading up to the start of the poultry operation.
Ultimately, when growth schedules coincide, the chicks raised by Eli Skaggs will become a part of the egg laying facility owned and operated by relatives Shawn and Kiley Hinkle, on their farm in the southern part of Madison County. Their farm is another step in Tyson’s parent-breeding operation.
The Skaggs family is excited to be able to operate this poultry business at home, in Madison County.
“I’m excited for the Skaggs family,” Congressman Smith said.
Brian Crowe is the Breeder and Hatchery Manager, he oversees operations for Tyson’s Dexter office and he said, “80 million pounds of meat, that is about what this farm will create annually at our targeted bird weight.”
Prior to their tour of the pullet building, Tyson representatives held a question and answer session with Congressman Smith and State Representatives Shelley Keeney and Linda Black.
Congressman Smith asked the Tyson representatives about the recent increase in egg prices. The Tyson representatives verified that the Avian Flu has had a negative impact on commercial egg operations. The impact on turkey farms has been especially harsh.
The new pullet barns follow biosecurity measures as recommended by the USDA such as requiring protective clothing and disposable shoe coverings for visitors in order to help quell any outbreak of infectious disease in their animals. According to the USDA’s Foreign Animal Disease Preparedness & Response Plan (FAD PReP) / National Animal Health Emergency Management System (NAHEMS) issued specific guidelines regarding the wearing of protective clothing and disposable shoe covers or protective boots (i.e., rubber boots) that are easily cleaned and disinfected and activities related to poultry disease prevention.
Tyson representatives explained that the company does its own research in areas such as feed and biosecurity. They actually draw blood from the animals as well as conduct some tissue samples. The blood tests check for bird diseases and viruses such as Avian Influenza or A.I. The tissues would also be examined for the presence of pesticide residue.
“Quality assurance is across all of our business,” Crowe said.
Tyson employees fielded questions from the guests related to sanitation, bird vaccination, feed and watering systems, computers and alarm systems, and bedding. The Dexter office company representatives in attendance were Jason Huey, a Breeder and Technical Advisor; Kristi Sanders, Breeder and Technical Advisor; and Tim Wilson, Live Production Manager.
Congressman Smith’s staff members Justin Sok, Legislative Director; Eric Harmon, Rolla Field Representative; and Donna Hickman, Farmington Field Representative accompanied him during his farm tour. The Congressman and his staff also made stops at a variety of other farms in Missouri; for example some types of farms were rabbit, Red Stag Deer, Hereford cattle (largest in the state), timber, Garlic, blueberry, and chestnut.