Dakota Layers has plans to expand in Moody County and offer eggs that are produced for higher-end consumer markets.
The Flandreau-based company wants to build barns east of Trent that will allow the company to keep free-range chickens that will produce eggs that can be sold as cage free, free range, organic, omega and extra-nutritious eggs. While the eggs will be sold in the Midwest, most will be shipped to California, where new laws that will go into effect next year will change the kinds of eggs that can be sold, said Scott Ramsdell with Dakota Layers.
“These are the highest end eggs,” he said.
California voters in 2018 passed a proposition that means that only eggs from chickens that are not confined to cages can be sold. The change takes place in 2022.
Near Trent, where Dakota Layers purchased 120 acres of ground, the company wants to put in 160,000 birds in flocks of 20,000 each, over the period of a few years. Those flocks would have access to outside of the barns where they could run around.
The new barns are in a different location than the company’s main Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation north of Flandreau.
The new location is a $16 million project that Dakota Layers has already started planning. “We’ve engineered it. We’ve done everything. We’ve actually put a down payment on the building,” Ramsdell said.
But when the company went to the county to get permission for the operation, it found the zoning ordinances had changed with new rules this year. The company was unaware of changes.
Kendra Eng, the county’s zoning administrator, said she was not able to accept the company’s application because the animal unit numbers had changed.
Ramsdell took his plan to the Moody County Commission Tuesday, but that discussion was not available because it was after the Enterprise was printed.
In addition to the barns for free-range chickens, Dakota Layers has purchased the former Dakota Transformer building in Flandreau and is renovating it for a packing facility for the eggs. It would include a washing, processing and packing area.
“That facility has the capacity to process a lot of eggs,” Ramsdell said.
The company also is retrofitting its California barns to meet the new retail standards.
On the land near Trent, Dakota Layers would build a facility with the latest technology. Doors would open to allow the hens out at certain times of the day, and if it is too cold for the birds’ safety in the winter, the doors won’t open to allow them out.
Inside, the birds’ waste would go by conveyor belt to a dry storage area and eventually would be distributed fertilizer.
Ramsdell wants to include a viewing area for guests. That’s something that is not possible at its other Dakota Layers farm because it is a bio-secure facility, with no one allowed in.
“We wanted to make this a showcase,” Ramsdell said. “It’s going to be a really nice, high-end facility.”