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Four keys to mitigating risk at feed millsFour keys to mitigating risk at feed mills

Risk abatement can improve mill or manufacturing facility’s bottom line.

April 25, 2018

4 Min Read
Four keys to mitigating risk at feed mills
Rock River Laboratory

Even before the onset of the Food & Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act, animal feed mills and manufacturing facilities have worked to ensure quality assurance for their customer base. By today’s standards, risk abatement is just as important to a mill’s bottom line as the accurate feeds they supply to farms, according to an announcement from Rock River Laboratory.

“It is more vital now than ever that mill and facility managers find means to capture and document the ingredients and feeds they oversee,” said Lauren Meyer, Rock River Laboratory quality control and mill quality assurance director. “Quality assurance at the feed mill level incorporates three key pieces: sampling and analyzing incoming ingredients, sampling and analyzing feed and mineral mixes and, finally, sampling and analyzing the final products.”

To help mill and manufacturing facilities mitigate risk and improve their bottom line, Meyer recommended four core aspects for managers to focus on:

1. Review ingredient supply accuracy and safety. Laboratory analysis of supplied ingredients can not only ensure that the product fulfills the order correctly but assists in the "quality in, quality out" mantra as mills create custom mixes.

“Identifying potential hazards is the first step in mitigating risk,” Meyer said. “Checking the ingredients provided by a supplier through regular sampling and analysis is one of the best places to start.”

Toxins, mineral deficiencies and excessive minerals can play a part in rendering an ingredient unfit or, in some cases, lethal to animal consumption. Less extreme hazards can also cause challenges. Meyer noted that in some such instances, a laboratory analysis of ingredients has been able to identify when manufacturing facilities are supplied with the wrong product.

“In one case, a mix was testing high for a certain mineral. We called the client, and the irregular level helped them uncover that their supplier was sending them the wrong mineral,” Meyer said.

2. Secure and take advantage of accurate feed formulations. After supplied ingredients have been checked, Meyer recommended securing the accuracy of the mixes produced at the mill or manufacturing plant. Reviewing protein, minerals and salt is a great place to start, but checking the mixing equipment is also important.

“A mixer evaluation test can help decipher if the mixers on site are precisely spreading all ingredients equally across the mix,” Meyer explained.

The mixer evaluation analysis measures the zinc and manganese levels in 10 different samples throughout a mix, comparing them against each other and the expected levels. This assessment identifies the proper distribution of ingredients and provides standard deviations to improve mixing. Meyer explained that formulating feeds accurately can also help mills take advantage of high-component ingredients.

“Various mills that have analyzed their ingredients have sometimes found ingredients to be higher in certain components than what was originally expected,” Meyer said. “For instance, a typical 46.5% protein soybean meal may test at 50%. That mill can now accurately create a mix that hits all the exact protein and fat levels requested by the end user, but the mill has to use less of the ingredient.”

In these cases, everyone wins: The mill can get more bang for its buck on the ingredients, and the farmer gets the exact mix that was expected.

3. Capture data for quality assurance credibility. While risk abatement is what a mill manager sees, the producer customers see quality assurance they can depend on when they work with a mill or manufacturing facility.

“The easiest way to showcase your facility’s attention to quality assurance — be it to new or prospective customers — is through data,” Meyer explained. “Trust is built on credibility, and regular analysis captures the data to build that credibility.”

4. Keep records that translate from the mill to the farm and supply chain. All the data collected from supplier ingredients and mixes can turn into a mess if not handled correctly. Facility records need to not only be readable to the manager but also track from the supplier to the mill to the farm. As restrictions tighten and checks become a regular part of the mill and manufacturer's feed business, it’s important for managers to track and record ingredients from entry to exit and even to the animals that consumed them.

“Find an analysis partner that can make your recordkeeping seamless and easy,” Meyer suggested. “It will be worth your time to work with a laboratory or consultant that can organize all the data you’re collecting and ensure that, if you have to prove something, the right information is captured in the right place and is easy to follow through the full process.”

Meyer reiterated that records must follow a sample all the way from the mill to the farm, so it's vital to ensure that the batch has the same identification throughout the process.

“No manager wants to face a lawsuit; they deplete time and money and ruin reputations,” Meyer said. “The better the records, the easier it is to squash a lawsuit before it even gets to the courts.”

When risks are mitigated by putting processes in place to proactively ensure the quality of all feedstuffs, mill managers can have greater confidence in selling their facility’s capabilities and dedication to quality assurance.

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