In the heart of cattle country in Castro County, Texas, is Westway Feed Products LLC, a liquid feed operation that has long served local beef producers.
The Westway plant, managed by Phil Thomas and located in Dimmitt, Texas, is the Liquid Feed Category Winner in the 2016 Feed Facility of the Year competition. The Feed Facility of the Year program is a national contest conducted annually by the American Feed Industry Assn. (AFIA) and Feedstuffs.
According to Thomas, the most important component of the Dimmitt facility is its staff. The facility is open six days a week and, including Thomas, has a team of only four. Thomas said the operation is able to run so lean because of the team's experience level and dedication to getting the job done right. Average seniority at the Dimmitt plant is 16.5 years.
Thomas noted, too, that if need be, he can get assistance from the nearby Westway facility in Hereford, Texas.
All ordering, administration and dispatch for the Dimmitt operation goes through the office in Hereford.
Westway's Dimmitt facility has traditionally averaged around 8,000 tons of liquid feed a month, but newly added business has pushed the facility's production to 12,000-13,000 tons.
The blends and suspensions manufactured at the plant are used by cattle ranchers in the surrounding area as part of their on-farm total mix rations. The majority of the product manufactured at the Dimmitt facility goes to beef producers, but Thomas and the team also have their sights set on building a greater presence in the surrounding dairy industry in the next few years.
When bringing on a new customer, Thomas explained that Westway makes sure all on-farm tanks and pumps are in place and plumbed correctly. Beyond that, Thomas said, the truck drivers they use are quite good at monitoring and spotting any potential problems on a farm.
Maintaining tight inventory controls has made a huge impact overall on profit and loss for the facility as well as played a positive role regarding cost per ton, according to Thomas. Capital improvements over the last three years have provided additional benefits.
One recently completed capital project was making improvements to the facility's infrastructure. These improvements were designed to provide containment and handling of a number of the specialty ingredients utilized in the production of Westway's value-added supplements. Other new safety features include guardrails and toe boards on the majority of the tanks and a fresh coat of bright-yellow safety paint.
In regard to efficiency, the facility now utilizes separate lines for its suspension, blends and clay, reducing not only cleanout time but also the possibility for cross-contamination. “We have a suspension mixer, a blend mixer and a clay mixer. The dedicated lines make contamination a non-issue,” Thomas said.
Safety training at the facility encourages employee engagement and involves non-manager training to keep operators and employees actively involved and interested. “Tailgate meetings” are a highlight for Thomas. These meetings generally are held on site after a situation has occurred. Thomas said while they are usually informal, the meetings are always documented.
The Dimmitt plant participates in Westway's Gold/Silver Tank Awards Program that recognizes safety overall. The facility is hazard analysis and critical control points certified as well as Safe Feed/Safe Food certified. The Dimmitt facility has been a non-medicated mill for the past five years.
A corporate housekeeping and sanitation manual is followed at the plant. Thomas explained that the company believes housekeeping and sanitation are the responsibility of all employees and that all should contribute and do their part to ensure a well-maintained facility. Westway's goal is to always maintain its property in a manner that reflects pride in the work and facilities by representing a clean and efficient operation, he said. Under Westway policy, the Dimmitt facility is inspected monthly.
“We have accomplished a lot in the past three years, including significant capital improvements, cost-per-ton advantages, greater employee engagement and an overall production increase. This team just knows how to get it done,” Thomas said.
Westway Feed Products, headquartered in Tomball, Texas, is one of North America's largest manufacturers of liquid supplements for livestock. The company is owned by ED&F Man and has 27-plus production facilities across the country and in Canada. As an ED&F Man subsidiary, Westway uses co-products from biofuel plants, distilleries, yeast plants, corn processors, soy processors and cheese factories to supply the beef cattle, dairy cattle and equine feed sectors.