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Prescribed fire better than mowing to revitalize rangeland

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A USDA-ARS crew burns a small plot using a ring firing technique at Ft. Keogh in Miles City, Mont.

When it comes to restoring rangeland habitats, there is no replacement for "prescribed fire," according to ecologists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS).

Using fire with a stated objective — a strategy known as prescribed fire — is widely recognized as an effective way to remove standing, dead vegetation on rangelands. However, fear of fire has left some to wonder if mowing or close grazing confers the same benefits, ARS said.

Lance Vermeire, an ecologist at the ARS Fort Keogh Livestock & Range Research Laboratory in Miles City, Mont., compared the benefits of mowing rangelands with prescribed fire to rid them of unwanted debris and reset their ecological balance. In a recent study, he found that fire is better than mowing because it restores soil health and promotes growth of grass that is more nutritious for grazing cattle, ARS said.

"The results show that mowing is not the same as fire and cannot replace it. Fire is unique," he said.

According to ARS, wildfires are a part of the natural cycle of growth and regeneration in many western habitats, and although all fire effects are not always positive, rangeland managers have used fire to control invasive weeds, enhance forage quality, increase plant diversity and maintain wildlife habitats. The nation's rangelands are owned and managed by a patchwork of government agencies and private interests, and some managers are reluctant to use fire, opting instead to mow or graze areas to get rid of unwanted plants, open habitats to sunlight and restore native grasses, ARS explained.

Vermeire said, "If a rangeland needs to be revitalized, the question often being asked is, 'What tools will best accomplish that?'"

The question is important because rangelands cover millions of acres across the Great Plains, and they're essential for grazing livestock and as wildlife habitat. Rangelands are also a major source of water supplies.

Climate change concerns

Droughts and drier conditions brought on by climate change make it essential to carefully control any prescribed fire, Vermeire said. The drier conditions also mean that there is more combustible material in many areas just waiting for a spark, which could be a good reason to consider prescribed fire to reduce unwanted debris, he noted.

Vermeire added, "Fires are going to happen, so isn't it better to control the conditions and decide what you want burned and when and where you want to burn it rather than waiting for a wildfire to break out and burn unchecked?"

Burning/mowing study

To compare mowing with fire, Vermeire mowed the grasses in experimental plots during the May growing season, set prescribed fires in others and left others as control plots. About two months later, he measured the amount of plant material or "biomass" in the plots, analyzed the soils for nutrients and assessed the forage quality of the dominant grasses. A year later, he repeated the same measurements and assessments.

He found that while mowing offered some benefits, fire proved to be a better tool for releasing nutrients into the soil, increasing the total amounts of grass and producing grass with more of the nutrients essential for healthy cattle, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, ARS said.

The study was partially funded by the U.S. Forest Service and was published in Rangeland Ecology & Management.

First milk important to successful calving experience

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Calves need to nurse their mothers soon after they are born to maximize the immunity passed along in that first milk.

Once calves are born into a beef cattle herd, it is important that they get up and begin to nurse, but experts in Kansas State University’s Beef Cattle Institute (BCI) noted that difficult deliveries, inexperienced dams and calves born without vigor sometimes keep that from happening, and those are the times when a beef producer may have to intervene.

The chief concern is getting colostrum into the calf within the first few hours after it is born, the BCI experts said.

“Colostrum is the first milk that the calf gets from its mother that contains a lot of immunity to set it up for the first four to five months of life,” veterinarian and BCI director Brad White said. “As soon as the calf starts drinking, it has 12-24 hours to absorb the colostrum before his gut closes.”

As to when to intervene, the experts have a difference of opinion. “If I don’t observe a first-calf heifer allowing her calf to nurse in the first two to four hours, I will get involved by helping,” beef cattle extension specialist and BCI expert Bob Weaber said. “My goal is to get at least one quart of colostrum into the calf. After milking out the cow, I offer it to the calf through a bottle, and if that doesn’t work, I use an esophageal tube feeder to deliver it.”

White prefers to follow a less aggressive approach by observing calf behavior over the course of 24-48 hours. “I am not going to intervene until the calf tells me it is not thriving -- by walking with its head down or trying to nurse off of other cows,” he said.

White added that if he does intervene, his goal is to gather the milk from the calf’s dam rather than using colostrum supplementation. He noted that the immunity provided by the colostrum comes from the proteins in the dam’s milk and that milk from beef cows is more nutrient dense than from dairy cows (which is the basis for most colostrum supplements). So, when supplementing dairy colostrum, White said the supplementation goal is to provide two quarts.

Both experts agreed that the quantity and quality of the colostrum produced by the cow has a direct correlation to the dam’s body condition score.

“A cow in good body condition will have the nutrition she needs to make the proteins to pass on the immunity to her calf,” White said.

He also emphasized the importance of calving in a dry, clean environment. “The immunity is only as effective as the challenges we put it under, so if the calf is born in a mud lot, the cow’s udder may be covered in mud, and that will give the calf a high pathogen challenge when it tries to nurse,” White said.

If supplementation is ultimately necessary, White and Weaber agreed that delivering the milk to the calf at the correct temperature is critical. The goal is feeding it at a temperature of 100°F, Weaber said. “It is best to warm up the milk in a hot water bath," White added. "If you microwave it, you will destroy a lot of those proteins.”

White and Weaber offered these five tips:

1. Maintain cows in good body condition to maximize the quality and quantity of the colostrum they produce;

2. Develop herd immunity by following a vaccination schedule;

3. Ensure that cows have a dry location in which to calve;

4. Have an intervention plan in place for colostrum supplementation, and

5. Keep intervention equipment such as a bottle or esophageal tube feeder on hand.

More information on this topic is available on a weekly podcast produced by BCI.

AFIA, Feedstuffs announce 2019 Feed Facility of the Year category winners

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The American Feed Industry Assn. and Feedstuffs are proud to announce the four category winners for the 2019 Feed Facility of the Year (FFY) program and congratulate Western Milling of Goshen, Calif., as the winner of the commercial dry livestock feed plant category; Koch Foods of Morton, Miss., as the winner of the integrator category; Quality Liquid Feeds of Menomonie, Wis., as the winner of the liquid feed plant category; and Trouw Nutrition of Nesoho, Mo., as the winner of the premix manufacturing plant category.   

“The FFY program aims to highlight excellence in feed facilities and I am very proud to say that each of these facilities has risen to a high level of quality and excellence,” said Gary Huddleston, AFIA’s director of feed manufacturing and regulatory affairs. “After months of thoroughly reviewing applications and touring facilities to determine these winners, AFIA is thrilled to announce them, and we look forward to naming the overall winner next week at the International Production & Processing Expo. We hope all applicants receive the value the benchmarking program tool provides in helping them on their journey toward continuous improvement.” 

The FFY award program is recognized as a first-class benchmarking program for the animal food industry. It compares and recognizes top-performing facilities in four categories: commercial dryfeed, integrator, liquid feed and premix, and from those, an overall winner is selected to receive the FFY award.   

The overall FFY winner will be announced Jan. 29 during AFIA’s Feed Production Education Program, which will be held as part of IPPE, happening in Atlanta, Ga., Jan. 28-30.

Western Milling – Commercial Dry Feed Category Winner

Western Milling of Goshen, Calif., wins the 2019 FFY commercial dry livestock feed category.

Through employee ownership and a commitment to providing trusted nutrient solutions, Western Milling’s goal has been to provide long-term value for its employees and customers for more than 80 years. Western Milling’s facility in Goshen, Calif., is one of the largest and most diverse animal food production operations in the U.S., producing more than 1.4 million tons of dry commercial feed annually. The facility currently handles more than 1,200 active and unique formulations.

Despite its large size and diverse operations, Western Milling has had no issue making feed safety a priority. With such large volume, efficiency is key. In a goal setting process, Buster Freeman, director of commercial feed operations at Goshen, discovered additional automation would improve the operation’s overall quality and efficiency. The end result was the incorporation of a WEM system that allowed for the automation of nearly all functions of formula import and management, scheduling and feed production across seven mixing systems. Since the project went live in 2017, Freeman has seen dramatic and immediate results.

“The bottom line is that our products are safer, higher in quality and produced more efficiently as a result of this investment in automation,” said Freeman.

Koch Foods – Integrator Category Winner

Koch Foods of Morton, Miss., wins the 2019 FFY integrator category for the second year in a row.

At Koch Foods, cleanliness and safety go hand in hand and are the center of the team’s daily mission. “A clean work area is a safe work area” is the messaging prominently displayed at the mill located in Morton, Miss., and to mill manager Frank Garczynski, those aren’t merely words. Producing nearly 800,000 tons of feed per year and providing feed for the company's birds is a big task, making organization and cleanliness in the facility even more essential.  

The mill has a built-in vacuum system for cleaning, which has been upgraded in the past year to allow for even more effective cleanups. The new vacuum system is available to all levels of the facility and allows the team to carry the hose from area to area and simply plug it in. Garczynski noted that with the 30 horse motor, it is very effective at removing dust.

“Cleanliness is important not only from a safety and quality standpoint, but it also helps with employee morale and retention,” said Garczynski. “The facility is often visited by the Koch management team and potential and existing customers.”

Quality Liquid Feeds – Liquid Feed Category Winner

Quality Liquid Feeds of Menomonie, Wis., wins the 2019 FFY liquid feed category.

Quality Liquid Feeds (QLF) has been dedicated to providing excellent customer service for over 42 years, growing over the years from a primarily Midwestern marketer of liquid feed supplements to a full-line liquid feed and cooked low-moisture block organization that serves the animal feeding industry nationwide. It is an innovative leader in the development and manufacturing of liquid feed supplements. The Menomonie, Wis., plant, one of 17 in the QLF network of manufacturing facilities, fulfills the customer-focused vision by focusing on continuous improvement.

In 2018, the Menomonie plant completed a nearly $600,000 infrastructure project to help the team deliver excellent customer service. The improvement focused on increasing ingredient storage capacity, containment and handling and production process efficiency while expanding custom formulations to meet individual customers’ needs. QLF also has its own fleet of trucks and trailers. Nick Brandon, the Menomonie plant manager for most of 2019, feels it provides for a better experience for customers when they do their own trucking and hauling.

“What makes QLF outstanding is the excellent customer service we provide,” said Brandon. “We are available for customers of every sizes, from small operations all the way up to large corporations.”

Trouw Nutrition – Premix Category Winner

Trouw Nutrition of Neosho, Mo., wins the 2019 FFY premix category. The facility was also the 2016 Feed Facility of the Year overall and premix category winner.

As a nutrition-focused company, Trouw Nutrition’s Neosho, Mo., mill strives to provide the safest, highest-quality blends and ingredients to the pet food industry, giving pets a healthier, happier life. High quality and safety doesn’t come easy – the mill employs extensive internal quality control procedures so every premix is evaluated and touched by the facility’s staff an average of 101 times before heading to a customer. 

Plant manager Doug Vanjoff credits, among other things, the facility's computer-controlled systems for in-process analysis, quality control and strict on-site quality assurance programs designed to satisfy the highest industry standards. Since Trouw Nutrition acquired the facility in 2007, the Neosho mill has received more than $7 million in upgrades. Trouw also holds six quality certifications, including AFIA’s Safe Feed/Safe Food Certification Program, FSC32 (manufacture of pet food) and FSC34 (manufacture of animal feeds), FAMI-QS, hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP), restricted-use protein products (RUPP) free, and Ractopamine Free. 

“Combined with our commitment to procuring only the finest ingredients, we are fully committed to protecting our customers’ brands and ensuring pets receive the safest, highest-quality food,” said Vanjoff. “Our team focuses 100% on animal well-being and safety. We pride ourselves on taking the necessary steps to confirm ingredients and finished products to meet or exceed our customers’ standards.” 

AFIA and Feedstuffs have conducted the FFY, and its predecessor program, since 1985, recognizing 73 total companies for outstanding performance in animal food manufacturing. More information on the FFY program, as well as a list of past winners, can be found on AFIA’s website. 

Founded in 1909, AFIA, based in Arlington, Va., is the world’s largest organization devoted exclusively to representing the business, legislative and regulatory interests of the U.S. animal food industry and its suppliers. The organization’s membership is comprised of more than 680 domestic and international companies that represent the total feed industry—manufacturers of commercial and integrated feed and pet food, ingredient suppliers, pharmaceutical companies, industry support and equipment manufacturers. AFIA members manufacture more than 75 percent of the feed and 70 percent of the non-grain ingredients used in the country. AFIA is also recognized as the leader on international industry developments, and holds membership in the International Feed Industry Federation.

Feedstuffs is the authoritative source of news and insight for animal agriculture’s industry professionals. Its products include a monthly print issue; daily, weekly and monthly enewsletters, and a variety of digital communication products.

Quality is focus at Trouw's Neosho plant

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As a nutrition-focused company, Trouw Nutrition’s Neosho, Mo., mill strives to provide the safest, highest-quality blends and ingredients to the pet food industry, giving pets a healthier, happier life.  

The Neosho plant is the 2019 American Feed Industry Assn./Feedstuffs Feed Facility of the Year award winner in the premix category. The facility was the 2016 Feed Facility of the Year overall and premix category winner. The recognition was made during AFIA’s Feed Education Program held at the 2020 International Production & Processing Expo in Atlanta, Ga.

A commitment to continuous improvement and excellence in the manufacturing process is a key operational philosophy at the Neosho premix plant. Trouw holds a total of six quality certifications, including AFIA’s Safe Feed/Safe Food Certification Program, Safe Quality Food Level 2 Food Sector Category 32 (manufacture of pet food) and Category 34 (manufacture of animal feed), FAMI-QS, hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP), restricted-use protein products (RUPP) free, and Ractopamine Free.

A top priority has long been listening to customers and doing whatever it takes to help them achieve their product and manufacturing objectives, according to plant manager Doug Vanjoff.

According to Vanjoff, the design of the Neosho facility allows for a wide range of manufacturing options to meet unique customer requirements, ranging from the handling of specialty raw materials to adhering to a wide variety of packaging requirements. Vanjoff credits, among other things, the facility's computer-controlled systems for in-process analysis, quality control and strict on-site quality assurance programs designed to satisfy the highest industry standards.

Owned by BASF before being acquired in 2007, the Neosho facility has received more than $7 million in upgrades since then. Trouw Nutrition USA is an operating unit of Nutreco, a global animal nutrition company based in the Netherlands. In March 2001, Nutreco purchased Ducoa and formed the U.S. business unit known as Trouw Nutrition USA. Building upon more than 100 years of history, Nutreco employs approximately 12,000 people in 37 countries, with sales in 90 countries. The company overall operates some 120 plants.

“Our team focuses 100% on animal well-being and safety. We pride ourselves on taking the necessary steps to confirm ingredients and finished products meet or exceed our customers’ standards,” said Vanjoff. He added that extensive internal quality control procedures are in place so every premix is evaluated and touched by the facility’s staff an average of 101 times before heading to a customer.

“Combined with our commitment to procuring only the finest ingredients, we are fully committed to protecting our customers’ brands and ensuring pets receive the safest, highest-quality food,” Vanjoff said.

New to the facility in 2019 is a stand-alone, one-ton stainless steel mixer and packaging line. Installation and validation were completed in April 2019 at an investment of $300,000.

“In response to consumer demand, the North American pet food industry is providing numerous unique, niche pet foods that utilize a variety of specialty ingredients, such as ancient grains, fruits, vegetables and various functional ingredients. Pet food manufacturers are unable to carry all the various ingredients required and have relied on custom preblends to meet the ingredient requirements. The variety of product offerings has greatly impacted plant efficiencies, since manufacturers now have shorter production runs and more changeovers to make these unique products,” said Vanjoff.

Trouw Nutrition USA has found business success by catering to this growing trend through its current capability to blend small volumes of custom premix. The Neosho mill is an important premixing facility for Trouw. It has warehousing space and a stellar reputation for delivering quality. Additionally, a significant amount of pet food manufacturing is done within 150 miles of Neosho, providing a strategic logistical advantage.

The Neosho mill has a universal worker program that requires employees to spend a minimum of 2.5 calendar months of training in each of the five production areas. To move from one area to the next, employees must demonstrate their competency through written tests upon which they must score a 90% or higher mark.

A new employee orientation program, contractor training program, regular reviews of standard operating procedures, monthly food safety training and monthly supervisor/employee coaching sessions to discuss goals and issues are also regular operating protocol. Likewise, safety discussions are part of each shift and include a review of the previous day's documented observations.

On a monthly basis, each shift and/or department has its own safety meetings, the notes from which are then sent to the safety committee to review, discuss and evaluate each new action item for opportunities for improvement. Safety training schedules are established each year based on current requirements. Each topic is reviewed with all affected employees with documented signing sheets.

The Neosho facility follows an internal quality program for safeguarding products and services. The program uses a single, consistent quality approach, thereby creating value for customers, its food chain partners and Nutreco.

The five pillars operated under are: certified quality and food safety, ingredient assessment and management, monitoring and control, risk management and tracking and tracing. The Neosho facility has a written housekeeping program that covers the entire site. Each job position has a specific list with assigned tasks that must be completed on a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis.

Each ingredient and finished premix is tested with near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy, providing rapid, non-destructive elemental analysis on premixes and ingredients. Using discriminant analysis, a qualitative statistical technique, the NIR spectra results of a single sample can be compared to that of the comprehensive collection of historical data in Trouw Nutrition’s extensive proprietary database. Through this comparison, lab technicians can discern if and where the sample deviates from the accepted “norm” established by the historical data.

Each month, the Food Safety/Food Defense team performs a walkthrough to identify areas that may need extra attention. An action list is then created to track and follow each item through to completion.

Additionally, a dedicated sanitation employee maintains and cleans the facility, and the tasks are documented in the company's maintenance management software.

All employees enter the facility through a designated area and are required to change into company-issued uniforms prior to entry. Storage racks contain outlines of specific tools to ensure that all items are accounted for throughout the day. Likewise, color coding of various facility tools provides employees with a quick reference to determine which items can be in contact with each specific product.

The Neosho facility has gone more than 10 years without a lost time accident.

“I believe we are outstanding because of the people we have doing their jobs day in and day out. What we do is critical not only for us but for our customers. We need to protect the integrity of the customers’ brand by ensuring that our quality programs are the most innovative and state-of-the-art,” Vanjoff said.

Cleanliness, safety go hand in hand at Koch's Morton mill

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"A clean work area is a safe work area.” That is the messaging prominently displayed at the Koch Farms mill located in Morton, Miss., and, to mill manager Frank Garczynski those aren’t merely words. A clean facility and a safe work environment go hand in hand and are the center of his team’s daily mission.

The Morton mill produces nearly 800,000 tons of feed per year. It all goes to the poultry integrator’s farms located in the surrounding region.

Koch Farms is part of Koch Foods, a food processor and distributor based in Park Ridge, Ill., that is considered among the largest private companies in the U.S. Started as a one-room operation in 1985, Koch Foods is today considered one of the nation’s largest vertically integrated poultry producers, with locations across Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee.

The poultry integrator kills 2 million large and small chickens in the region each week, all of which are fed from its feed mill located in Morton, Miss. “We have approximately 11 million birds on feed all the time. Quality and output are essential,” Garczynski said.

The Morton facility is the American Feed Industry Assn./Feedstuffs Feed Facility of the Year award winner for the Integrator Category for 2019, repeating its similar win from 2018."

Koch’s Morton mill, built in 2009 runs three production shifts each business day and produces about 125 semi-truck loads of feed per day.

The Morton mill is one of five mills in the Koch Foods system. It provides feed for all of the company's birds in Mississippi and runs Monday through Friday, with the exception of holidays. On Thanksgiving, the staff gets off for dinner but then starts production again on the second shift. The mill doesn't operate on Christmas Eve but does open late morning on Christmas Day. On any major holiday that the mill is open, Koch offers a meal to those who have to work.

One safety precaution taken when the mill was constructed was to keep the mill's legs out of the tower so the tower's integrity would not be jeopardized in the unlikely event of an explosion.

The mill also has a built-in vacuum system for cleaning. That system has been upgraded in the past year to allow for even more effective cleanups. Garczynski said the new vacuum system is available to all levels of the facility and allows the team to just carry the hose from area to area and plug it in. With a 30 horse motor, it really does a great job of getting up the dust, he said.

Cleanliness is important not only from a safety and quality standpoint, but it also helps with employee morale and retention, Garczynski said. He noted, too, that the facility is often visited by the Koch management team and potential and existing customers.

A safety meeting is held monthly is also a communication event, with formula changes explained, ideas exchanged and any other important issue that needs to be known discussion between the three shifts.

The facility’s safety committee is made up of employees plus the assistant manager and meets regularly. More formally in 2019 than in the past, two mill employees now attend a monthly live safety meeting at the hatchery to represent the mill. Garczynski said he attends a monthly complex safety meeting of all production facilities.

The Morton mill has worked 526,875 hours as of Nov. 15, 2019, without a lost time accident. The last lost time incident at the mill was July 1, 2014. The mill is considered in the top 5% of individual mill capacities worldwide, and it is all done in just five days a week.

A significant capital improvement project at the Morton facility during 2019 has been the addition of a maintenance parts/equipment storage building. The facility has upwards of 325 grouped areas of equipment in its parts management system. Garczynski explained that they can’t risk downtime at the mill as it can have significant ramifications throughout the rest of the production system. The new 70x40 maintenance parts/equipment storage building is where the parts are inventoried and stored to allow for easy access when needed.   A Lean Management influenced 6-S organization (sort; set in order; shine; standardize; sustain; & safety) was used to lay out building contents.

Prior to the new maintenance/parts building, Garczynski said, organization was nearly impossible and cleanliness in that part of the facility was a struggle. “It was very difficult to lay hands on, or know what parts were accessible quickly,” Garczynski said. He estimates there is about a million dollars of spare critical parts on hand.

On the live product side of the business, Garczynski said the company achieves some of the best feed conversions in the industry. In fact, its cost of production per pound of meat is considered to be in the top 5%.

The Morton mill operates with 18 production employees, six maintenance employees, four clerical employees, three supervisory employees and 12 truck drivers. In addition to its own fleet of trucks, the mill relies on a dedicated contractor fleet.

The fully automated areas of the mill are receiving, grain processing, batching,  pelleting, and bulk loadout. A 100-car corn train can be unloaded at the mill in 12-14 hours. A 100-ton soybean meal car can be unloaded in 15 minutes in the winter. The facility has a scale built directly into its rail line so individual car weights can be recorded and billing adjusted as necessary.

The mill has six mixing scales. A Hays & Stolz 10-ton double-shaft mixer with an average mixing time of 100 seconds allows for 420 tons to be produced per hour. Three CPM pellet mills with double 16 ft. conditioners allow for the production of 225 tons per hour. Three Geelen counter flow pellet coolers and two pairs of crumble rolls round out the process.

 

Western Milling's Goshen mill focused on production efficiency

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Recognizing more than an 80-year history and commitment to the feed industry in California, Western Milling strives for continuous investment in people and manufacturing technology. Through employee ownership and a commitment to providing trusted nutrient solutions, the company’s goal is to provide long-term value for its employees and customers in the region.

As was founder Otto Kruse’s motto: Know thy customer and strive for their success.

Western Milling’s facility in Goshen, Cal., is one of the largest and most diverse animal food production operations in the U.S., producing more than 1.4 million tons of dry commercial feed annually. The facility, acquired by the company in 2000, has seen substantial expansion and currently handles more than 1,200 active and unique formulations.

The facility is the 2019 American Feed Industry Assn./Feedstuffs Feed Facility of the Year award winner in the commercial dry category. The company was recognized for its achievement during the International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE) in Atlanta at the end of January.

With such large volume, efficiency is key. Buster Freeman, director of commercial feed operations at Goshen, explained that during the company’s goal setting process in 2016, it was identified that additional automation would improve the operation’s overall quality and efficiency. After review, it was determined that, at the time, only about 20% of the volume produced was at what would be considered a high level of execution when compared to modern industry best practices.

"I am extremely proud of the Western Milling team in achieving this recognition. Buster Freeman, Dan Rice and Rene Urquia have done an amazing job over past three years at successfully changing our company culture to bring us into this new era of regulatory oversight without sacrificing production efficiency, corporate integrity or employee safety," said Kevin Kruse, president of Western Milling.

The end result was the incorporation of a WEM system that allowed for the automation of nearly all functions of formula import and management, scheduling and feed production across seven mixing systems. The project was taken live in 2017 and the results, Freeman said, were dramatic and immediate.

With a total investment in the project of $500,000, improvements were seen in quality and food safety, traceability and overall efficiency in mixed feed production. Greater accuracy was achieved in measurements to identify and further minimize shrink. The estimated payback on the investment included an 18% improvement in labor efficiency.

“The bottom line is that our products are safer, higher in quality and produced more efficiently as a result of this investment in automation,” said Freeman. It was noted that at Western Milling there are consistently several large projects in the works so as to continually support the large volume of mixed feed manufactured out of the Goshen location.

From the standpoint of safety, Western Milling has implemented a traditional safety management system that includes behavior-based programs, processes, procedures, training, audits and inspections with an emphasis upon prevention and quick hazard identification and correction. “Our aim is the ensure that all employees return home safely at the end of the day,” Freeman said.

In 2019, Western Milling held over 125 instructor-led training sessions, with a focus on information employees need to know to not only perform their jobs safely and without incident, but to watch out for their team members as well.

Participation in safety training is tied to company’s annual safety incentive. To qualify for the incentive, employees are required to complete 100% of their assigned safety training and participate in the company’s safety observation program.

To create an environment conducive to learning, Western Milling has a dedicated onsite training building, equipped with a computer lab, where all training and employee meetings are held.

In 2015, Western Milling empowered its employees through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). The change in company structure has strengthened the company’s culture by uniting employee owners and aligning decision making to focus on what is optimal for both customers and the company.

At Western Milling, decisions are not solely made through an economic lens, Freeman said, noting that in the past several years the company has adopted the following company values:
1) Own it
2) Do the right thing
3) Care of each other
4) Strive for our customers’ success

He said some employees even carry small cards with them as both a reminder to live the values and provide a framework for decision making to ensure the focus stays on people safety first, food safety second and customer service third.

“For us engagement is about employee connection and experience. It’s the strength of mental and emotional connection employees feel toward the work they do, their teams and the overall organization. It’s also how they experience the organization day to day, with a focus on creating a place where employees want to be,” Freeman and his team stated in their award application. The company began its formal engagement initiative in 2017 with the launch of its first annual engagement survey.

The Goshen mill is supported by six full-time quality assurance professionals. The team also oversees the company’s four additional commercial feed facilities in California and a facility in Arizona.

On an average day in Goshen, some 150 full truckloads of mixed, pelleted or mash feed are shipped out of the facility. The mill produces dairy, poultry, swine, beef and goat feed.

The Goshen mill also is a bit unique in that it operates an on-site, in-process testing lab. The intent of the lab is not to product proximate results but rather to support the manufacturing operation with quick and affordable analyses to ensure the feed produced is safe.

In total, the Goshen mill has 67 production employees, 20 maintenance employees, 40 clerical employees, 6 supervisory employees, and 50 truck drivers. The plant runs two shifts per day, 7 days per week.

Western Milling’s legacy began in 1935 when Otto Kruse purchased F.F. Booker Wholesale Hay & Grain in the middle of the Great Depression. Upon purchase, he restructured the company and renamed it O.H. Kruse Grain & Milling. In 1994, the Kruse family, who still owned and managed the business, sold O.H. Kruse to British company Tate & Lyle, Ltd. In 2000, after 6 years out of the feed business, CEO Kevin Kruse desired to return to his roots and partnered with Tony Correia, company President, to acquire the Goshen facility, then a Louis Rich feed mill, and Western Milling was born. In 2001, Western Milling purchased the O.H. Kruse Grain & Milling business unit, including the Perfection brand, back from a competitor, returning to the retail feed business where the company's heritage began.

 

QLF Menomonie mill focused on service, quality

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With its eye on the future and another expansion planned, the Quality Liquid Feeds Inc. operation in Menomonie, Wis., is poised for growth and working toward the next generation.

The facility is the Liquid Feed Category winner of the American Feed Industry Assn./Feedstuffs Feed Facility of the Year award program for 2019.

The Menomonie plant, constructed in 1984, is one of 17 in the QLF network of manufacturing facilities. It has been managed by plant manager Nick Brandon for most of the past four plus years, including most of 2019 until he moved to the company’s Muskogee, Okla., facility. Brandon’s replacement is Jake Detwiler. He took over the Menomonie plant in November.

“What makes QLF outstanding is the excellent customer service we provide,” said Brandon. He noted that they are available for customers of every sizes, from small operations all the way up to large corporations.

In 2018, a nearly $600,000 infrastructure project was completed at the Menomonie plant that is helping the team with its customer-focused vision. That improvement focused on increasing ingredient storage capacity, containment and handling and production process efficiency while expanding custom formulations to meet individual customers needs.

The newly installed tanks and piping that were added as part of the 2018 upgrade are designed to work in all of Wisconsin’s seasons. Process controls have been added that are compatible with future automation. The completed project allows for an even larger-scale second phase project that is in the final approval stage. The second phase of the project would be focused on an expansion of the production site and addition of a new office building.

The current facility produces an annual tonnage of 70,000 plus tons with 75% being for dairy cattle. Six- to 24-ton batches are commonly run manufactured out of the Menomonie facility. Brandon said they are generally all customized.   The Menomonie plant operates two shifts a day

QLF has its own fleet of trucks and trailers. “We feel it provides for a better experience for our customers when we do our own trucking and hauling,” said Brandon. He noted they are able to service the entire QLF regional sales area with company-owned trucks and QLF drivers.

At QLF, employee safety and health begin at the top and that is why the company relies on its employees to adopt a strong commitment to both through their active involvement in the company’s safety and health program. Monthly safety training is held to ensure an ongoing effort to maintain a safe working environment. There is a total of 10 employees at the Menomonie plant, two of which are maintenance employees, one clerical and two supervisory.

Training is another commitment that QLF makes. Each team member is provided with the education and understanding to perform job responsibilities and adhere to company policies and procedures with the goal of supporting the manufacture of safe, quality feed.

All QLF employees, including new, full-time, contracted and temporary employees as well as maintenance personnel, are trained in good manufacturing practices and job-related responsibilities.

Weekly meetings are held within the facility to allow for employee feedback and questions as well as a way of keeping the team informed and involved.  Employee pizza days are held to create camaraderie among employees and allow for some downtime while at work.

“It’s all about promoting an environment in which employees can take ownership of their work, along with pride in what they do.” “We all understand our products aid in the profitability of our customers and we have to make them right the first time and every time.”  Brandon said. 

QLF, headquartered in Dodgeville, Wis., is a family-owned, American company that has been serving customers for more than 42 years. It is a nationwide, innovative leader in the development and manufacturing of liquid feed supplements.

QLF has grown over the years from a primarily Midwestern marketer of liquid feed supplements to a full-line liquid feed and cooked low-moisture block organization that serves the animal feeding industry nationwide. 

In addition, QLF manufactures and markets a premium line of products to enhance the appearance, palatability and performance of specialized texturized feeds primarily for horses, calves and show animals. QLF also markets and distributes quality cane molasses directly to feed manufacturers.

Tougher salmonella standards on their way

Pending changes to Food Safety & Inspection Service performance standards will result in more stringent standards for salmonella control at the meat processor level. These charges are expected to go into effect sometime early this year and will be an opportunity for hog producers and processors to re-evaluate good safety precautions.

We caught up with Dr. Steve Larsen of Arm & Hammer Animal & Food Production at the Iowa Pork Congress to talk about the new standards and what can be done at all levels of the production system to ensure food safety.
 

 

 

 

FEEDSTUFFS IN FOCUS: Individualized sow care offers production advantages

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Increased sow mortality rates have a serious impact on farm profitability and employee morale. Issues including lameness, feet and leg issues and prolapses are all significant aspects of rising sow mortality rates.

Research published in 2018 from veterinarians at the Swine Vet Center in St. Peter, Minnesota, estimate that prolapses on a 2,500-sow farm cost roughly $34 per inventoried sow or $850 per prolapsed sow. Earlier research from the University of Minnesota found that reducing sow mortality from 10% to 6% would add $4,000/year in income for a 600-sow farm, or roughly 33 cents per weaned pig.

In this week’s episode, we talk with a veterinarian at Zoetis about her company’s effort to teach production managers the value of conducting health, welfare and performance assessments on every sow, from every breed group, every day.

This episode of Feedstuffs In Focus is sponsored by Hog Slat, and their new 54-inch Infinity fan. By utilizing advanced motor technology, this fan offers precise variable speed control with lower energy costs and reduced maintenance. Learn more at Hog Slat.com.

At this week’s Iowa Pork Congress in Des Moines, Zoetis introduced their Individual Sow Care program — a comprehensive, on-farm training program designed to get production managers and on-farm caregivers on board with daily health, welfare and performance assessments – for every sow.

Veterinarian Eva Jablonski says sow mortality rates in the U.S. have increased dramatically in recent years and now average about 15 percent, leading Zoetis to create a training program focused on proactively assessing sow health, performance, body condition and environment as part of the quest to improve sow longevity and productivity.

For more information, visit Feedstuffs online.
Follow Feedstuffs on Twitter @Feedstuffs, or join the conversation via Facebook.

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Grassley formally signs USMCA before sending to President

Sen. Chuck Grassley's office 2020-01-22 USMCA Signing Event.jpg

Senate Finance Committee chairman Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), as president pro tempore of the Senate, led a bill enrollment ceremony Wednesday to sign the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) Implementation Act. Grassley’s signing of the legislation is the final step before it goes to President Donald Trump for his signature to become law.

Several Republican senators joined Grassley and offered brief remarks regarding the benefits of USMCA and the overall momentum created on the trade front for U.S. agriculture. Grassley noted that the bill itself will offer access for additional U.S. agricultural products to Canada. The legislation passed with strong bipartisan support in the Senate last week by a vote of 89-10, following a 385-41 vote in the House in December.

“After three years, we’ve seen some success from [Trump's] trade policies, and USMCA is the best example of this right now,” Grassley said.

Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio), who served as a U.S. Trade Representative ambassador during the George W. Bush Administration, said the deal is great for farmers. “We have a lot of people who are looking for that light at the end of the tunnel, because it’s been tough with the tariffs and the weather and low prices even going into the China tariff issue,” Portman said. “People are enthused about this.”

Sen. John Hoeven (R., N.D.) noted the benefits for wheat producers under the deal in that Canada is no longer allowed to automatically classify U.S. wheat as feed grade and, in turn, reduce prices offered to U.S. wheat producers.

“The real solution are markets, and that’s what these agreements are all about,” Hoeven said regarding USMCA, a phase one agreement with China, a deal with Japan and maybe the European Union around the corner, in addition to a deal that already will triple the amount of U.S. beef shipped to the EU.

Senate Agriculture Committee chairman Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) said he was “delighted” by the bill’s passage and noted that the farm bill received 84 votes in the Senate, while USMCA achieved 89. He added, “This shows we can get something done in a very divided Congress.”

Sen. Deb Fischer (R., Neb.) called USMCA a “remarkable achievement” that is especially important to her state, as agriculture is the economic engine, with one in four jobs in Nebraska directly related to production agriculture.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R., Iowa) added that Canada and Mexico are the top trade partners for her state. "If you add up the next 27 countries that Iowa does trade with -- add them all together -- they still don't equal the trade that Iowa does with Mexico and Canada," she said.

Grassley was also joined at the signing event by Sens. Martha McSally (R., Ariz.) and Roy Blunt (R., Mo.).

Mexico's Senate already approved the deal, so with Trump’s signature, Canada becomes the only country that hasn’t ratified the pact yet. Canada’s legislative body is expected to consider USMCA at the end of January.