Feed Operations: Planning a new feed mill

by Fred Fairchild
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In my last article, I discussed in depth things to consider in choosing a site for a new facility. Now, I am going to discuss other factors that must be considered if you want to build a feed mill. Many of these same things are also applicable when building other types of grain storage and processing facilities. This will be the first in a series of articles.

When planning to build a new feed mill, many inputs are needed to make good decisions. This includes input from sales, nutrition, production, purchasing and financing. You need to establish initial and future production requirements. Who is your competition and what products might you produce that they don’t? Is there a shortage of normal feed types that others can’t or don’t supply? Determine the initial production capacity at startup and at future times. Determine how many hours a day the facility will operate at startup and in the future as sales increase. Future production requirements should include estimates of minimum and maximum amounts of production needed at intervals in the future such as three years, five years or more so that the initial design can be expanded to meet the future production needs.

Although driven by sales and production, the mill must have cash flow in order to pay for construction and operating costs, and to produce a profit for the facility.

One of the first considerations in designing a feed mill is to determine the types of products to be made and what part of the total production requirements they each comprise. As an example, look at the types of feed and the part of the total production requirements of each.

Information from the table determines the steps needed to manufacture each type of product and helps determine the equipment needed to make the products. We will look at these steps individually in coming articles.

Estimated production rates

Let’s begin our evaluation for building a feed mill by looking at estimated annual production rates broken down into monthly, weekly or daily production requirements. Even though you decide on annual production rates, the amount of feed made in that year is not evenly spread out of the 12-month period.

If you are building a commercial mill serving public customers, your production needs will vary at different times of the year. Your heaviest production periods will probably occur during the fall and winter months. If you are building a feed mill for a single species integrated operation, your production rate may be nearly the same week to week and month to month.

Another important consideration is the number of different formulations you make and the number of different ones that might be made in a given day. A commercial mill might offer many products with formulations for each. On the other hand, an integrator facility might only make five to six total formulas. The more formulas made in a day, the time to make them will include all things needed to stop one formula and start another. Again, it is important to design the mill for the formulas needed to be made in a day. The mill needs to be designed to deliver an hourly production that will support the needed production from the mill. This production rate will be controlled by the number of hours per day or week that the mill is operated.

Let’s take a look at figuring the needed hourly production rate for a mill. Assume that initially the mill wants to produce 2,000 tons per week operating 40 hours per week. Two years later, the projected mill capacity will need to be 3,000 tons per week. And production will operate 50 hours per week. In five years the projected capacity needs to be 5,500 bushels per week and production will operate 96 hours per week.

As can be seen, the maximum hourly production rate would be 60 tph when making 3,000 tpw. It is assumed the facility would pay a little overtime rather than adding a second shift. The same procedures may be used for determining the hourly production rates and the number of hours used to produce that feed for any mill design.

In calculating the design production rate for a mill, I use an 80% efficiency factor to allow for times when the production rate is stopped or slowed whether making many different formulas or seldom made formulas that use large quantities of a single ingredient. It also accounts for adding bagged ingredients or hand-added micro-ingredients such as medications.

For mills that only make a few formulas, the efficiency factor might be increased to 90% or more. Assuming the capacity rates required in Table 1 are for a commercial feed mill, making numerous different formulas, the design capacity rate would be 60 tph/.80 = 75 tph. We will use this design capacity in several places in future articles.

Delivery options

Let us consider the type of vehicle used to deliver the products. For bulk truck choices you need to determine whether it is to deliver single product loads or multiple product loads. This helps choose the number of compartments needed in a bulk truck or trailer. If you are using bulk trucks, should they all be alike or more than 1 type of bulk delivery truck. Likewise, if you deliver bagged feed, you need to decide what size of truck(s) are needed, box trucks or vans, or semi-trailers. In some cases, I have seen bulk delivery trucks with a compartment for also carrying bagged feed or other types of non-feed products you may sell. Decisions must be made on delivery trucks needed initially and at different points as production increases.

You do need to have enough delivery capacity to meet or exceed the hourly production rates. You also need to decide how many hours per day your delivery trucks will operate and if they are available for loading when needed. The truck loading may be done totally by a dispatcher (plant employee) or the truck driver who may or may not be a plant employee, or a combination of both. These decisions must be made to determine how many plant employees are needed for truck loading and delivery.

This is the first article of a series in which we will address the individual production steps and equipment needed to build a feed mill.

 
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