ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA, U.S. — Southern States Cooperative’s Roanoke Feed Mill, Vinton, Virginia, U.S., has been named the 2012 Feed Mill of the Year, the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) announced on Oct. 1, which sponsors the award with Feedstuffs.
The Southern States’ Roanoke Feed Mill, which was built in 1982 (originally constructed in 1935), manufactures 104,400 tonnes of feed every year. Safety is of utmost concern for Roanoke and its 34 employees, AFIA said.
The feed mill is third-party HACCP certified, is Safe Feed/Safe Food certified and is in compliance with the Bio-Terrorism Act. The mill has been inspected by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) within the last year, and its Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) plan is certified by a professional engineer.
Roanoke has a written safety program, which includes self-inspection for Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compliance, as well as a written emergency plan. Its safety committee has four rotating members, comprised of both managing and non-managing employees. Minutes are taken at safety committee meetings and are posted in the mill.
Scales are calibrated on a quarterly basis and truck scales are checked every other month by an outside service. Rail weights are verified by comparing inventory by bin measurement to book. The mill has a buried storage tank and is in compliance with EPA regulations and has a predictive maintenance program in place.
On average, supervisors at the mill have been employed for 23 years. Non-managerial employees remain with Roanoke for an average of 15 years.
“Our dedicated people are very customer centric, driven to do the best they can for our loyal customers,” said Dave Jones, manager of the winning feed mill.
Roanoke takes pride in its programs to minimize waste, AFIA said. For starters, all usable paper including cardboard and office paper is baled for recycling. Wooden pallets are reused when possible or returned to the supplier for repair or to be ground for boiler fuel along with any other plant wood scraps. Plastic mini pallets are reused, sold to others as nearly new or recycled along with any other plant plastic scraps including used elevator buckets.
Non-medicated feeds including fines are reworked, while medicated feeds are reworked back into themselves. Ingredients from bin clean-outs are sent to a composter. Aluminum cans are sold along with other plant scrap metal and used drive oil is sold for boiler fuel. Liquid product totes are returned to their supplier for reuse and tote sacks are given to others for bulk storage. At Roanoke, very little outside of stretch wrap and glass bottles go into their waste stream along with mixed floor sweepings.
In addition to offering OSHA training for a number of safety courses, Roanoke offers training for: heat stress, fall protection, substance abuse, electrical safety, arc flash, respiratory protection, safely working in hot and cold conditions, ladder safety, safe lifting, housekeeping, safety rules, home safety, emergency action plan, evacuation drill, SPCC, hand protection, safe forklift operation and trucking safety issues including handling of overhead power lines, guards and conveyor safety. The mill is also compliant with OSHA’s new respiratory protection regulations.
Seven of the mill’s employees are certified in first aid and CPR. The mill also offers a hearing conservation program, and annual hearing tests are required. Southern States Cooperative’s Roanoke Feed Mill did not have any lost time accidents in over four years.
This is Southern States’ Roanoke Feed Mill’s first win for the Feed Mill of the Year program.
“For years we have danced around being the winner,” said Jones. “Finally, we got the brass ring from the old fashioned Merry Go Round!”
Kent Nutrition Group was named runner-up for the 2012 Feed Mill of the Year program. The plant, which manufactures 14,500 tonnes of feed annually, was constructed in 1964. The current receiving capacity of the mill is 36 tonnes per hour. Rockford has a total of 21 total ingredient bins and four pellet mill bins each with a 10-tonne capacity and twelve 10-tonne packaging bins and 30 bulk load out bins.
“The key to our success are the people. The employees at the Rockford plant have taken to heart what is required to be considered a top notch feed mill,” said Tom Smolen, plant manager of Rockford.
Rockford has a written safety program and emergency plan and OSHA training is offered in several areas. The feed mill offers additional safety training in the areas of: forklift operations, respiratory, emergency evacuation and tornado drills, back posture, proper lifting and railcar. All-staff safety meetings have been offered 42 times over the last year and there are nine employees on Rockford’s safety committee. There were no injuries, lost time accidents or unexcused absences during the last calendar year.
The plant has an SPCC plan certified by a professional engineer and a storm water pollution prevention plan. Rockford has been inspected by the FDA within the last year. The mill is HACCP, Safe Feed/Safe Food and ISO certified. The mill is in compliance with the Bio-Terrorism Act and had conducted a mock recall.
Several aspects of Rockford’s operations are automated, including receiving and routing. The plant weighs all incoming truck ingredients, double-checking ingredient setup prior to unloading. Truck scales are checked twice a year by an outside service and micro scales are checked monthly.
Kent Nutrition Group’s Rockford plant has a waste minimization program. The plant reworks as much product and setbacks as permitted, and takes pride in manufacturing a product correctly the first time to minimize setoffs. Paper, plastics and metals are recycled by local waste disposal.
“The Rockford employees embrace the Kent Vision of becoming a recognized leader in creating value through sustainable, nutritious, innovative foods and ingredients for the family. The people make an organization and this is a strong and dedicated group of personnel. They are always ready to show off their feed mill and demonstrate what they do at any time,” said Smolen.
Rockford handles complaints during off hours and has written procedures to handle service-related complaints. Production management of the Rockford plant also makes it a habit to visit customers and solicit feedback.
The annual Feed Mill of the Year award recognizes overall excellence in feed manufacturing operations. Increased safety, quality, regulatory compliance, operating efficiencies and overall industry awareness of food safety are among the criteria reviewed for each applicant.
“As is the case year after year, the quality of applicants to the Feed Mill of the Year program continues to increase,” said Keith Epperson, AFIA vice-president of manufacturing and training. “This year was no exception. Both the winner and the runner-up were at the top of an impressive group of contenders. Southern States – Roanoke and Kent Nutrition – Rockford should both be applauded not only for their obligation to their customers, but to their plants and the industry as a whole.” 
Over 80 feed facilities competed for this year’s award. According to Epperson, feed mills find value in the feedback and applicant data a facility receives by entering. This benchmarking data is a useful tool for any mill to have.
 “The AFIA program is a great recognition tool for how your plant and supporting teams relate to the industry standard.  It is one thing to be recognized for achievements within your particular organization; obtaining such a high form of recognition on an industry-wide basis really validates the internal metrics we use to measure success,” said Susanna Wright, plant manager of the 2011 Feed Mill of the Year.
The winner of the 2011 program was Cargill Animal Nutrition of Wooster, Ohio, U.S., and Southern States’ Winchester Mill in Winchester, Kentucky, U.S., was the runner-up.