ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA, and MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA, U.S. — Cargill Animal Nutrition of Wooster, Ohio, U.S., is the 2011 Feed Mill of the Year, as named by the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) and Feedstuffs, the sponsors of the annual program, the groups announced on Dec. 5. Southern States Cooperative’s Winchester Mill in Winchester, Kentucky, U.S., is the runner-up.

“Wooster,” as the winning plant is known, is managed by Susanna Wright, only the second female plant manager to win Feed Mill of the Year.

“To be recognized externally by winning AFIA’s Feed Mill of the Year is a huge accomplishment, and reflects strongly on the entire team we have in place, from production stakeholders, to sales, to administrative support,” she said.

Constructed in 1993, the plant was built to cater to the dairy market in northeastern Ohio. The mill manufactures 42,000 tonnes of feed, split between bagged and bulk, including meals, pellets and textured feeds. Both inbound ingredients and finished feeds are tested for various quality specifications monthly, at a minimum, and all plant scales are certified externally twice a year.

Once Wooster expanded to carry Nutrena bagged farmstore feeds, the plant’s territory grew to include distribution in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky. In the late 1990s, a 10,000-square-foot addition to the warehouse was built to accommodate the Cargill Animal Nutrition brand family which includes Showmaster brand show feeds, Record Rack wildlife feeds and Right Now Mineral. Over the last three years, the facility has installed over $1 million in new equipment to accommodate sustained growth.

Cargill’s Wooster plant was certified in 2010 by AFIA’s Safe Feed/Safe Food Certification Program. The mill is in compliance with the Bio Terrorism Act and has been inspected by the FDA within the last year and deemed compliant. Moreover, the mill has an SPCC Plan that has been certified by a professional engineer.

Cargill Wooster has 10 production employees, one maintenance employee, five truck drivers and one clerical employee who work on two shifts. The plant has a written recall program, safety program, a written emergency plan and a safety committee with five rotating members represented by both supervisor and non-supervisory employees. Twelve employees hold CPR-certification.

Key to Wooster’s success is the focus on employee engagement, Wright said.

“Our continued success out of this location speaks volumes for the team we have in place, both past and present,” she said.

Wooster has had zero lost-time accidents since 2004.

“I feel incredibly privileged to work for a company that places such a high emphasis on the safety of its employees,” Wright said. “There is never a doubt in my mind that when it comes down to doing a job, safety comes first; this is apparent in both day to day operations here at Wooster, and long-term planning around how we continue to grow our business.”

The Southern States Cooperative’s Winchester Mill (Winchester) is the runner-up for the 2011 Feed Mill of the Year. Constructed in 1976, the mill manufactures 73,000 tonnes of feed annually, at a 75% to 25% bag to bulk ratio, focusing primarily on pelleted and textured bag horse feeds, in addition to bags for dairy, beef, swine, horse, poultry, sheep, goat, rabbit and wildlife feeds.

Winchester is fully automated in all manufacturing processes. Fully integrated PLC-based controls assure accuracy, consistency and the integrity of all formula feeds and ingredients. The mill utilizes a bar code hand-add system to insure all micro nutrients and medications are accurately measured into formula feeds. In addition, the mill operates a stand-alone Computer Maintenance Management System. All equipment is bar coded and maintenance employees utilize PDA’s to perform preventive and work order based maintenance, an example of technology helping to streamline operations and insure equipment is maintained at peak performance.

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.

“The caliber of the top two plants made selection the 2011 Feed Mill of the Year an extremely difficult decision,” said AFIA’s Keith Epperson, vice-president of manufacturing and training. “Both mills should be commended for their commitment to safety and their commitment to the feed industry by continuously manufacturing quality products.”

Over 80 feed facilities competed for this year’s award, an increase over last year’s entrants. Epperson believes this is due in part to the value of the feedback a facility receives by entering. The data can be used to compare a mill’s standards against similar facilities in the industry, a useful tool for any mill to have.