WOOSTER, Ohio — A feed mill is often a loud and dusty place, and sometimes even a bit chaotic. But one mill in Wayne County is doing its best to keep things clean and orderly, and it paid off this year in the form of a national honor.
Cargill Animal Nutrition of Wooster has been named Feed Mill of the Year by the American Feed Industry Association and Feedstuffs newspaper.
Brad Carter, business development manager, said the award reflects the mill’s safety, efficiency, innovation and employee engagement — all factors in determining the annual winner.
There are scores of feed mills in and around Wayne County — home to some of the state’s highest livestock populations. But a stroll through the mill shows why it was honored.
“Every aspect of our production is computer controlled,” Carter said, pointing to computer monitors that control the unloading and mixing of various feed products.
Mill operators can keep track of the exact location of feed, how much is in different parts of the mill, and what’s being mixed. If there’s an operator error, the computer program is designed to refuse the command, to prevent costly mistakes.
Vaughn Puster, coordinator of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), said mill workers do everything they can to “make sure that the feed going out the door is safe for the customers,” and the animals.
The mill opened in 1994 and handles about 42,000 tons of feed annually — split between bagged and bulk feed — including meals, pellets and textured feeds.
Over the past three years, the mill invested more than $1 million of corporate funds in capital improvement projects, including a new pellet conditioner. The conditioner does a better job of retaining and conditioning feed starch, which Carter said improves the feed value and digestibility.
The mill has expanded its floor space and also added other new features, including a dust collection system that reduces the amount of dust in the air when feed is bagged.
Gary Cline, warehouse operator, has been with the mill since it opened. The mill is young compared to other area mills, but is always changing and developing to make a better feed, or meet a new demand.
“If you’re not open to change, then you probably shouldn’t be working here,” Cline said.
Plant Manager Susanna Wright said employee retention is strong, and many go bowling together over the weekend and participate in company meals. What helps most, she said, is they have ag experience and know what is expected.
“A lot of our guys come from agricultural backgrounds so they bring that to the table,” she said. “They know what corn should look like, they know what the finished product should look like.”
The staff includes 10 production employees, a half-dozen truckers, a maintenance worker and at least one person whose full job is consulting dairy farmers.
Cargill produces branded feeds like Nutrena, Showmaster, Record Rack and Triple Crown horse feed. Wooster is Ohio’s only Cargill mill and the feed is sold by dealers across the state.
The company, as well as the Wooster mill, is a regular supporter of FFA and 4-H. And the mill was among eight other Cargill businesses that participated in the Ohio Collaborative Hunger Relief fund drives of 2010 and 2011, raising over $500,000. The plant is also is involved with the Viola Startzman Free Clinic, Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank and Akron Children’s Hospital.
Carter and Wright said the award helps drive home the Cargill message of “nourishing animals: enriching lives,” and helps show the company is committed to its goals.
“For Cargill in Wooster, it just shores up the intent that we have to serve our customers and to serve them with solutions that ultimately are going to make animal husbandry more profitable for their operations,” Carter said.
The mill is holding a public open house March 9 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., to show customers and business partners its success. For more about Cargill and its products, visit www.cargill.com.