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March 16, 2018

Feed Mill

For both commercial farms and backyard hobbyists, feed mills are a necessity of life. Feed mills are able to consistently produce quality feed for our animals with the nutrition they need. But what actually occurs in a feed mill?

L A Hearne has been our source of feed for over 30 years and we were recently invited for a tour of their mill located in King City, California. Their manager, Mike Hearne, was very enthusiastic about showing us around, starting with the outside of the mill.

Marc Metzer on left, Mike Hearne on right
Every Thursday a train car rolls in with a delivery of corn which is emptied into a vent under the rails. The corn is then transferred to their grain storage building which contains different kinds of grain including corn, oats, barley, and rice.

Train car that carries the feed.
The mill caters to hundreds of customers including feed stores and other commercial growers, all with different feed needs for different animals ranging from our ducks, to horses, to rabbits! The feed is usually sold in bulk to commercial customers and put in 20, 50 and 80 pound bags for their feed store customers. All our feed is delivered in bulk - meaning it is augered directly from the feed truck into our feed tanks, and each truck has 24 tons of feed.
Feed truck delivering feed to our farm!

Bag for rabbit feed!

Some of the grain storage.
Determining what grain and additives to use and in what quantities in a feed ration is a fairly complex process with several factors needed to be taken into consideration. We will cover this in another post in the future.

Feed is made in batches of two tons. Prior to being ground and mixed, all the grains are sent through a sifter to remove any broken pieces of grain and any contaminates. The sifted grains are then sent into a grinder in preparation to be turned into pellets. Different vitamins and minerals are placed in bags beforehand, ready to be mixed into the ground grains. We were lucky to be visiting that day as they were mixing our feed!

Mixer in the floor mixing ground grains.
Vitamins and minerals going into our feed!

Mike showing Marc the mixer.
The complete, ground ration is called a mash. For some chicken and swine feed, this is the product’s final form. For others, the mash is flash steamed to increase the temperature and then, pushed through a pellet die, kind of like frosting through a piping tip. As the ropes of feed emerges from the die a knife cuts it into pellets of the desired length. By flash steaming the feed, all of the bacteria is destroyed, leaving a clean food source.

Pellet die prepped.
Feed being pushed through the die and forming pellets.
The pellets are then sent through a dryer to remove any leftover moisture, preventing mold. For more information on mash, pellets, and crumble feed, take a look at our post on the different forms of feed.

The final product is then packaged and shipped to customers and feed stores.

Mike manning the sewing machine.
Bag of feed heading for the shipping dock.

Thank you LA Hearne for a tour of your mill! Keep up the good work and see you next week!

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