Though Butterball purchases as much local grain as the two grain seasons — wheat in June and corn in September — will allow, the company ships the balance of its grain needs on unit trains from Ohio and Indiana. The facility anticipates receiving grain trains every other week, beginning in early December.
The company also added more storage to handle the volume of raw ingredients the 90-car unit trains will be delivering.
“We needed to expand the facility’s 250,000-bushel storage capacity to be able to hold the 340,000 bushel per train that we need unloaded in a 24-hour window,” Falls explains. As part of its storage expansion, Butterball added two new 250,000-bushel Brock grain bins.
In addition to its grain receiving, Butterball paid significant attention to its liquid rail receiving.
“The amount of fat the facility uses influenced the decision to make this investment,” Falls explains. “With nine feed mills in the area, truck fat availability can be tight in this area. Butterball’s purchasing looked at options to get fat pulled in from different geographic areas, and discovered it would be cheaper through rail rather than relying on trucking.”
The company installed a rail fat unloading station tied to the storage tanks via an underground pipeline, as Mercer explains, “to protect them from ingredient truck traffic.” Also, placing the pipes underground provides natural insulation. Fat tanker cars pump the steam-treated fat through lines encased in concrete under the driveway to tanks next to the mill. The site has 240 tons of fat storage.
“The direct delivery of fat to the storage area is the most efficient and provides a minimal chance for contamination,” he says
From mash to pellets
Falls, a veteran of the feed industry, drew on his expertise to head up the transformation of this one-time mash mill by streamlining its manufacturing efficiency and profitability. He selected Repete, an automation system he has had success with in the past, as the control system for all plant operations from receiving to load out.
“Today’s cost of ingredients dictates the use of a reliable control system,” he notes.
The layout of the mash mill included provisions for future pellet mill lines and a separate boiler building. WL Port-Land Systems, Inc. used this space to construct the mill’s four-story, structural steel pelleting annex, housing two complete pellet lines with direct access to the existing mill structure for efficient operation.
“What was unique about this situation was that they were able to build on to the side of the mill and put all the pelleting equipment in a structure outside the initial tower and bring it back into the mill,” Falls says. “It has worked very well.”
Butterball chose to run oversized pellet mills to ensure pellet quality, but also to deliver on labor savings. Falls explains: “[The oversized pellet mills] provide the capacity to produce the tons per hour vs. the labor cost to be more efficient. If you have two people in the control room and you’re running smaller batches — say 20 tons/hour vs. oversized 40 tons/hour — the cost per ton is less because throughput is higher with same amount of labor.”
Thirteen full-time employees run the mill working two shifts, five days a week.
The manufacturing process begins as the raw ingredients are fed through a CPM hammermill on the way to becoming mash feed. Based on the formulas, Repete automation batches the feed at the ratio of the ingredients needed and is held in 24 ingredient storage bins in the mill with a volume of 93,240 cubic feet; microingredients are added through totes or Beta Raven microbins. The ingredients move to scales above the Scott mixer before heading to one of four mash storage bins with a total capacity of 180 tons.
Once in the pelleting line, the mash is conditioned with steam in a Matador conditioner, and then sent to the CPM 90 x 42 pellet mills pelleting 60 tons/hour. The pellets, conditioned at 190 F, are fed steam from the Cleaver Brooks 500-hp boiler with a 30,000-pound/hour deareator housed in a separate boiler building.