The poultry industry is known for its competitive nature, one wrought with slim margins and ever-evolving demands; consequently, family-owned Peco Foods, a fully integrated poultry grower, processor and marketer, has worked hard to occupy its position as one of the largest U.S. poultry producers.
Headquartered in Tuscaloosa, AL, the company has placed a significant stake in the poultry business of neighboring Mississippi when it entered the market through a series of acquisitions beginning in 1990.
Recently, the company focused its sights on bridging its grow out operations in Sebastopol, Bay Springs and Philadelphia, MS, with its latest investment: a $29 million feed mill in Lake, MS.
When Peco Foods acquired the now defunct Green Acres feed mill in Sebastopol in 1996, the nearly 50-year-old metal mill’s rate capacity was 60 tons/hour, averaging 5,000 tons/week — adequate at one time, but not one that aligned with Peco Foods’ vision for future growth. In addition, the looming possibility of losing rail service at the Sebastopol site, which was located on a dead-end short track, prompted the company to seek out a new location for a feed mill.
Having surveyed various properties, a site in Lake, MS, proved to be ideal for the new facility because of its land availability adjoining the main Kansas City Southern (KCS) Railroad and its proximity to the company’s grower bases.
Building in Lake, MS, did not come without its unique challenges. The soil in Scott County is comprised of Yazoo clay, a composite of small particles and high plasticity, which shrinks and swells with moisture, making foundation work a bit more involved. The company retained the services of Younglove Construction LLC to supply the support structure for the concrete slip-form mill, which was built on 189 bell piers and 260 auger cast piers, and to design and build the 40- by 88-foot feed mill.
Less mill, more volume
To save on the cost of new construction, Peco Foods opted to build a high-output mill with a small footprint.
“We didn’t lose anything by gaining in the footprint’s cost savings,” says Gerald Noland, feed mill manager - Lake, MS, Peco Foods.
Younglove was able to manipulate the footprint by getting creative with the engineering. For example, unlike a standard large electrical room, which typically sits in the base level of a facility, the Lake, MS, mill has four small separate electrical rooms housed directly below the portion of the facility they power.
“Had we gone with one central electrical room we would have had to expand the footprint by 30 feet in each direction,” Noland says. “The small room solution saved on space, but also costs in groundwork, conduit runs and cabling.”
The mill was erected in 18 months. Shortly after its completion, Peco Foods tore down the Sebastopol mill and started running a single shift at the new facility in early February 2012 producing nonmedicated feeds; and began full production of all feed types in early March.
Rail service and workflow
In line with Peco Foods’ goal to secure rail service of raw ingredients, Trac-Work, Inc., installed a 7,300-foot loop track with an additional 2,700-feet of soft stock track designed to receive 110-car unit trains and 35-cars of soft stock.
“The loop track is nothing different than what other poultry manufacturers may have, but it allows us access to the same competitive grain rates as the local competition,” says Steve McLaurin, live operations manager, Peco Foods.
The new mill took its first unit train of grain in early November, and anticipates receiving one train/month moving forward.
Rail receiving incorporates two 25,000-bushel/hour unloading legs moving grain at a total capacity of 50,000 bushels/hour. Corn and other grains are delivered into the silos via Intersystems conveyors, flowing along the Intersystems legs via Tapco elevator buckets. Grain passes though Bunting Magnetics magnets on its way to the Hayes & Stolz distributors and turn heads before entering into one of the designated bins.