Photo by Elise Schafer

Apr 02, 2019

Going Whole Hog

One of Iowa’s largest feed mills is constructed to support the region’s growing pork industry

The state of Iowa is the reigning champ when it comes to pork production, clocking in an inventory of 22.6 million hogs and pigs in 2018. There’s no sign of it slowing down either, as new pork processing facilities continue to come into the northern part of the state, like the Seaboard Triumph Farms plant in Sioux City, IA.

To meet the region’s growing needs, Cooperative Farmer’s Elevator (CFE) recently built a state-of-the-art feed mill in Ocheyedan, IA — about 20 miles south of the Minnesota border. The original Ocheyedan mill was built in 1956 and produced 900 tons of feed/day at peak production levels. As Steve Petersen, CFE’s vice president of feed, put it, the aging mill wasn’t going to cut it.

“The cooperative’s feed customers in the region range from small local operations all the way to some of the top 10 powerhouse pork integrators in the country, and we needed a better way to serve all of them,” says Petersen.


The new mill more than triples the first mill’s capacity, capable of producing 3,000 tons of feed daily with a massive 12-ton mixer by Scott Equipment Co., New Prague, MN. The location offers both mash and pelleted swine feed, including ractopamine-free products and serves customers in a radius of 70 miles outside of Ocheyedan.

The $26-million mill is one of the largest in the state, with a footprint about three times the size of its eight other feed mills (including one the co-op leases). The facility was built with expansion in mind and includes plenty of empty spaces where equipment, processes and electrical housing units can be added. Planning for the future is a hallmark trait of the company.

Long time coming

Plans to build a modern feed mill began as soon as Cooperative Farmers Elevator was established in September 2015 as the merger between three local co-ops: Farmers Elevator Co-op, Cooperative Elevator Association and United Farmers Co-op. The newfound co-op’s newest mill at that time was built in 1992. However, Petersen noted while the idea was hatched nearly four years ago, most of the final strategy was formulated over the last two years.

“Seaboard opening the new plant in Sioux City last year pushed things along,” he says.

Between 2017 and 2018, CFE’s lumber division constructed 79 swine barns, many of which were built for Seaboard Triumph Foods contract growers. The company knew it needed to increase efficiency in order to serve the expanded customer base.

CFE’s first step was hiring SAM Group out of Shoreview, MN, to conduct a logistics study analyzing where the co-op’s existing assets and customers were situated. They also took into consideration the locations of their vendors that supply DDGs, soybean meal and other feed ingredients. CFE concluded that Ocheyedan was the ideal location because of the infrastructure already in place to receive ingredients via truck and the ability to convey grain into the mill from CFE’s neighboring grain elevator.

“Ocheyedan is the perfect location because it’s in the heart of northwest Iowa where there are plenty of ethanol plants and it’s only 25 miles from two bean meal processors,” Petersen says.

Next, Petersen and CFE’s Mike Lund, feed operations manager, began touring feed mills both nearby and as far away as Indiana and Montana to examine different design concepts and select a design/build firm for the project.

“We found several different groups to work with and looked at what each could bring to the table,” Petersen says. “We selected Younglove Construction, LLC because we liked the way they handled the completions of their mills and they’re based in Sioux City, IA, so we can easily go to them if we need anything in the future.”

In May 2017, Younglove broke ground on the site. The co-op chose a slip-formed concrete mill tower for longevity as opposed to a steel-built mill.

A construction crew of nearly 100 people started with the pilings and the ground preparation to prepare for the mill slip. In November they made the slip in seven days and finished the mill tower on Thanksgiving morning 2017.

From that point, the crew continued with the conveying and material handling, electrical, equipment installation and finishing touches. On Feb. 14, 2019, the newly minted mill completed its first batch of feed.

By the end of February, the Ocheyedan mill was producing roughly 1,200 to 1,500 tons of feed/day and Petersen intends to churn out 3,000 tons/day in two nine-hour shifts within a few months. At that point, the Ocheyedan location alone will manufacture two-thirds of the cooperative’s total daily feed production of 4,500 tons from all locations.

Production operations

Grain receiving takes place across the street at CFE’s 5-million-bushel grain elevator. An overhead enclosed conveyor from Schlagel, Inc., Cambridge, MN, brings grain into the mill on an as-needed basis. This process is managed electronically with the facility’s automation system provided by St. Charles, MO-based CPM Beta Raven.

Other products such as distillers grains, soybean meal, lime, salt, etc. arrive by truck 25 to 30 times/day. Ingredient storage in 26 bins totals nearly 2,100 tons. The production floor features two Beta Raven 18-bin micro systems with 36 total compartments for micro ingredients. It also features four 1-ton tote and hanger systems for ingredients and there’s room to install four additional tote systems when needed.

The CPM Beta Raven automation system also runs the batching side along with the heart of the mill — the 12-ton Scott mixer.

“We have a batching capability of about 14 batches an hour, so that’s our goal,” Petersen says. “Today we’re making a batch of feed in three minutes and 45 seconds.”

The facility currently runs one pelleting line with a 50-ton/hour pellet mill furnished by Waterloo, IA-based CPM Roskamp Champion and plans to install two additional pelleting lines. Other key pieces of equipment involved in feed production include a pellet cooler and hammermill by Bliss Industries, LLC, Ponca City, OK; roller mills by Lone Star Enterprises, Inc. of Lennox, SD; and a fat coater from APEC of Lake Odessa, MI.

The location has a finished feed storage capacity of 2,336 tons in 24 bins.


Central to the load-out operation are two 12-ton weigh lorries by Younglove. The system allows truck drivers to remain in their vehicles, enhancing the efficiency and safety of the process.

“There’s one weigh lorry over each of our two bays, so trucks pull in, stay sitting in one position and the loader moves back and forth to load the truck in about eight minutes,” Petersen explains.

At current capacity, the facility loads 50 to 60 trucks/day. CFE’s goal is to load two trucks every eight minutes, or 125 truckloads/day.

Including drivers, the Ocheyedan facility requires a staff of 29 to keep operations running smoothly. The team consists mostly of employees from other CFE mills, and also brought 10 new jobs into the town, supporting their mission to improve the local communities in which they do business.

“At CFE, we’re driven by sharing our success with customers and partners, being a part of the communities around us and providing everyone with first-class service and solutions,” Petersen says. “We’re proud to work within our communities to enhance the local economy for years to come through employment opportunities and the services we offer.” ■


Cooperative Farmers Elevator

Headquarters: Ocheyedan, IA

Established: In 2015 as a merger of three co-ops

Founding Partners: Farmers Elevator Co-op (est. 1899), Cooperative Elevator Association (est. 1906), United Farmers Co-op (est. 1908)

Total Members: 4,800

Number of Employees: 300+

States Served: Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota

Total Locations: 23

Feed Locations: 9

Feed Services: Contract Feeding, Feed Quality Assurance, Best Cost Formulation, Feed Tracking & Budgeting, Ration Formulation, Performance Tracking and more


Elise Schafer

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