6 New Food and Workplace Safety Regulations For Grain and Pet Food Manufacturers in 2022

workplace safety regulations for grain and pet food 2018Recent changes in food, environmental, and worker safety have caused many grain and pet food engineers to take another look at their manufacturing facilities. For greenfield sites or renovations, appropriate attention to food and workplace safety regulations from the outset will save thousands in fines down the road. We’ve taken another look at these key safety regulations for manufacturers to know in 2022 and added recent and pending rules.

6 New Food and Workplace Safety Regulations For Grain and Pet Food Manufacturing

In this post:

  1. Amended OSHA Slip and Fall Regulations
  2. NFPA 652: New Standards on Combustible Dust
  3. OSHA New Respirable Dust and Crystalline Silica Standards
  4. USDA and FDA: Food Safety and Modernization Act
  5. COVID-19 Protection
  6. ANPRM for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention

1. Amended OSHA Slip and Fall Regulations

Violations exposing workers to fall or slip accidents occupied three of the top ten most common violations of workplace safety regulations in 2016, including non-compliant ladders, scaffolding, and fall protection equipment. Seeking to remedy these preventable accidents, OSHA amended Regulation 29 CFR 1910 Subpart D, which regulates safety requirements for walking and working surfaces, in 2016. Many of these provisions are already in effect, and several others are required as of November, 2018.

Grain and pet food manufacturers who are building up instead of out, as well as grain elevators and feed storage facilities should pay particular attention to these workplace safety regulations, some which are already enforced with fines.

  • Ensuring exposed workers are trained on fall hazards (required May 17, 2017)
  • Ensuring workers who use equipment are trained (required May 17, 2017)
  • Inspecting and certifying permanent anchorages for rope descent systems (required November 20, 2017)
  • Installing personal fall arrest or ladder safety systems on new fixed ladders over 24 feet and on replacement ladders/ladder sections (required November 19, 2018)
  • Ensuring existing fixed ladders over 24 feet … are equipped with a cage, well, personal fall arrest system, or ladder safety system (required November 19, 2018)

2. NFPA 652: New Standards on Combustible Dust

The dangers of combustible dust are no mystery to pet food and grain manufacturers. Between 2007 and 2016, 91 explosions occurred due to grain dust alone. In 2016 the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Standard 652 outlined best practices for evaluating risk and protecting against dust and powder fires. The new standard’s biggest departure from previous standards is the development of Dust Hazards Analysis on existing or future processes.

Though OSHA recently abandoned expanded regulations on combustible dust due to regulatory reform under the Trump administration, experts remind businesses that workplace safety regulations on dust hazards exist under a number of other OSHA standards. Project managers and engineers can manage their combustible dust risk in a number of ways;

  • Proper machine maintenance to eliminate dust leaks.
  • Separating feed mixing processes into different buildings to manage risk and loss.
  • Conducting thorough risk analysis to understand threats.
  • Utilizing temperature monitoring sensors to prevent sparks.
  • Installing dust monitoring and dust collection systems suitable for your facility and particulates.

3. OSHA New Respirable Dust and Crystalline Silica Standards

Combustible dust laws are not the only dust-related workplace safety regulation grain and pet food manufacturers should be aware of this year. OSHA regulations governing respirable dust particles require workers to use personal protection equipment (PPE) and requires facility managers to measure, manage and keep levels within Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs). In 2017, OSHA amended regulations on exposure to crystalline silica, one of the most common types of harmful respirable dust. When crystalline silica dust is inhaled it sticks to the lungs, causing scarring and irreparable damage.

Though these workplace safety regulations are most important in the construction industry where workers are regularly exposed to hazardous crystalline silica levels, some steps in raw material feed processing, particularly cleaning, can pose respirable dust hazards. To mitigate exposure, take the following precautions;

  • Know who is exposed, where, and what causes exposure.
  • Measure and monitor harmful or nuisance dust levels.
  • Make PPE available and cultivate a culture of safety compliance.
  • Utilize dust collection with the right air intake and appropriate filtering.

4. USDA and FDA: Food Safety and Modernization Act

The USDA and FDA jointly oversee provisions within the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA), including those regulating food and pet food. Signed into law in 2011, many FSMA regulations are only now going into effect and under enforcement.

FSMA covers nearly all food and pet food facilities. The FDA’s current FSMA guidance document developed solely for pet food “covers facilities that manufacture, process, pack, or hold food intended for all animal species including food-producing animals (e.g., livestock, poultry, and aquaculture species), companion animals (e.g., dogs, cats, horses, and guinea pigs), laboratory animals, and animals maintained in zoological parks. “Animal food” means food for animals other than man and includes pet food, animal feed, and raw materials and ingredients (see 21 CFR 507.3).”

Pet food and grain processors undergoing process development should be aware of FSMA regulations which concern the following cases, among others;

  • Animal foods with high oil content which resist microbial heat treatments.
  • Mycotoxins (Aflatoxins, Fumonisins, Deoxynivalenol, Ochratoxin etc.) proliferating in grains.
  • Pesticides on grains.
  • Plant toxicants (lectin, protease inhibitors, cyanogenic glycosides etc.)
  • Animal-specific nutrient deficiencies and toxicity hazards.
  • Process or product cross-contamination.
  • Metal contamination from process equipment.

5. COVID-19 Protection

One of the most significant recent changes to workplace safety precautions came in response to the COVID-19 pandemic at the start of 2020. Workplaces as well as government offices struggled at times to provide the most helpful precautions to consumers and workers as new studies and information about managing the virus and preventing illness became available. With more data available now in 2022, a number of precautions and protections have been shown to significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19 and help keep employees and customers safer.

Many states, including Michigan, have provided workplace safety guidance regarding COVID-19. OSHA stipulates that state plans must be “at least as effective as OSHA’s and may have different or more stringent requirements.” OSHA has provided additional standards and protections based on particular jobs or industries.

Since COVID-19 is primarily spread through interpersonal contact, these protections are particularly important for food and pet food manufacturers that rely on numerous workers in close proximity to each other. As of August, 2020, over 43,000 meatpacking and food processing workers had caught COVID-19, resulting in nearly 200 deaths. A long list of legal actions by and between government agencies, families, and worker’s groups seeks to make these workplaces safer. A few preventative measures can help to avoid costly litigation.

Reviewing and integrating all of these guidelines can seem overwhelming. However, a few steps can help to simplify things. In their FAQ section, OSHA recommends the following:

  • Conducting a workplace risk assessment for potential COVID-19 exposure
  • Preparing a response plan
  • Taking steps to improve ventilation
  • In areas with substantial or high transmission, employers should provide face coverings for all workers, as appropriate

With these guidelines in mind, planning for and mitigating risk of a COVID-19 outbreak are very similar to mitigating other workplace risks. With a clear and transparent risk assessment, you can see which areas and situations require attention, and determine the ideal response. With a response plan in the event of an outbreak in place, you can keep employees safe, and minimize the need for or expenses incurred by an illness outbreak.

These precautions may seem less important as COVID-19 vaccinations become more widespread and the illness, and its variants, become less deadly. However, these precautions can help to reduce the risk and effects of many other illnesses and help to reduce the effects of another, similar, outbreak at a later time.

6. Heat Injury and Illness Prevention

OSHA reports that 18 of the last 19 years were the hottest on record. As temperatures rise, injuries, illness and death related to heat have become increasingly concerning at work. An Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings seeks to address these issues. Though this is not yet a workplace safety regulation, it provides some insight into what employers can expect in 2022 and beyond.

In 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 1,920 incidents of non-fatal injury or illness due to extreme environmental heat. Since 2011, between 18 and 61 people per year have died on the job due to extreme environmental heat. On average, worker heat deaths have doubled since the mid-1990’s. These incidents, and the proposed rulemaking, deal with a wide range of indoor and outdoor occupations, from agriculture to construction, manufacturing to utility work, forestry to landscaping, and many more. These incidents are particularly prevalent in agriculture, and are likely to impact raw materials operations for food and pet food manufacturing, as well as processing operations, such as grain elevators.

Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are among the most serious and common heat-related illnesses. During heat stroke and heat exhaustion, the body’s temperature rises past the level it can take, causing dizziness, nausea, fainting, organ failure and, if not quickly treated, death. Physical exertion, a lack of acclimation to heat, lack of water, and pre existing medical conditions can also worsen heat-related illnesses.

The rulemaking proposal seeks to address environmental heat hazards at work, heat illness response plans, acclimatization (which can reduce the risk of heat illness), and more. OSHA encourages the public to review and submit comments on the proposal until January 26, 2022.


Evaluating and planning for food and workplace safety regulations during project design and installation will prevent future problems. Working with an experienced and reputable process equipment manufacturer specialized in your industry will help to anticipate safety concerns and hazards specific to your facility.

How to Control Mycotoxins in Feed Mills

control mycotoxins

Mycotoxins proliferate in grains and seeds, creating hazards for both human and animal consumption. Aflatoxins are among the most dangerous mycotoxins, and are most problematic for grain and feed mills. Mycotoxins thrive in hot, humid conditions. With temperatures steadily increasing around the globe and heavy rainfall becoming increasingly problematic in some areas, mycotoxin growth is also becoming increasingly problematic. To control mycotoxins in feed, testing and proper storage are essential.

Dangers of Mycotoxins

Mycotoxins are naturally created by many different types of molds. These fungi and the toxins they create can proliferate on a wide variety of foodstuffs, including cereals, nuts, spices and grains, both for human and animal consumption. One of the most toxic mycotoxins, aflatoxins, is produced by two types of mold, Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus. These are highly dangerous for both humans and animals. Ingesting aflatoxins in high enough levels can cause a long list of problems from nausea and vomiting to convulsions and cirrhosis to cancer and death. Animals that ingest aflatoxins can spread the toxins to humans through their milk.

Mycotoxins, including aflatoxins as well as umonisin, deoxynivalenol (DON), ochratoxin (OT), and zearalenone (ZEN), generally proliferate in hot, wet environments. When plants are stressed or damaged from excessive heat or pests, they’re more vulnerable to fungi and, therefore, to mycotoxins. Controlling mycotoxins in feed starts with the right harvest techniques, which are often out of the control of feed mills. However, proper testing as well as storage can help to prevent contaminated grain from entering the feed.

How to Control Mycotoxins in Feed

Testing at Receiving

A small amount of contaminated corn or grain can quickly contaminate an entire batch. If the grain is not stored and dried properly after it’s harvested, the rotting material can produce aflatoxins in as little as 24 hours. This means the grain may appear uncontaminated when it’s shipped, but reach your feed mill with dangerous mycotoxins.

There are many types of tests to detect the presence of mycotoxins and fungi in corn, grains and other materials. Since mycotoxins can contaminate one particularly wet portion of the shipment and the rest of the shipment may appear normal, it’s important to test thoroughly, and take multiple tests. ELISA (enzyme-linked immunity stimulated assays) and gas chromatography tests can detect aflatoxins at 10 ppb or more. A black light will also show the presence of fungi; fungal spores will appear bright yellow-green under a blacklight. Though this won’t definitively show the presence of mycotoxins, it’s a good indicator that more testing is needed.

Without proper testing, it’s difficult to know if the grain you’re using is high-quality. Worse, if contamination occurs, it’s difficult to trace back to the source. Automated systems within your feed mill can automatically prompt employees to conduct mycotoxin and aflatoxin tests. Though this won’t guarantee testing, it’s more difficult to forget or ignore the tests when safeguards exist.

Clean and Maintain Storage Areas

As previously mentioned, mycotoxins thrive in damp environments and proliferate on damaged grains. The fungi can also spread quickly to uncontaminated grains. This means that proper storage is critical to control mycotoxins in feed mills. This starts with proper cleaning. The silo or storage area should be clean and dry prior to receiving.

Proper maintenance is also important; ensure that the storage bins or silos are structurally sound and there are no entry points for pests or moisture. Make repairs or replace the bins where necessary. Keep the surrounding area free of loose grain that might attract pests and areas where pests might hide. This will help to keep pests away from the storage area to begin with. Treatment with approved insecticides or fungicides can help to reduce the risk of pests or inhibit the growth of mycotoxins, though this must be done with care, so the chemicals don’t contaminate the feed in other ways. Finally, any cooling or drying equipment should also be regularly inspected and cleaned, to ensure all equipment is in full working order.

Good manufacturing practices can help to prevent storage equipment and processing equipment from breaking down prematurely. Reliable manufacturing can also help to prevent seams or cracks that can harbor fungal spores and bacteria. If your equipment is in need of replacement or repair, work with an expert that understands the needs and demands of your feed mill.

Maintaining a Cool, Dry Environment

Maintaining a cool, dry environment is one of the best ways to control mycotoxins in feed mills. This will help to prevent mycotoxins from growing in the first place, and prevent them from spreading if they are present. The moisture levels should be below 12 to 13%, and the grain should be kept at a cool 60°F. Aeration fans can help to maintain these levels in large storage areas when environmental conditions don’t cooperate.

If stored grains sit for long periods on-site, it’s essential to have well-maintained equipment and a well-maintained space for storing. Using the shipment quickly and coordinating machines to prevent long storage times is another way to prevent mycotoxins from growing. Take a close look at your facility and see how you might use testing and storage to detect and prevent mycotoxins, or how you might increase machine efficiency to prevent long storage times. To learn more about feed mill automation and the potential to speed up your process, talk to a feed mill automation expert.

6 Ways to Improve Feed Mill Efficiency

how to improve feed mill efficiency

With proper planning and the right equipment, a feed mill can operate seamlessly with minimal supervision or oversight required. There are multiple ways to improve feed mill efficiency. This includes improving production speed, reducing maintenance costs, reducing downtime, reducing error and waste, improving safety, and more.

6 Ways to Improve Feed Mill Efficiency

1. Bulk Bag Ingredients and Unloading

Bulk bags have the potential to improve feed mill efficiency in a variety of ways. While major ingredients, such as corn and other grains, benefit from the cost savings and quick filling of bulk ingredient storage and dispensation, minor and micro ingredients often don’t.

Replacing 50lb bags with bulk bags or super sacks can make unloading more efficient, reduce employee injuries from repetitive stress, and provide cost-savings that come from buying in bulk. Making this improvement is easy, too. You’ll need to find a reliable supplier who ships your ingredients in bulk, which your current supplier might already provide. You’ll also need a bulk bag or super sack unloader that is sturdy and reliable. With a few bulk bag unloader design optimization tips, you can ensure that material flows through the bag smoothly without the need for supervision.

2. Automated Downstream Routing

Making sure that material finds its way to the proper bin during loading may be as simple as pressing a button, but it can be even simpler than that. Automating the downstream routing process ensures that material moves into the next bin the moment that the previous bin is filled. This means there’s no delay if an employee moves away from the routing mechanism to deal with another machine or task.

To accomplish this, you’ll need sensors integrated with the control system. Position sensors or level indicators will tell the system when to change the position of the turnhead and move material to the new bin.

3. Microingredient Automation

Microingredients can present many challenges. This step in the process also presents an opportunity to improve feed mill efficiency.

It’s important for microingredent systems to be accurate as well as fast. Automating this process allows minor ingredients or microingredients to be added in a similar manner to macroingredients. The system will feed, weigh and dispense microingredients into the mixer instead of hand-adding them using a pre-weighed scoop. This means employees are free to take on more important tasks, and it removes the potential for human error that can result in adding too many scoops or forgetting a scoop.

4. Coordinating Mixing and Filling Times

When the mixer and scales work in perfect harmony, there’s no idle time. This maximizes the machines’ productivity and improves the feed mill’s efficiency. To coordinate these processes, you’ll need to consider how long it takes each process to cycle, fill, settle, weigh, and discharge.

Measure how long it takes all ingredients to fill, settle, weigh and then discharge into the mixer. Then, consider how long the mixer requires to adequately mix the ingredients. If the mixer is sitting idle while the scales are still filling, consider how you might speed up this process by adding a scale or speeding up the filling process. Or, if the scales are waiting for the mixer to finish, you can speed up this process by adding a mixer or changing the mixer or agitator profile.

5. Monitoring Equipment

When sensors work with your control system, you can prevent damage, hazards, reduce maintenance needs, and plan downtime. There are many ways to monitor your equipment. Monitoring the vibration or temperature of the bearings on a grinder or conveyor, for example, can help to prevent uneven wear. These sensors can also show if a pebble or another object is damaging the machine. Monitoring the temperature of the bearings can prevent damage due to overheating from friction. This can also be a source of sparks, which can cause a fire or explosion in environments with excessive dust, like a grain elevator shaft.

6. Reducing Damage

When a machine is damaged during production, it can shut down the entire facility and cause expensive downtime. Preventative maintenance is essential to prevent these situations. Keeping bearings lubricated on all machines, keeping the seals maintained on mixers, checking the tensioning on drive belts and chains, cleaning intervents, and checking electrical components on a regular, well-defined schedule will extend the lifetime of your machines, and reduce the need for costly repairs.

Use these upgrades to improve feed mill efficiency and safety. With the right planning, you can make your machines work seamlessly and create a workplace that is both safe and highly productive.

6 Powder Flow Control Problems And Solutions

powder flow control problems and solutions

Powder flow problems cause frustration and hours of expensive downtime. They can also damage machines, create backups, and produce sub-par products. Some types of materials, machines, and working conditions make powder flow problems more likely. We’ve identified the most common powder flow control problems and flow control solutions to help you solve these troublesome inefficiencies. We’ve updated this blog post in 2021 to address material characteristics in addition to powder flow control problems and solutions.

In this article, you’ll find:

  • Problem: No Flow
  • Problem: Low Flow
  • Problem: Decreasing Flow
  • Problem: Material Flooding
  • Problem: Damage to Feeder
  • Problem: Clumping
  • Importance of Powder Properties

6 Most Common Powder Flow Problems and Flow Control Solutions

1. Problem: No Flow

Under normal operating conditions, the material should flow through the system without interruption. If no-flow alerts are a regular occurrence, the system is not optimally designed for either the material or the environment. This may occur in environments with high humidity, materials with high moisture content, solid materials that are irregularly shaped, or materials with certain coatings.

Solution: Agitation

Depending on the cause of the no-flow problem, a few solutions are available.

  • A mechanical agitator before feeder entry
  • Vibrator added to hopper
  • Air pads to aerate product

Each of these are long-term solutions that will ultimately save your time and money by eliminating downtime. When making these upgrades, make sure to conduct proper testing. Consider carefully where and how to mount the devices, and how often they should operate to be most effective.

2. Problem: Low Flow

This powder flow problem may go unnoticed for long periods since it doesn’t directly cause downtime. However, insufficient flow can affect all downstream systems. Low flow may be caused by obstructions above the feeder, or misalignments. This may also occur if the materials are too thick or the feeder is too small.

Solution: Bigger or faster feeder

The ideal flow control solutions for this problem will either expand the feeder to increase volume at slower speeds, or speed up the feeder to push more material through faster.

  • Upgrade to larger feeder
  • Add variable frequency drive
  • Change reducer on drive

3. Problem: Decreasing Flow

Some powder flow problems do not cause a sudden stop, but rather a slow reduction in material flow. Unlike other powder flow problems which are caused by materials sticking together, this is generally caused by materials sticking to the feeder because of static build-up.

Solution: Eliminate static

This is a particularly common problem in fast-moving, dry materials, but flow control solutions to this problem are generally easy to implement.

  • Ground the feeder frame to prevent static build-up
  • Use electro-polish on feeder
  • Add Teflon coating to feeder

4. Problem: Material flooding

If too much material is getting through or the material floods after shut-off, this can also cause production problems downstream, or result in inconsistent products. These flow control solutions create the opposite effect of the previous three, but they are implemented in similar ways.

Solution: Slower, interrupted feed

Upgrading the hopper or attached systems can stop flushing and flooding.

  • Vent hopper to reduce aeration
  • Install slide gate or butterfly valve at discharge point
  • Smaller feeder
  • Lower drive speed
  • Incline the feeder

5. Problem: Damage to feeder

If your system takes more damage and needs more repairs than comparable equipment, the materials or the system may be to blame. This may be a bulk solids or powder flow problem, and it can be caused by too much abrasion or improper system construction.

Solution: Slower speeds, stronger system

This flow control solution can be implemented by either slowing down the product or reinforcing the system.

  • Lower drive speed
  • Install larger feeder to slow materials
  • Add liner or coating to system

6. Problem: Clumping

When powders lump together, they can form a clump and a clog at varying points in the process. This can cause some of the previously mentioned powder flow problems, but it is also a problem by itself. When powders clump together, they won’t mix properly, they can harbor bacteria pockets that withstand heat, they can create empty pockets in storage units, and more.

Solution: Reduce cohesion

Powders may clump together for many reasons, including high humidity, static electricity, or reduced product quality. Take a closer look at the powder and see what may be causing the cohesion. Analyze the circumstances when and where clumping occurs the most; is the environment very humid or dry? Does it occur during one process, but not the next? Did a particular shipment clump more than others? This analysis will help you target the cause of the cohesion, so you can solve it.

Importance of Powder Properties

The equipment design and build plays an important role in preventing or solving powder flow problems. However, it’s also important to consider the characteristics of the material as well. When your equipment manufacturer has a good understanding of the material characteristics of the powder, they can build the optimal machinery to prevent powder flow problems.

Before working with your equipment manufacturer, it’s helpful to have measurements on the following powder characteristics, where applicable. Details on these characteristics can help an experienced equipment manufacturer anticipate problems. There are many physical properties of powders, and which properties are most important will depend on the process and the industry. In this case, we’re considering the physical properties of food powders for human or animal consumption.

  • Density: There are multiple aspects of a powder’s density that can affect how it is stored, how it flows, and how it’s processed. The bulk density, particle density, loose bulk density, and compact density may be important, depending on the process. In general, you should at least have measurements for the powder’s bulk density.
  • Flowability: This physical property will particularly affect how the powder moves from one process to the next, and how it settles within a container. There are several properties within flowability that may be important, including angle of repose and how the product settles. A product with a steep angle of repose will not fill a vertical container evenly, so it may require additional safeguards.
  • Cohesion: This is an aspect of flowability, however its importance earns it its own category. The propensity of a powder to form lumps will significantly affect how it’s stored and processed. Cohesion may occur through a powder’s natural stickiness, through static charge, through moisture, or through other means. If moisture is a key element of cohesion, it will also be important to measure the powder’s hygroscopy.
  • Aeration: This is another aspect of flowability, which also deserves its own category. If a powder is prone to aeration, it will become loose and create dust easily. These types of powders should not be subjected to freefall, as they will create dust and powder explosion hazards. For these types of powders, dust suppression equipment will be particularly important.
  • Particle uniformity: Particle size and the variation between particle size also affect how the material flows and how it’s processed. If two particular particles can vary in size and shape significantly within the powder, the powder will be prone to separation, which can affect product quality.
  • Abrasion: Many powders can be deceptively abrasive. A powder that may seem soft in our hands can become damagingly abrasive at higher velocities and in high volumes. Powders with abrasive characteristics will need special equipment considerations, such as special linings or coatings, so the equipment doesn’t wear out prematurely.

If you’ve inherited a system that constantly sees problems, or your materials have changed and it’s created new issues, consider these solutions. If you’re building a new system, take advantage of testing and proper construction beforehand and these powder flow problems will never occur. With the right material testing before installation, you can be sure that your system is made for your materials before it arrives.

Enzyme Applications for Animal Feed: Questions and Answers

enzyme applications for animal feed

Enzymes essentially speed up chemical reactions, including metabolic reactions. There are many different types of enzymes, and many different ways to apply them to animal feed. They may be added in liquid or dry form, and the ideal application process depends on the type of feed, the manufacturing process, and more. In this blog post, we’ll discuss a few common questions, problems and solutions in enzyme applications for animal feed.

How Do Enzymes Work?

There are many different types of enzymes, and these useful proteins are now used in a wide range of agricultural and industrial processes. We add different enzymes to different applications to speed up chemical reactions, such as enzymes in laundry detergent to break down stains or enzymes to pre-treat biofuels, but many enzymes are also naturally-occurring, such as those used in digestion.

How Do Enzymes in Animal Feed Work?

Enzymes in animal feed increase the rate at which animals can break down and absorb fats and nutrients. This means the animal can grow faster with fewer nutritional additives and less waste. Phytase, which aids in phosphorus absorption, is particularly important in reducing phosphorus pollution. Phosphorus pollution is a common, negative effect of industrial agriculture which contaminates waterways and creates marine dead zones.

How Are Animal Feed Enzymes Applied?

As previously mentioned, enzymes may be applied in either dry or liquid forms. In dry forms, this might include powder or granulates. These may be added directly to the feed during the mixing process or added as a powder coating post-pelleting. In liquid forms, the enzyme may be diluted in an oil-based or water-based solution, and applied as a liquid coating over the feed post-pelleting.

What Are the Challenges in Enzyme Applications for Animal Feed?

Accurate Dosing

Many suppliers will ship enzymes in highly concentrated forms to reduce shipping costs. In addition, enzymes must be added in carefully measured amounts. Some enzymes can be applied at levels as low as 50 grams per ton of feed. This means accurate dosing is very important. It’s also important to have a clear picture of the enzyme’s potency and how to dilute it properly. This is true for both liquid and dry enzyme applications for animal feed. The measuring and mixing system for the enzyme and carrier must be highly accurate, and calibrated regularly to ensure it remains accurate.

Withstands Heat

Enzymes that are added to the feed prior to pelleting must be heat stable, or able to lose some potency without eliminating the overall effect. Most enzymes will start to break down when exposed to temperatures over 150, however high temperatures are also required to kill bacteria. To solve this problem, the enzyme must be protected from the heating process, applied in amounts where heat will not completely destroy the enzyme, applied after the heating process, or a heat-stable enzyme must be used.

Withstands Pelleting

Pellets require the right levels of moisture and the right density to retain their shape. If the dry enzymes added to the mix reduce the moisture content past a certain level, the pellets may begin to break apart more frequently, causing product loss and waste. Or, when using granulate enzymes, the particles must be the right size for the pellet, or this can also cause the pellets to break apart at later stages. This problem can be solved through careful testing, gentler treatment of the pellets, or by using enzyme applications for animal feed after the pelleting process.

Suitable for Application Equipment

When working with liquid enzymes, the application system must be designed to effectively handle the enzyme as well as the carrier. In some cases, a saltwater solution may be used as a carrier. If this is the case, it’s important to take corrosion into consideration. The spray nozzles and the equipment in general must be able to withstand corrosion from saltwater.

In other cases, the liquid enzyme may be injected into the fat application system. If the enzyme is first diluted with water, it cannot be introduced into the fat, or it will cause the fats to congeal and clog the application system. In some cases, utilizing an atomizing system, such as the Mistcoater, can solve these problems, since it does not require spray nozzles.

Characteristics of enzymes will vary depending on the type of enzyme and the manufacturer. It is important to work with the enzyme manufacturer to determine the optimum conditions for enzyme applications for animal feed. This can be true with the same enzyme manufactured by two different companies. With the enzyme characteristics and application methods in mind, it’s also important to work with your equipment manufacturer, and make sure that the system is designed properly. To learn more about liquid application, microingredient metering systems, and similar equipment, contact us today.

7 Ways Feed Mill Automation Drives ROI

feed mill automation ROI

In any industry, automation is based on goals: solving problems, minimizing risks, and reducing costs. The same is true for feed mill automation. There are a number of ways that feed mill automation can improve the end product and solve or reduce problems throughout the operation. Though some facilities may automate all processes at once, step-by-step automation is also a viable option. Feed mill automation can drive ROI in the following ways, and many of these benefits may occur simultaneously, depending on which process or processes you choose to automate. We’ve updated this post in 2021 to provide more information and some more specific examples of these automation improvements.

7 Ways Feed Mill Automation Drives ROI

1. Reducing Labor Costs

Automation not only ensures that tasks are completed consistently, but also eliminates the need for manual operation. Repetitive tasks no longer require physical labor, and free up manpower for more sophisticated and important jobs. Automation can also protect workers from safety risks, either by removing them from dirty or dangerous environments, or by putting reliable safety controls in place.

Example:

In a manual batching operation, there may be one or multiple scales filling as workers monitor them. As the scales fill, the workers start and stop the process until the scale is filled to a desired amount. During this process, the worker must monitor the process the entire time, or risk over-filling the scale. Making this process efficient either requires multiple workers monitoring multiple scales, or requiring one worker to monitor multiple scales and increasing the likelihood of error. With feed mill automation controls, the system monitors the scales, and one worker can monitor, calibrate and maintain the system.

Reduce error and improve efficiency. Download the Engineer’s Guide to Weighing and Batching >

2. Enhanced Production

Enhanced production is one of the most common factors driving ROI in feed mill automation. With the right design and maintenance, automation can streamline processes and remove the need for breaks and pauses. The right machines can also work at a faster rate.

Example:

Feed mill automation drives ROI by making it easier to run multiple processes at once, and reducing error between each process. For example, a batch mixer must run for a set time period to fully mix major, minor and micro ingredients together. If the batch mixer runs too long, the ingredients can start to separate, and the system runs less efficiently overall. A worker in charge of monitoring the batch mixer can easily become preoccupied with another task, such as monitoring or managing another machine, helping another employee, cleaning up a spill, or many other things. The batch mixer will continue to run until the worker starts the next process. This ultimately delays all upstream and downstream processes too. Feed mill automation helps to prevent overruns and ensures each process flows smoothly into the next.

3. Measurable Regulatory Compliance

Feed mill automation can simplify regulatory compliance for rules like the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), among others. Track and trace is an important part of FSMA compliance, but can be difficult to accurately implement without systematic controls. Tracking lot numbers manually not only introduces error, but takes up workers’ time and energy. Lot tracing can easily be automated, and it will greatly improve accuracy. With a reliable, automatic system in place tracking where your ingredients came from, what they went into, and where the product ultimately went, you can reduce liability and meet compliance requirements with minimal costs.

Example:

Accurate measurements are important for maintaining product quality as well as FSMA compliance. In a manual feed mill operation, accurate measurements are often reliant on record-keeping done by machine operators. A worker might fill a scale, record the amount on a chart, and weigh the next ingredient. However, this presents multiple opportunities for error; accidentally recording the wrong amount, marking the wrong line on the chart, accidentally skipping an ingredient, and many other things. With system automation, these amounts can be automatically and exactly recorded.

4. Consistent Testing

To prevent moisture, toxins and other substances from ruining ingredients and the finished product, proper sampling and testing is essential. With automated sampling and testing, you can gather uniform, accurate information about ingredients and products. Detecting excessive moisture in ingredients from the start will prevent product from being contaminated, and allow you to hold suppliers accountable for defects. Detecting aflatoxins and other harmful substances in ingredients also reduces liability, as well as product loss. With feed mill automation for testing and sampling combined with automated track and tracing, any problems with ingredients or products can be accurately recorded.

Example:

While an automated system cannot require that a test be performed, it can provide reminders that help to reduce error. While it’s easy to forget an important test when things get hectic, or skip it to save time, it’s harder to do when the system explicitly asks if a test has been performed. A simple mechanism like a checklist helps to reduce humor error and reduce the incidence of deliberately skipping a step. For example, adding a test confirmation reminder for aflatoxins upon receiving a corn shipment can help to reduce the chances of using contaminated ingredients.

5. Reducing Batching Errors

Batching is one of the most common areas for feed mill automation, and often offers the highest initial ROI. By automating your batching and mixing processes, you can substantially reduce error and variation. When your recipe is programmatically controlled, corn, soy, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and other additives are each exactly measured. With an easily re-programmable controller, you can even change the recipe without significant downtime.

Example:

Microingredients present some of the biggest opportunities for error. Since microingredients are required in much smaller amounts than major or minor ingredients, even seemingly small errors can be significant. In manual systems, microingredients may be added by hand to the mix. It’s very easy to miss a scoop, scoop the wrong ingredient, or add two scoops, especially when a process is repetitive and fast-moving. Microingredient systems measure and add these ingredients automatically, reducing errors significantly.

6. Automatic Routing

Automation of the batching process is usually the first section of the feed mill to be automated, but the addition of downstream routing of material can enhance the payback of the system. If the system has to wait for the operator to setup the routing of material to the downstream packaging or load-out, then valuable production time can elapse while waiting for a route to be selected.

Example:

By reading the amps in use, an automated feed mill system can detect if a conveyor or bucket elevator is currently in use or if it’s finished and ready for refilling. This tells the system where to route the ingredients and helps to prevent delays in between. While an operator might route to the wrong bin or might be working on a different task when a bin is filled, an automated system will switch automatically to the right bin.

7. HACCP

Through most zones, feed mill automation makes hazard analysis and critical control points easier to regulate and monitor. By gathering more data, more often, with less manpower required, you can get holistic, up-to-date information about your production line. You can also eliminate risks altogether by automating repetitive tasks with a high risk of human error. Automated regulation ensures that critical control points are monitored at the same time, in the same way, with no exceptions.

Example:

If the belt on a conveyor or bucket elevator isn’t tracking properly, the bearings aren’t properly lubricated, or the machine is working harder than it’s supposed to, it can cause a spark. Since powders and dust proliferate in the relatively tight space of an elevator shaft, a spark can ignite a powerful and deadly fire or explosion. Automated feed mill systems use current and voltage monitors to track when the conveyor is overworking and either stop the system or require a maintenance check-up.

Before starting or continuing feed mill automation, plan and design your system carefully. Conduct ingredient testing to ensure that the system is suitable for your recipe, and be sure to factor any maintenance costs into your ROI calculations. With the right system automating the right process, you can realize a return quickly and eliminate risks at the same time.

Animal Feed Pellet Coating: Problems and Solutions

animal feed pellet coating

Animal feed pellet coating presents a number of challenges to feed manufacturers. The consistency and properties of the pellets, as well as the consistency and properties of the liquid or powder coating, can all create unique obstacles to adequate and uniform coating. The right pelleting and liquid coating system can help to solve these challenges, with the right considerations and applications.

Animal Feed Pellet Coating: Problems and Solutions

Animal feed pellet coating helps to supply farm animals and pets with essential vitamins and nutrients, or make the feed more appealing for them to eat. This can help them gain weight faster, produce more milk, or maintain their general health and wellness. However, some of these vitamins, minerals, oils or fats also present challenges in feed manufacturing. When the animal feed pelleting process and liquid coating processes work in tandem, these problems can be avoided in many cases.

Pellet Breakage

When pellets break apart during the mixing and coating process, it not only reduces product quality and increases waste, but also creates dust and powders, which increases maintenance costs and hazards. Some of this breakage occurs during the mixing and pelleting process, while additional breakage can occur during the coating and packaging processes.

Preventing pellet breakage starts with the pelleting process. With the right levels of moisture and air flow, as well as the right equipment, animal feed pellets will resist breakage. During the coating process, animal feed pellet breakage can occur as the pellets move through a mixer or conveyor. If the conveyor or mixer has pinch points, the pellets can get stuck and destroyed. If the mixing action is too strenuous, this can also destroy the pellets. This may not be a problem for small, compact, dense pellets, and may present more challenges for larger, more porous or friable pellets. In this case, using a paddle mixer, rotating drum, or rotating disk for liquid coating can help to reduce pellet breakage.

Pellet Porosity

Some liquid coatings and processes require pellets to be somewhat porous in order to stick. If the pellets are too dense, processes like vacuum coating, which encourages liquid coatings to stick to the pellet’s pores, will not be as effective. Taking a closer look at the pellet consistency and improving air flow during the pelleting process can help with pellet porosity.

If the pellet is not very porous, vacuum coating might not be the ideal solution. The liquid additives might be included into the mash prior to the pelleting process. However, this must be applied carefully, as it can change the density or formation of the pellet. In this case, another liquid coating method might be ideal, such as liquid coating using a mixer or conveyor.

Liquid Coating Clogging

Liquid coatings with high oil, fat, sugar or salt content have a tendency to clog spray nozzles. Record the characteristics of the liquid and consult with your equipment manufacturer beforehand to ensure the liquid can move through the spray nozzles effectively. If it’s unclear whether the liquid will quickly clog the spray nozzles, it’s best to test these liquids with spray nozzles before installing them, so you can prevent unnecessary maintenance costs later on.

If the liquid is likely to clog, consider types of liquid coating processes that bypass spray nozzles. A liquid coating system using a rotating disk mechanism, such as the Mistcoater, allows materials to fall freely while the liquid coating atomizes. This coats the material uniformly and also removes the need for spray nozzles.

Liquid Coating Retention

If the liquid coating doesn’t stick to the animal feed pellet or another material, it can dramatically reduce the nutritional content, fat content, or flavor profile. Vacuum coating is an effective way to increase liquid coating retention, as it draws the liquid into the pellet’s pores. This process also allows feed manufacturers to coat the pellet multiple times.

If vacuum coating isn’t a viable option, a combination of powder coating and liquid coating can help to improve retention. If the porosity of the pellet isn’t suitable for vacuum coating, a rotating drum can be used to adjust retention time. If the pellet is being coated through a screw conveyor or mixer, adjusting the mixing time or the fill level can allow the liquid to coat the pellets more effectively. Or, if the spray nozzles are clogging, the pellet won’t be coated evenly and won’t retain the liquid coating. This problem can be solved by using a rotating disk applicator.

Choosing Specialty Coating Systems for Animal Feed Processing

pet food palatants

The right specialty coating systems for animal feed will help to produce higher-quality end products while making the entire process more efficient. The wrong coating equipment during animal feed processing can introduce problems and inefficiencies. Which animal feed processing equipment works best depends on a number of factors, including the type of animal feed, type of liquid additives, surrounding processing conditions, and more.

Choosing Speciality Coating Systems for Animal Feed Processing

Liquid coating processes have become increasingly important in all types of animal feed processing, from pet food to poultry feed to aquatic feed and more. Liquid coatings often supply essential fatty acids, vitamins, and nutrients the animals need to develop healthy bodies, or to grow quickly. This generally involves a coating process over feed pellets.

Some of the challenges facing specialty coating systems include ensuring that the liquid coating is uniform across the pellet and that all pellets receive a coating. Different liquid coating systems have different ways of meeting these challenges.

Mist Coating

Mist coating is a highly efficient specialty coating system in animal feed processing. Through this process, pellets are coated using atomization. Liquid falls on quickly-moving, rotating disk applicators and turns to mist. Pellets fall on all sides of the spinning disks and move through the mist. This results in an even coating as the pellets fall. Since the rotating disk does not require spray nozzles, like many other speciality coating systems do, mist coating can avoid clogs. This is especially helpful when working with heavy fats, oils, sugars or salts, which can collect on the ends of the spray nozzles and create clogs.

Spray Coating and Mixers

Spray coating uses mixers and spray nozzles to coat pellets. The mixers might use paddles or ribbons to mix the material or move it forward while the spray nozzles coat the material. The spray nozzles are unlikely to evenly coat the pellets by themselves, so this method relies on the mixing action to create an even coating.

If the mixer is insufficient—it doesn’t mix long enough, the mixer is overfilled, or the construction isn’t correct—the mixing action may be insufficient as well, which can result in an uneven coating. The spray nozzles can also become clogged with liquids that use heavy fats, oils, sugars or salts. These clogs won’t happen at an even rate, so fixing one clog won’t necessarily prevent another. The clogs can also create excessive backpressure, which can damage other parts of the liquid metering system.

Vacuum Coating

Vacuum coating uses air pressure and a vacuum space to ensure liquid ingredients stick to dry pellets. This method helps liquid ingredients not only stick to the surface of the pellet, but also brings the liquid ingredients into the pores of the pellet. This can result in a more even and thorough coating. It’s also possible to distribute multiple layers of coating through this process. However, if the pellet will be damaged or oversaturated with too much liquid, this might not be an effective solution.

Vacuum coating starts by creating a vacuum space inside the coating equipment. One or more layers of liquid coating is then added to the dry pellets or other products. Then, when air enters the chamber again, the pressure brings the liquid coating into the pellet’s pores and causes it to stick to the surface. This process generally protects the pellets from crumbling, but it can reduce the “crunch” quality of the pellet and make it more elastic.

Understanding and recording the liquid ingredient characteristics, as well as the dry ingredient characteristics, and other parts of the liquid processing system will aid in the design of the optimal animal feed processing equipment. Talk to your equipment manufacturer about the liquid metering system, liquid system pump, measurement system, and other essential components. Careful consideration will help to prevent problems and keep your system working properly.

How to Make a HACCP Plan for Food and Animal Feed Manufacturers

A hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) assessment is an essential part of food safety at every level. The Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) made HACCP assessments and plans more stringent for food manufacturers and processors, with the goal of reducing risk and improving food safety. In this blog post, we’ll discuss how to make a HACCP plan specifically for food and animal feed manufacturers, and tips that can help save you time and reduce risks.

How to Make a HACCP Plan for Food and Animal Feed Manufacturers

The FDA defines HACCP as “a systematic approach to the identification, evaluation, and control of food safety hazards based on the following seven principles:

  • Principle 1: Conduct a hazard analysis.
  • Principle 2: Determine the critical control points (CCPs).
  • Principle 3: Establish critical limits.
  • Principle 4: Establish monitoring procedures.
  • Principle 5: Establish corrective actions.
  • Principle 6: Establish verification procedures.
  • Principle 7: Establish record-keeping and documentation procedures.”

This process is meant to control biological, chemical, and physical hazards across the food supply and production process. While this applies to all aspects of the supply chain, including “growing, harvesting, processing, manufacturing, distributing, and merchandising to preparing food for consumption,” in this blog post we’ll discuss how to make a HACCP plan for food and animal feed manufacturing only. Keep in mind that food safety protocols that apply to food for human consumption generally apply to animal feed as well, including feed for livestock as well as pets.

Each step in the HACCP plan should be clearly documented. Thorough documentation will create standard work at each step of the operation. This makes it easier to maintain a standard operating procedure and makes it easier to maintain quality regardless of changes in personnel.

HACCP Preparation

FDA HACCP preliminary planning
The FDA recommends preliminary tasks before developing a HACCP plan.

Before you begin on the HACCP principles outlined by the FDA, a few preparation documents will help to make the process easier. These documents include the following:

  • A list of staff trained in HACCP and responsible for food safety.
    Description of food, its distribution and use. This might also include the ingredients and packaging.
  • Flow diagram of the process. This will depend on your product and process. For a pet food manufacturer, this would include all steps from receiving and storage of raw materials, processing, mixing, coating, and packaging for shipment.
  • Verify the flow diagram: The HACCP team should review the flow diagram and other documentation and compare to the actual operation and facility to ensure it is correct.

HACCP Step 1: Hazard Analysis

With your preliminary documents in place, it will be easier to make a complete HACCP plan for your food manufacturing facility. This begins with hazard analysis. The process flow diagram is particularly useful here, as you can identify potential hazards at each step in the process. When it comes to HACCP analysis for food manufacturing, his might include any of the following:

HACCP process flow diagram
The FDA provides an example flow diagram for hazard analysis.
  • Ingredient Storage: Ingredients should be tested for purity and quality to ensure they do not arrive contaminated. The storage units should also facilitate FIFO usage, and prevent any ingredients from sitting for long periods and accumulating bacteria causing foodborne illness. If refrigeration is required, alarms should be used to ensure temperatures stay consistent.
  • Mixing: During the mixing and coating processes, particularly for pet food, the quality of equipment and cleaning procedures are especially important. Equipment that does not use good manufacturing practices, including proper construction and welding, can rust or break down, introducing metal fragments into the mix. If the equipment is not cleaned properly, bacteria can build up. Finally, pesticides or sanitation chemicals should not be stored near the processing center, so they do not find their way into the mix.
  • Cooking: If foods are not cooked properly, bacteria can remain and multiply. Foods with high fat and oil content are especially susceptible, as fats and oils can create protective pockets around bacteria.
  • Product Storage: Just like ingredient storage, the food should be stored securely at the appropriate temperature. For dry pet food or animal feed, this might mean keeping the finishing product away from moisture or pests.
  • Distribution: Distributors should take care to maintain cleanliness, proper temperatures and safety, so the finished product arrives in good condition.

HACCP Step 2: Determine the Critical Control Points (CCPs)

The previous step is helpful for determining critical control points. Where hazards are areas where food can become unsafe, critical control points help to prevent hazards from occurring. This can include a number of things in food processing and manufacturing, many which were included in the hazard examples above.

HACCP Step 3: Establish Critical Limits

Critical limits set exact standards for when and how a hazard is controlled. This way, there are clear criteria for when a hazard is controlled or not. All critical control points should be matched to one or more critical limit criteria. If these are not set, there is no way to determine if the control is in place or not.

According to the FDA, “Critical limits may be based upon factors such as: temperature, time, physical dimensions, humidity, moisture level, water activity, pH, titratable acidity, salt concentration, available chlorine, viscosity, preservatives, or sensory information such as aroma and visual appearance.” For example, if cooking is necessary to kill bacteria, both temperature and time minimums and maximums should be noted.

HACCP Step 4: Establish Monitoring Procedures

Critical limits are only effective if they are monitored. This often means using sensors, timers, or visual inspections to ensure the control limits are being met. In some cases, microbiological testing may be required, but this is generally not an effective way to control hazards. It is more effective to the conditions which create or destroy microbes instead.

HACCP Step 5: Establish Corrective Actions

Even a very effective HACCP plan will miss some hazards. Corrective actions are important to prevent hazards when critical limits aren’t met. This helps to prevent contaminated food from reaching customers and prevent the contamination from happening again. The FDA outlines a series of actions to stop the spread of contaminated food and ingredients, and prevent deviation from occuring again. The outlined steps are:

1. Determine and correct the cause of non-compliance
2. Determine the disposition of non-compliant product
3. Record the corrective actions that have been taken.

HACCP Step 6: Establish Verification Procedures

For critical control points, limits, and corrective actions to be effective, HACCP staff must be able to verify that they really work. There are two parts to this step. The first requires that the processes being followed are scientifically validated and shown to accomplish their purpose. For example, if the product is cooked to eliminate bacteria, there must be evidence that the critical limits being applied (time and temperature) adequately destroy bacteria.

The second part of the verification process means showing that hazards are actually being controlled using the critical limits, monitoring and corrective actions described. By reviewing the HACCP plan and verifying that it is being correctly implemented in the facility, food manufacturers can eliminate the need for product testing. Since it is known that the control procedures and critical limits are scientifically validated, and it is known that they are being followed, it can be assumed that the resulting products are safe.

HACCP Step 7: Establish Record-Keeping and Documentation Procedures

The hazard analysis itself, and documentation of all the previous steps, are an important part of step 7. When the HACCP process and verification procedures are carefully documented, it is easy to show that the procedures are correctly applied and why they are applied in the first place.

HACCP records may include a number of different documents, such as:

  • Product information: ingredients, description, intended consumers and intended use.
  • Supplier information: name, contact information, supplier food safety compliance records and certifications.
  • Processing: food processing or manufacturing flow chart, critical limits,
  • Product storage: temperatures, conditions, shelf life, packaging, labeling, sealing.
  • Distribution: distributor’s contact information, certifications, locations for sale.
  • Training: all HACCP training records
  • Corrective actions: any deviations from the plan and corrective actions taken.

With this process and these documents in place, you can protect yourself from liability and protect consumers from harm. As you change, expand, or improve your process, such as automating some tasks, changing recipes, or upgrading equipment, it is important to reassess your HACCP plan. This will ensure that hazards are consistently controlled.

5 Ways to Improve Feedlot Efficiency Through Automation

improve feedlot efficiency

There are many factors affecting feedlot efficiency that operators cannot control. This makes the factors that operators can control even more important. Automation technology is one way that feedlot operators are finding ways to improve efficiency. With the right strategy and the right equipment, you can save time, reduce expenses and reduce losses.

5 Ways to Improve Feedlot Efficiency Through Automation

1. Saving Time with Automatic Mixing  

Manual processes take time, especially when they have to be repeated daily or multiple times a day. Automating these processes as much as possible can save hours, and free workers to take on more important tasks.  

When deciding which processes to automate and where the most significant benefits exist, consider the processes on either side of the task. Are workers idle while a task is being completed? If so, automating this task can improve efficiency. If the other processes require similar amounts of time, automating this process probably won’t significantly improve the overall system.

Common opportunities for feedlot automation are during feed mixing, formulating, distribution, and the cattle induction process. Consider adding a micro machine for formulating and mixing additives into feed, or using cloud-connected devices to increase efficiency and safety in induction stage.

Learn more about micro machines for cattle feed mixing »  

2. Improving Accuracy With Programmatic Solutions

Additives, including vitamins, minerals, ionophores, and antibiotics, can quickly add to expenses, especially if they’re inefficiently measured or improperly mixed. Getting the precise amount of these micro ingredients and reducing waste as much as possible can help to significantly reduce expenses in the long run.

The right micro machine can solve this problem with consistent mixing and accurate, pre-programmed weighing. Scales weigh ingredients quickly and exactly to get the right amount, and each ingredient is distributed automatically according to a pre-programmed recipe.

3. Reducing Costs with Buyer Flexibility

When investing in feedlot automation equipment, it’s tempting to reduce upfront costs using ingredient  supplier contracts. However, exclusive contracts for expensive micro ingredients can quickly eat into feedlot efficiency gains. When considering equipment contracts for dairy and cattle micro ingredient systems, compare the supplier’s ingredient prices as well, and weigh it against the cost of a machine. Are prices significantly different? How much would you save with the option to shop around for vitamins, minerals and other additives?

Before entering a contract with an micro ingredient supplier, consider all your options, as well as your goals for the machine. Get a clear picture of the machine’s long-run benefits, and the supplier’s performance. If the extra cost of additives outweighs the value of the machine and process improvements, consider a cattle feed micro machine without a contract.

4. Reducing Errors With Lot Tracking

More information allows you to make better decisions, and more visibility allows you to solve problems. Lot tracking technology makes it easy to see the consistency, origin and destination of all feed in the lot. When making adjustments to feed or assessing problems like infection or low feed intake, complete visibility over the feed schedule allows you to make informed decisions. Cattle feed micro machines with lot tracking capabilities allow you to access this information in one place, and more easily make adjustments. This information also makes it easier to compare results year over year, and track expenses, yield, and growth more accurately.

5. Reducing Downtime and Maintenance

When considering system automation to increase feedlot efficiency, downtime and maintenance are also important factors. All systems will require a degree of regular maintenance and cleaning to stay operational. This process should not be overly complex, or it may eat into the speed and efficiency gained from introducing the machine in the first place.

To assess the maintenance schedule of automation systems before installing them, consider what the machine is made of, how it is constructed, and whether or not it uses proprietary parts. If certain parts of the machine can only be accessed by a repair technician, or some components can only be replaced by the supplier, downtime may be problematic, especially during weekends or holidays. A modular construction makes it easy to assess and repair problems, and off-the-shelf components allow you to take maintenance and repairs into your own hands.  

Investing in automation requires consideration, but the right machines can significantly improve feedlot efficiency. Automating dangerous processes or processes introducing error can also help to eliminate other problems. Consider your options carefully and make an automation strategy before diving in, choosing the slowest, more inaccurate, or most dangerous tasks to automate first.