HULL – The new, roughly $4 million feed mill going up at Hull Coop near downtown is far from finished, but the progress is noticeable. The target date for completion is sometime in May.
The mill will be dedicated to mixing swine-finishing feed. That will save the time — and therefor money — now spent in flushing out ingredients not intended for hogs from the existing feed mill before it can be used to mix feed for hogs.
“We’ll take 60 percent of existing volume of feed (capacity) out of the old mill and bring it up here,” Ken Nielsen, feed department manager, said. “The new mill will have capacity to mix 60 tons of hog feed an hour, or 600 tons per day.” The current mill can mix only about 30 tons per hour.
Nielsen said the coop’s goal is to have the current mill and the new one both in full production, adding that he expects both mills to stay busy.
“It’s to the point that our business has grown so much we can’t get everything done,” he said. “So we decided to make (the new mill) swine-specific.”
Brian Zoet, a local swine producer and a coop board member, said the new mill will make the workload easier on the employees, too, and will get the feed out more efficiently for customers.
Nielsen, who has 30 years of experience working at the coop — the past 10 as the feed department manager — said the new mill will employ an even higher level of technology than the current one, which has been upgraded over the years.
“We used to write every order out by hand and make it by hand,” he recalled. “Now it’s just a matter of plugging (the feed blend recipe) into the computer in the office and the mill makes it,” Nielsen said.
“It used to be all air gates. Now we have a big dial where the gauge used to be. It’s pretty accurate.”
New tech is faster, better
Hull Coop manager Ed Westra said the new feed mill will start production at 50-percent of capacity. He said it is even more sophisticated than the current mill.
“One guy will be watching four computer screens, (monitoring) soy meal protein and other ingredients we use to make up swine diets,” he said. “We should be getting feed out of there in May,” Westra said.
The process has taken several months. It took awhile to get soil samples and to remove the old Hull Implement building adjacent to the coop, Westra said. After that, the coop had to buy and remove a portion of the Foreign Candy outlet store, which was by then owned by the Hull Industrial Development Corp., a not-for-profit economic development entity.
Finally, sometime in May, the new swine feed mill will reach its full height of about 70 feet. It will then soar to 95-feet tall soon afterward, when it’s topped off with the “legs” that will carry the swine feed ingredients up and into the mill for blending.
The facility will also feature an enclosed receiving pit and load-out.