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Best in class

MFA’s Aurora mill named 2023 Commercial Dry Feed Facility of the Year

Capturing top scores for such factors as safety, sustainability and stewardship, MFA Incorporated’s Aurora Feed Mill was named the 2023 Commercial Dry Feed Facility of the Year by the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) and Feedstuffs magazine. This is the first time MFA Incorporated has been recognized with the national award.

Trevor Erwin, MFA Aurora Feed Mill manager, accepted the award Jan. 31 on behalf of MFA and the facility’s employees during the International Production and Processing Expo in Atlanta, Ga.

ASPRINTED“It’s exciting,” said Erwin, a 19-year employee of the mill. “This is a great thing for the company, the Feed Division and our team. Without them, this wouldn’t be possible. So many people were involved in preparing for this process and helping to keep us moving along.”

AFIA, the world’s largest organization devoted exclusively to representing the business, legislative and regulatory interests of the U.S. animal food industry and its suppliers, has conducted the Feed Mill of the Year program since 1985. In 2021, the program separated awards into individual categories of liquid feed, commercial dry, premix and ingredient, and integrator, with each having its own facility of the year award.

The program not only recognizes excellence in feed manufacturing but also helps facilities gauge how they relate to industry standards and identify areas of opportunity and improvement. MFA Incorporated is among AFIA’s more than 650 members, which include livestock feed and pet food manufacturers, integrators, pharmaceutical companies, ingredient suppliers, equipment manufacturers and other companies that serve the feed industry.

“We take great pleasure in acknowledging those facilities that exceed expectations in their commitment to ensuring safe and efficient operations,” said Gary Huddleston, AFIA’s director of feed manufacturing and regulatory affairs. “MFA Incorporated’s Aurora facility is an interesting mix of old and new and demonstrates how facilities can evolve over time while adjusting to the needs of a changing industry.”

MFA built the Aurora mill’s south tower in the 1960s and the north tower in 1999. Through the years, the adjoining towers’ processes have become more automated, and the south tower installed newer equipment. The facility produces about 40,000 tons of feed annually with 14 employees.

The facility features three pelleting systems, two warehouses and robotic stacking and bagging systems, which help keep productivity and efficiency high, Erwin said. Around 40% of the mill’s production is bagged feeds with the remaining 60% in bulk. Beef, poultry and rabbit feeds are Aurora’s top three product categories.

“That’s been a big shift in the last 20 years,” Erwin said. “Dairies were huge when I first started, but now they’re dwindling, and beef and poultry are booming like never before. We’re also selling more rabbit feeds than I’ve ever seen. The territory we serve has expanded, too. We’re sending feed into eastern Kansas, the middle of Arkansas and even down to Oklahoma City.”

According to AFIA’s benchmarking scorecard, the Aurora facility is positioned in the top 10% of dry feed mills overall. The rankings consider quality control and food safety, government compliance, housekeeping and facility appearance, productivity and efficiency, sustainability, employee development, and community and customer relations.

“It’s a tremendous honor for the Aurora mill to win this award,” MFA Senior Director of Livestock Operations John Akridge said. “I’m very proud of the hard work and dedication of the Aurora feed mill team and all of our Feed Division employees. At MFA, all of our mills are held to the same high standards, and they all work together to make sure our customers get the feed their animals need. With seven feed mills, if one mill has an issue, they can rely on our other mills to help them out. That team approach is one of the MFA’s biggest strengths.”

That team spirit was noted by Huddleston after he visited the Aurora mill in November 2023.

“One thing we observed is they have a really big maintenance shop—bigger than you see in most feed mills,” Huddleston said. “They rebuild pellet mills for all MFA facilities. If one goes down, Trevor can send one out to other facilities and keep them in action.”

The Aurora mill was also awarded the “Highest Sustainability Score” in the commercial dry feed division in this year’s contest. MFA’s Lebanon feed mill earned this award in 2022. It recognizes the facility for having a positive environmental footprint, considering such criteria as its recycling programs, energy consumption and use of coproducts and byproducts in the manufacturing process. For example, Erwin said a compost dumpster used for feed spills factored into Aurora’s top sustainability scoring.

Among the more recent upgrades at the Aurora mill is a new cooling system installed last year to improve the quality of pellets as well as efficiency and capacity. Pellet feed absorbs a large amount of heat and moisture during the manufacturing process, which is not conducive to storage and transportation. Proper cooling extends the shelf life of the feed and reduces the damage to pellets during packaging, hauling and handling.

“It has made a huge difference,” Erwin said. “The new cooler hardens the pellet so it’s not breaking apart as it runs through the system. It retains its stability. With our old cooler, for every 24 tons of feed, which we consider a truckload, we would lose about a ton of that feed as it got loaded out. Now, we’re only losing less than half a ton for every load. It’s been amazing.”


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