Introduction
    

This is the second in a series of three articles looking into feed production here at Sportsman Game Feeds and how we focus on consistency and quality of finished feed throughout every stage of the process.

In the first article, we covered intake and approving incoming raw materials. We will now follow those raw materials through the plant to understand how these are used to produce the Sportsman feeds seen on farms across the country. 

Weighing and Grinding
After intake, raw materials are transferred to storage within the mill. This is based on form (liquid, powder, grains, etc.), any health and/or safety considerations as well as percentage inclusion in the formulations. Options include bulk silos, liquid tanks, bags and mineral bins, all of which vary in size.

Once in storage, these raw materials are now ready for use and will be called upon as diets are selected and scheduled for production. The ingredients will be weighed up and, if necessary, as for example in the case of wheat, ground to a coarse flour-like consistency. 

During both of these stages there are key considerations that ensure a high quality finished feed that is of the right nutritional and physical specification:

Weighing – raw material storage bins sit above different scales within the mill based on the inclusion required, essentially high inclusion raw materials are weighed on bigger scales. To further ensure nutritional targets are achieved, each individual raw material will have set tolerance limits.

Grinding – Either before or after weighing, whole raw materials will be ground from their original form to a consistent particle size. Grinding is beneficial to pellet durability and increases the availability of key nutrients to the birds.

Mixing
Following weighing and grinding, the ingredients are combined in the mixer as a meal, other inclusions at this stage include oils, fats, some liquid amino acids, and any small hand addition ingredients. 

Mixer batch sizes can vary from as little as 1 tonne to as much as 5 tonnes, but regardless of size it is integral that the mixing sequence and time achieve an even mix. Feed which is unevenly mixed is  detrimental to animal performance. 

Conditioning
Post-mixing, the meal is conveyed to the conditioner, where steam and other liquids are added to produce a product capable of being pelleted. A minimum target is set for all feed passing through to be heated to at least 80˚C for two minutes. 

This conditioning process has been validated to reduce microbiological threat from raw materials and therefore prevent risk to animal health, making it a critical stage of production.  

Pelleting
Hot meal leaves the conditioner and then transfers to the pellet press where it is forced through a die by rollers. The size of the die is selected to make pellets suitable for different growth stages of the birds’ life. When a run of pellets is starting, samples are collected to ensure the length and diameter is correct as well as looking for consistency against previous runs. Only if the physical quality is right will the run be able to continue through the process.

Cooling
All product leaving the press will now be at a temperature greater than 80 degrees. These hot pellets are very soft and easily broken down so they are transferred to a cooler which draws ambient air through the feed to reduce its temperature by drying and as a result hardens the pellets.

Crumbling
By this stage, feed has almost reached the end of the process, however when making crumbs there is an additional step. This occurs post-cooling where pellets are taken through a crumbler which cracks them to make a smaller form size, better suited to younger birds. 

As with pelleting, samples will be collected at the earliest possible opportunity to ensure these are of the correct quality before continuing.

Sieving and Coating
Both pellets and crumbs will now be sieved to remove any fines and particles which fall outside our quality parameters. All of the “in specification” feed progresses to coating, which is the addition of liquids including fats and enzymes, further increasing durability, physical quality and nutritional quality.

When reaching the end of the production process, finished feed will either be packed into 25kg bags or bulk storage bins before being despatched to farm. 

Every stage of the process has been designed to ensure the nutritional and physical quality of the end product so that what is placed in front of the birds is of correct specification. In the next edition of this series of articles, we will aim to look even closer at the Quality control we have in place at Sportsman Game Feeds and what that means for our products.