SHELDON, Iowa | Chris Johnson, leader of the Ag Partners LLC complex in Sheldon, calls the soon-to-be-completed pelleting mill a "$7 million beauty.”

That 144-foot-tall facility has the capability of producing up to 50 tons of pelleted feed per hour -- enough to fill two semi-trucks with a variety of feed every hour, around the clock, as orders demand. That’s more than double the feed produced at Ag Partner’ north and south plants here.

The tower has four bins that are intended for two different phases of operation. But Johnson says Ag Partners will be using all four at one time when processing begins, adding that “by the end of March we hope to be running pretty hard.”

With animal nutrition changing, more feed is going from mash to pellets, Johnson said. “It’s easier to digest and has a higher rate of gain.”

Scott Lovin, Ag Partners vice president, says alternative ingredients help hold the pellets together, along with steam and pressure.

“Through the mix process and the steam, the pellets are gelatized, then the feed is pushed through a die,” he said.

Ag Partners has had similar units in both its north and south plants here for many years, he said, just with not as much capacity.

In addition to increased capacity, the new mill is controlled by computers, making it more efficient to operate.

The corn and soybeans that make up the basis of the swine and poultry feeds are augered to the top of the tower, which stands on the west side of Second Avenue near downtown Sheldon.

“Then we let gravity work for us,” Johnson says. “An 800- or 1,000-ton day would push that pelleter to capacity, around the clock, to fill orders distributed by eight drivers in an area within a 60-mile radius of Sheldon.”

There are several advantages to pelleted feed, says Lovin. Hogs convert better on a pellet. Steam and high temperatures of about 170 degrees start the digestive process of the corn. This heat treatment breaks down starch, which means less energy is required from the pigs to digest. And there’s less feed waste.

Swine and poultry rations are different formulas, Lovin said, and feeders use different formulations of each. There is no cattle feed produced here.

Editor's note: Corrects earlier version of story which, in a number of references, used an inaccurate acronym for Ag Partners. The story also removes an earlier description of the pelleted feed at the Sheldon site.

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