Beyond the Barn: Maria Stein Grain Plans for Future With New Mill

Posted on December 21, 2016 in Starting Strong - Calf Care
The legs of the Maria Stein Grain feed mill have been a landmark in Maria Stein, Ohio for many years.  The business began as a grain elevator in 1896 and, like many mills, expanded to include feed manufacturing along the way.  In 1975, a group of shareholders purchased the business and, one year later, Chuck Kremer, general manager, began his career there.

“I was cleaning out the cob house when I started here,” Kremer said smiling.

At that time, the mill produced about 25 tons of feed per month.  Today, it manufactures 100 to 150 tons per day, thanks in part to a major construction project in 2015.

Kremer said the 34 shareholders recognized the need for change.  Most notably, they wanted the ability to make their own customized vitamin and trace mineral mixes for customers.  They also wanted to boost quality control and accuracy with computerized systems.  About four years ago, Kremer worked with consultants and advisors to brainstorm how these goals could become reality.

That might have been the easy part.

Additional consideration was needed to figure out how Maria Stein Grain would continue to manufacture feed throughout the construction process.  Vita Builders of Fall River, Wisconsin served as the contractors for the project and general manager, Glenn Andler, helped make the plan to keep the mill running throughout the project.  Construction began January 1, 2015 and the team began manufacturing feed in the new mill the following December.

Although it was very challenging at times, Maria Stein Grain did not shut down for a single day during construction.  Kremer said employees did a good job working creatively as a team to serve customers.

The new mill includes 24 ingredient bins, 16 loadout bins and 16 micronutrient bins.  A 4-ton double-ribbon mixer is the mill’s main mixer, and a 2-ton mixer feeds directly to loadout as well as an automated bagger.  A warehouse was built this past July and includes liquid fat and molasses tanks to store these ingredients in all seasons.

Kremer said the new construction positions Maria Stein Grain to better serve livestock producers throughout the area.  The ability to customize feeds and give more attention to quality are two huge benefits to customers.  He said it’s likely they will add pelleting equipment in the next three to five years to add value for customers.

“That way we can do everything in-house,” he said.

The new facility provides Maria Stein Grain with enough capacity for future growth.  Kremer said a majority of customers are within 50 miles of the mill; about 50 percent of those are swine producers, 40 percent are dairy and beef producers, and 10 percent raise specialty animals.  As farms consolidate, Kremer predicted trucks will have to travel 100 to 150 miles away to serve customers.

Another benefit Kremer has observed is interest from the younger employees.  He said they appreciate the automation and better design of the new mill as it reduces less physical strain and provides a more comfortable work environment.  The new computer technology is also appealing to this group.

“I’m excited to see guys take interest in this mill,” Kremer said.  “There’s a future for them here.”

Category: Industry activities
Starting Strong - Calf Care