Boosting profit from optimizing steam conditioning, pelleting and cooling in feed mills

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© istock
© istock

Related tags Feed production Management

An event last week focused on ways to improve feed mill operation costs, while also maximizing quality, hygiene and security of the feed at such facilities.

Kemin Industries said the goal of its global feed processing seminar on 14-15 September, held in Antwerp, was to plug a gap in terms of knowledge dissemination in that field and to help boost the profitability of feed mill operations through providing insights into sustainable initiatives that could reduce losses, regardless of plant location globally.

The conference attracted over 100 plant managers, nutritionists and quality control personnel, said Luis Conchello, business manager, animal nutrition and health, for Kemin EMEA.  

“We had a large delegation from South Africa, and attendees in large numbers from India, Brazil as well as from the Middle East, the US and the EU. We calculated the feed tonnage across the combined feed mills represented at the event was 60 million tons per annum.”

Conchello said the delegates went away with four to five new insights into feed production related to processes like steaming, cooling, preconditioning of feed, as well as data management. “The learnings can be implemented quickly and easily in their operations,”​ he told FeedNavigator.

Low operating margins

Compound feed production is a very complex business, and has many challenges, he said.

“Different raw materials have to be combined into uniform pellets with optimum quality; ensuring feed safety is critical. Production is expensive, and operating margin for mills is low.

“The seminar provided an overview of the main costs involved in feed processing as well as specific topics from experts in the area of feed production technology. Managing the cooling process, for example, very important but there is a lack of knowledge about that among mill operators.

“The event also looked at key performance indicators, ways to reduce process variability, how to lower energy consumption, as well as how to improve a feed mill’s throughput rate and the pellet quality,”​ he added.

Data management, preconditioning, steam use and cooling

Conchello told attendees about how efficient feed preconditioning can result in profitable and safe processing. He said he explained the fundamentals of the Kemin feed preconditioning program, and its role in preparing feedstuff for optimum steam conditioning, pelleting and cooling.

He said Juan Acedo-Rico González of Spanish firm, Acedo-Rico and Asociados, conducted an analysis on the main process involved in feed manufacturing and presented tools to improve feed operation costs, while also maximizing quality, hygiene and security of the feed.

González stressed the importance of controlling process weight losses, and to recover moisture losses during feed production, stressing that overall management and effective training of feed mill operators is key to managing feed production costs.

Meanwhile, Peter De Cneudt of Spirax Sarco in Belgium spoke about how to ensure optimal steam quality to improve press performance, explaining that it is beneficial to use saturated steam or slightly overheated steam. As steam for conditioning can take up to 20% of energy costs in feed manufacturing, steam use needs to be closely monitored, added the expert.

Diego Clivio of Geelen Counterflow in Argentina focused on optimal cooling processes and explained the theory of cooling.

He described it as a process of heat and moisture transfer from the product to the air and said that airflow rate and temperature are important parameters of cooling. “In a feed mill, airflow can be used to achieve evaporative cooling of pellets and to reduce moisture content of pellets. Air flow rate must be high enough to avoid condensation, and air moisture content can be measured using a relative humidity sensor.”

Clivio said high airflow rates would give more cooling by heat transfer, but less evaporation, whereas longer retention times will remove more water.

Oriane Guérin of Zetadec in the Netherlands challenged the audience to rethink the role of data in feed manufacturing. Data on temperature, moisture content, energy use and production times can be collected along the entire processing line.

She demonstrated the correlation between data and optimizing the production process to reach production objectives and stressed the importance of monitoring process and data collection for managing a modern feed mill. 

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