The company said the new Wellsford plant came in on time and on budget.
Construction of the mill, located at Wellsford near Bendigo in Victoria, started in April 2019, after Ridley identified that an existing facility in Bendigo had reached capacity, and was unable to support future growth of the region’s animal protein industry.
Employees and production have been transitioned to Wellsford from that older mill in Bendigo, which has now been closed and is being prepared for divestment.
Production at Ridley's Mooroopna feed mill near Shepparton in northern Victoria's Goulburn Valley will also be shifted south to the new state of the art Wellsford plant over the next six to nine months, after which the Mooroopna site will be prepared for divestment, said the manufacturer.
Ridley managing director, Quinton Hildebrand. told local media last year that the new Wellsford mill would still have about 70,000 tons of extra capacity after absorbing the Bendigo and Mooroopna businesses.
"Having invested just over $47m in the new Wellsford facility it is important that we take full commercial advantage of its superior efficiency and production quality.
"Our focus for the year ahead will be to improve utilization across our asset portfolio.”
Last year also saw Ridley shut one of its two South Australian feed mills, at Murray Bridge.
‘Simplifying the business’
Hildebrand, who took on the role of MD in August last year, noted earlier this year how the business had a large overhead structure that was weighing on costs. Its Murray Bridge feed mill was significantly underutilized and had been losing money since the expiry of a supply contract in October 2018, he added.
Ridley is now focusing on certain optimization initiatives aimed at simplifying the business, installing automation, leveraging its raw material and consumable procurement and rationalizing the supply chain, he said.
In the past eight years Ridley has also opened new feed manufacturing sites at Pakenham and Lara in Victoria and Westbury in Tasmania.