Columbia Farms Opens New Poultry Feed Mill

GEORGIA, US - The $23 million chicken feed plant Columbia Farms has opened in Comer can produce up to 10,000 tons of feed a week.
calendar icon 13 October 2009
clock icon 4 minute read

The new Columbia Farms chicken feed mill is the tallest building in Madison County. It stands 17 stories tall – so high that a blinking light was put on the top to warn low-flying aircraft.

But, reports Athens Banner-Herald, the towering structure provides more than just a 30-mile view. The $23 million plant, which opened this month, will produce 8,000 tons of feed for north-east Georgia chicken farmers in the Columbia Farms fold, said complex manager, Barry Cronic.

"The feed goes directly from here to our poultry farms," Mr Cronic said. "Our long-term goal is to fill this place up with our own needs, and this place could do 10,000 tons of feed a week. So, we've got some room to grow."

Madison County officials hope farmers who supplied Pilgrim's Pride – which closed an Athens processing plant last week – might strike a deal with Columbia Farms.

"[The closing] affects our growers mostly," Mr Cronic said. "We're hoping that Columbia Farms will pick some of them up."

Columbia Farms, a division of the North Carolina-based House of Raeford, is moving its feed operations and a dozen jobs to Madison County from Lavonia. The company will keep most of its offices in Lavonia, said Ken Qualls, vice president of finance.

But the new location on Georgia Highway 72 just east of Comer made perfect sense for the feed mill, Mr Qualls said, especially because of its direct access to the passing railway.

"Our feed mill was getting old and needed a lot of work, and we needed better access to the rail lines," he said. "That's one key thing for a feed mill because most of your corn and soybeans come on railroad lines."

A special diesel-powered tractor drags train cars filled with corn and soybeans into the mill, where they are emptied onto a conveyer belt below the ground. The belt takes the corn and beans to a vacuum that lifts them up onto another belt inside, where they run through two mills. The by-product is mixed with other ingredients, heated and milled again into feed pellets. The pellets then are stored in the grain elevator and dropped into trucks waiting on the other side of the complex for shipment.

Everything in the mill runs on a boiler powered by wood debris from a Barrow County timber company and controlled by two computers, Mr Cronic said.

Production manager, Scott Cochran, sits behind the desk in the control room, keeping track of each process – from receiving to shipping – on three computer monitors.

"Everything is depicted on here," Mr Cochran said, pointing at the screens. "It's online all the time. You can even monitor everything remotely."

Madison County officials expect to see a sizable impact to the local economy, according to Athens Banner-Herald.

The land value will add to the county's tax digest, Madison County commission chairman, Anthony Dove, said.

"They'll have trucks coming in and out, and that will bring money into the county as well, and then you have the new jobs," he said. "I've been very impressed with the operation."

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