August 2014

Seven minutes! Yes, the estimated time to convert a grain of wheat or barley into pelletised stock food is seven minutes! While it might sound trivial it depicts the modernity and efficiency of a stockfood processing plant in Pakenham.

Ridley Agri-products in Bald Hill Road was the location for the August activity of Women on Farms West Gippsland. Members who attended the plant tour were overwhelmed with many insights into a very competitive industry so important to farmers. Management was obliging and the feed mills were more than fascinating.

This is a rural industry on the edge of urban Melbourne. Feed pellets are manufactured here for cattle, horses, pigs, sheep, poultry, dogs, llamas and zoo animals. Optimising animal nutrition, streamlining freight movements, sourcing raw ingredients, ensuring sustainability, minimising waste, and keeping customers and neighbours happy are company goals. We learned how these are achieved.

Main ingredients of pelletised or extruded stockfeed are grains and minerals. Wheat, barley and canola meal are staples. Almond husks, soya beans, lupins and salt may be added, depending upon the formula for end users. Qualified animal nutritionists supervise the mix. Seasonal variations, such as higher calcium or protein levels may be required at certain times, say for dairy herds.

Finished product is cooled and promptly delivered, mostly in bulk, within hours of completion, ensuring freshness. Samples of the product are routinely taken for testing and for any back up analysis.

With the mills working around the clock, they are highly automated, mainly through computerisation and the installation of internationally proven technology. This helps control labour costs and quality.

The Ridley processing plant is broadly divided into three areas: an older hammer mill processes products containing meat meal. A newer grinding mill processes solely ruminant feeds, and an administrative section provides oversight. There is also a constant flow of enormous tankers delivering raw ingredients and taking ordered pellets out to farms and other customers.

That one end user is the Melbourne Zoo and another is a research laboratory using mice was not surprising. Even pellets, made with fish meal and destined for fish farms are produced.

FeedSafe Australia accreditation, renewed upon successful annual audits, is essential to maintaining quality assurance at the plant.

Women of all ages are welcome to join Women on Farms. The key criterion is an interest in farming and farming women. There is no need to be actively farming to participate.  For more details contact secretary, Jean Irvine, ph. 0429488156, or go to our website at www.womenonfarms.org for the monthly program.

For enquiries about this article, contact: Mary Hughes, Ph. 03 5628 4195.