OntarioFarmer - Production
Bruce McKeown is happy with his $25,000 investment, which he says has added close to $200/ac in value to his harvest.
BY SUZANNE ATKINSON
Woodville - It was when he compared the price he was being paid for his soybeans to the price he was paying for soybean meal, that Bruce McKeown determined to find an alternative.While he’s $25,000 poorer today thanks to the purchase of a bean extruder for on-farm use, McKeown says that money will be made up in no time.He’s not only taken control of one more facet of his business, but he’s feed-ing his Jerseys and veal calves a higher quality ration and he has developed multiple income sidelines.Drip… Drip… drip.Beneath an Energrow mechanical screw press expeller, melted, butter-like oil drizzles into a tote-sized plastic drum. It will take about two weeks to fill the 1,000 litre container.Warm, oil-drenched pellets totter into a feedcart and, in his hand, McKeown holds a die, the only part that has had to be replaced in 2,000 hours of work.About 30 members of the Victoria Soil and Crop Club crowded into a refurbished shed where McKeown demonstrated his Energrow press last week. And really, there wasn’t much to demonstrate.With an automatic shut-off, he fills a feed cart in about 10 hours, then fills a tote full to truck to calves on another farm. What isn’t fed out one day can be used the following day.In fact, he says, when he demon-strated an extruder last fall, he pro-cessed a four-month supply. The feed kept through the cold of winter and the variability of spring.“The first we made was the last we used and it was fine.”A thick gas-coloured liquid was being pumped into a drum as the soil and crop club members looked on.“It’ll run a diesel engine,” McKeown said, “But why would you want to?”He’s being paid about $1.15 per litre for the soybean oil, plus he is feeding the residue- those oil saturated pellets, to his 40 Jersey cows and several hun-dred veal calves. He estimates he har-vests about 60 litres of oil per acre, plus he’s cut out the cost of purchasing protein for his cows.The best part is that he’s added $150 to $200 more value per ton to his harvest in savings and higher quality feed.“That’s being conservative,” he says. “We’re happy with it.”He has happily cut out the cost of transporting his beans to an elevator, seeing them head off to Hamilton for processing, than purchasing them back at an inflated price.“I don’t begrudge them a little profit but I do believe the soybean crushers are well paid,” he says.
The veal calves gain more quickly and the milking cows are healthier as evidenced by increased milk produc-tion, fewer cows going off feed and the herd generally showing better heats.“They’re actually performing better on this extruded soybean,” explains McKeown, who estimates he’ll feed 70 tons of the soybean meal in his TMR ration over a year. The fat stayed steady when he started feeding his own crop. “Last year the hay was bad but the cows tested the best they ever have.”Beans are run through a grinder “to break them up,” then augured to a bin, before being run through the mill.The extruder could run 24/7. But McKeown, who custom processes beans for three other farmers and mar-kets some of his own, says currently he is running at about one-third to one-half capacity. He charges “$60 per ton and we keep the oil.” “We’re fortunate. Sunderland Co-op is buying it (the oil) to use for dust control in the feed. They were buying soy oil so they were glad to get it from us.”McKeown says he could sell the food-grade oil for human consump-tion, but it would require lots of paperwork and CFIA inspections.“I’m not going to do it, but maybe the kids will.”Three of his four children are leaning towards agricultural careers. Caledon Jerseys owns 550 acres, rents another 700 and McKeown estimates he sells about half of his crop.“This is a better way to market our crops if they’ve been through our cattle.” The extruder is run by a 5 horse-power motor at an estimated cost of $15-$20 per ton.“We fully expected the hydro bill would go up - that would be part of the cost. But we haven’t seen it in the hydro bill. “We can’t figure it out.”McKeown first learned about the extruders at a Farm Smart conference and admits to tossing the idea around for four months in his search for a sav-ings on feed costs.“Every idea you turn around and you wonder if you’re crazy.”
VIA > OntarioFarmer Tuesday, July 20, 2010