Optimizing Feed Production, Part 3: Making Pellets Efficiently
Webinar EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Meet the Speakers
Optimizing Conditioning Improves Pellet Quality
Three Methods Measure Retention Time
Pellet Mill Technology and Automation Increase Efficiency
View Key Takeaways
Watch the Webinar
Efficiency is Optimized Using a Data-driven Approach
Changes to Conditioning and Technology Improve Pellet Mills
Charles Stark, Ph.D., Jim and Carol Brown Professor in Feed Technology, Kansas State University
Phil Wellhausen, Applications Manager, California Pellet Mill
Moderated by Andy Vance, Director, Strategic Accounts, Farm Progress
Eugene Rodberg, Senior Product Manager for Feed Quality Products, Kemin
Pelleting feeds has been a practice in the United States for over 80 years. Combining feed ingredients and densifying those into a pellet form improves transportation costs and prevents selective feeding. With pelleting, energy is added, primarily through steam, but also through the mechanical energy produced by the die.
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- Scott Deviney, CEO, Chicken Salad Chick
Trends in conditioning and technology lead to lower costs, increased efficiency, and higher pellet quality
“With that energy added to the ingredients, pelleting makes the feed more digestible—at the same time improving pellet quality—so each pellet becomes a mini nutritional power bar.”
- Phil Wellhausen, Applications Manager, California Pellet Mill
Improving efficiency and quality in pellet mills can reduce the costs associated with operating a pellet mill. Trends in conditioning and pelleting technology provide opportunity to optimize throughput and enhance feed conversion. A greater awareness of the importance of the conditioning itself, as well as the conditioning effects on pellet quality, has resulted in longer retention times in the conditioner and larger or double stacked conditioners in pelleting.
At the same time, improvements in pelleting technology have impacted operations and products. Pellet mills have grown larger, with die size increasing from 16- and 20-inch dies up to 36- and 42-inch—sometimes even 50-inch—dies. These mechanical changes, along with automation, increase net tons of production, per day or per shift.
At the start of the pelleting process, the conditioner plays an important role. Using steam only requires a lower shaft RPM, leading to a decrease in electrical energy consumption, or higher output with the same energy consumption. Increased retention times to achieve uniformity when using steam improve pellet quality and reduce waste at the feeders. Since steam is a lubricant, the life of dies and rolls is extended, as the lubrication provided by steam decreases wear on those parts.
Calibration of parts is also important. To optimize the mixture of steam with mash, the conditioner should be about 60% full. If it is too full, it will not support a good mixture ratio, while less than 60% full is not the best use of the equipment. The best way to check fill rate is to stop the feeder and the conditioner and lock out all energy sources. Once lockout is complete, open one of the covers and use a flashlight to observe whether the feed is above or below the shaft, which will serve as a good indication of fill rate that can be adjusted as needed.
Starting a pellet mill requires ramp-up time to reach optimal tons per hour, opening the steam valve gradually. Bringing everything up to the same temperature and moisture, and therefore the same nutritional value and pellet quality — before it goes into the pellet mill — can be achieved through using a hot start conditioner. Hot start involves starting a conditioner with a variable frequency drive in reverse mode. Special, chevron-shaped picks at the inlet move feed away from the inlet whether the shaft turns forward or in reverse.
As feed and steam enters the conditioner, a digital temperature probe near the inlet, placed one-third to one-fourth of the way down the barrel, alerts connected software when the temperature reaches a set point, triggering an automatic reversal of the shaft direction. This occurs while feed and steam are continuously added to ensure that 100% of the feed exiting the conditioner is at the desired temperature and moisture. Hot start requires a VFD on the conditioner and software-enabled sensors.
A lower cost of energy and improved consistency lead to a better product
“We know that good conditioning involves high temperatures [and] good moistures, so why not have all of the feed up to the ideal temperature before we get into the pellet mill? We can do that with a hot start conditioner.”
Applications Manager, California Pellet Mill
Phil Wellhausen on Having Good Conditioning
Retention time and fill rate are related. Good mixing depends on the correct adjustment of the picks inside the conditioner. Horizontal picks result in more mixing and less conveyance. Especially for worn picks, adjusting them to be closer to the barrel is extremely important. Placing them too far away or allowing them to become too worn leaves dry spots on the bottom of the conditioner, which will eventually be pushed to the conditioner’s discharge and into the pellet mill, causing pellet mill motor amps to spike erratically.
There are three methods to determine retention time:
Achieving the right retention time depends on fill rate and pick adjustment
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1. The pellet mill amp drop method. Run the mill as usual, then stop the feeder and begin a stopwatch, watching the pellet mill amps until they reach around 20% of the motor load. This time can be used as a reference point for subsequent adjustments. In this method, nothing needs to be opened or locked out, so it offers a quick, easy approach to approximating retention time.
2. Whole corn/dye method. This method uses a marker, whether whole corn, whole soybeans, or food-grade dye, that can be poured into the discharge of the feeder. Upon pouring, start a stopwatch and periodically collect samples at the pellet mill inspection door or cover. Measurements taken at different periods will yield marker amounts in a bell-shaped curve, which can be used to calculate the average retention time.
3. Weigh conditioner contents at known tons per hour method. This method depends on calibration to known tons per hour (tph). Exact tph must be known before applying this method, which is to stop the feeder and the conditioner and lock them out before then measuring all the feed and the conditioner. Based on known tph, the total amount of feed collected at the time of measurement yields a highly accurate average retention time.
For those who make molasses feeds and high-grain formulas, placing a smaller conditioner on top of a larger conditioner is recommended, adding steam and molasses at a faster shaft speed in the smaller conditioner for good mixing, then dropping the feed into the larger conditioner to achieve the optimal retention time for the high-grain formulas.
Improved pellet mill technology and automation lowers cost per ton in terms of labor, energy usage, and wear costs.
Using a lineator, which is a remote roll adjustment, allows for employment of an air motor, the shafts or spindles of which are attached to the roller adjusting gears so they move in tandem with each other. This enables the air motor to move the rolls in or away from the die as desired, contributing to energy savings.
Adding roll speed measurement technology to the lineator, in which magnets placed on the back of the roller shells work in conjunction with sensors embedded in the main shaft to measure the turn percentage of every roll, reveals any slip or choke points between the rolls that might cause changes to the rotation. This allows operators during a formula to identify when not to add steam to avoid a roll slip and subsequent jog sequence to restart.
Between formulas, roll speed measurement can be used to fine-tune rolls to turn the same rotation. The decrease in downtime due to these technologies allows more tons to be produced per shift or per day, maximizing pellet mill efficiency.
As controls have improved over the years, so has automation. Any device with a digital footprint can be connected to software to be more proactive with plant maintenance.
Digital-enabled components can be connected to software to measure and automate
We said how important it is for feed conversions and nutritional value of that feed to have the higher temperatures. Use the software you have to optimize that ramp-up time and balance that with your pellet mill chokes.
Phil Wellhausen on Remote
When setting up a pellet mill, there are three key outcomes to consider: maximizing feed mill performance, maximizing animal performance, and customer perception of quality. These outcomes can be impacted based on throughput, feed safety, and formulation costs, especially as ingredient costs go up, as the value of feed conversion changes. From a formulation cost perspective, this can affect pellet and nutrient quality.
Pellet quality is affected by the die, the conditioner, the grinding, and the formulation. The significance of each factor’s impact depends on the starting point and the desired outcome. Using a data-based approach, such as pelleting reference tables, is the best method for understanding how each of these factors will affect the pelleting process and quality in any given operation. For example, it is necessary to use a die that will provide the appropriate amount of resistance to hold a mixture under pressure to form the actual pellet. The die roll forces the material through, against the resistance of the die. The wrong sized die can create issues, while too much moisture can cause a roll slip. Using a pelleting reference and pellet die specifications avoids this issue.
It is also important to keep in mind that ingredient source matters. Depending on the crops that are being grown, the soil type, fertilizer usage and amount, and irrigation all have an impact on the grains and on the co- or by-products produced. Those products may differ between regions, depending on the method of processing and raw materials used. Tracking pellet quality based on product source helps inform an optimal pellet mill setup, including equipment components, temperature settings, and formulation used. For example, increasing the amount of wheat in a corn-soy diet raises the PDI, because wheat is an excellent pellet binder; however, it requires a higher moisture content to activate the gluten proteins, which varies from other binders.
Understanding the impact of different factors on pellet quality leads to optimal pellet mill setup
This is an art and a science. The science . . . is collecting the data to understand what has happened so that you can build upon that in the future.
- Charles Stark, Ph.D., Jim and Carol Brown Professor in Feed Technology, Kansas State University
Jim and Carol Brown Professor in Feed Technology, Kansas State University
Dr. Charles Stark
Dr. Charles Stark on Temperature and Retention Time
Phil Wellhausen is the Applications Manager for California Pellet Mill (CPM). He grew up on a family farm in western Pennsylvania that had beef cattle and layer hens, as well as corn and hay crops.
In 1980, he received his Bachelor of Science degree from Penn State University in animal production. Wellhausen joined CPM in 1997
Charles Stark, Ph.D.
Dr. Charles Stark and the Feed Science program at Kansas State University are globally recognized as leaders in feed research, education, and outreach. He has a joint faculty appointment in the Departments of Grain Science and Industry and Animal Sciences and Industry at Kansas State University. Dr. Stark is the Jim and Carol Brown Professor in Feed Technology. Dr. Stark received his degrees from Kansas State University in Animal Sciences (B.S.) and Grain Science (M.S., Ph.D.).
Andy Vance - Moderator
Director, Strategic Accounts,
Vice President & General Manager, Vertiv
Patrick Quirk directs strategy for our global embedded firmware operations and now leads converged systems business. Prior to Vertiv, he served in leadership roles for telecommunications and semiconductor technology companies in the US and Europe.
Senior Product Manager for Feed Quality Products, Kemin
Eugene has been with Kemin for 10 years and during that time has been responsible for managing the Kemin line of organic acid and surfactant-based product. Prior to Kemin, Eugene spent 17 years with DSM in sales and marketing roles and 4 years with Ajinotomo as Director of Sales and Marketing for the amino acid product line.
of organic acid and surfactant-based product. Prior to Kemin, Eugene spent 17 years with DSM in sales and marketing roles and 4 years with Ajinotomo as Director of Sales and Marketing for the amino acid product line.
leaders in feed research, education, and outreach. He has a joint faculty appointment in the Departments of Grain Science and Industry and Animal Sciences and Industry at Kansas State University. Dr. Stark is the Jim and Carol Brown Professor in Feed Technology. Dr. Stark received his degrees from Kansas State University in Animal Sciences (B.S.) and Grain Science (M.S., Ph.D.).
Pennsylvania that had beef cattle and layer hens, as well as corn and hay crops.
In 1980, he received his Bachelor of Science degree from Penn State University in animal production. Wellhausen joined CPM in 1997
Watch the WEbinar
Optimizing Feed Production, Part 3:
Making Pellets Efficiently
Kemin is pleased to present the third live webinar installment in our Optimizing Feed Production Series. In this live webinar, Dr. Charles Stark from Kansas State University, and Phil Wellhausen from CPM, will provide advice on Making Pellets Efficiently.
One of the largest costs associated with operating a pelleting mill is electricity. Improving pellet quality, optimizing throughput and enhancing feed conversion can all help reduce the cost of making high quality pellets. Pellet quality and optimizing pellet mill operation can greatly enhance efficiency.
MillSAVOR™ Pellet Processing Aid
Download White Paper
The Kemin MillSAVOR™ Milling Efficiency Program was developed to address both the need for and cost of pelleting feed.
This piece summarizes the first large scale evaluation of MillSAVOR Liquid Concentrate in a poultry feed mill in the United States.
MillSAVOR Trial 1
MillSAVOR Liquid Concentrate improved pellet durability index and did not negatively impact the accumulation of fine feed particles.
MillSAVOR Trial 3
MillSAVOR Liquid Concentrate improved tons per hour, reduced amps per ton and reduced motor load when compared to a competitive milling aid.
MillSAVOR Trial 2