David Jones, general manager over LNC plants in Chickasha, Fletcher and Altus, and Patrick Hubanks, manager of the Altus operation, plan to greet the public at a grand opening in the near future. (Call 580-549-6642 for more information.) LNC operates additional plants in Guthrie and Keota and has one under construction at Foreman, Ark. “From Chickasha, we're servicing customers as far away as Denton, Texas, and we deliver feed in the Quanah-Childress area; but when we go those areas, we become non-competitive because of freight costs. Altus is a good location.”
According to Mayor T.L. Gramling, “I think it will be a good operation for the city.”
Four years ago, Jones sold the Fletcher Farm Center to LNC, which branched first to Chickasha; he previously taught agriculture for Hennessey and Snyder schools. Hubanks has many years of experience in the feed business with the Hollis Cotton Oil Mill and currently lives with his family in Hollis.
City Planning Director Barbara Burleson said, “We just think it's a great project to utilize existing area and buildings within the city limits. In-fill development, meaning that you use area that is already within the city limits, was the goal of the city's Comprehensive Plan.”
The branch in Chickasha anticipated employing 12 to 15 people over a 5-year period but exceeded 16 employees after two years of operation. Initial plans in Altus call for hiring nine to 10 people-manager, two office workers, two sales people and four in the feed barn. “If things go as well here as they did in Chickasha, maybe we'll employ more,” Jones said. “The Chickasha deal worked out so well that we are actually two years ahead of schedule in starting the Altus plant.”
LNC researched other locations, looking for a site farther south and west, “but access to rail service made the difference. Chalk one up to the railroads,” Jones said.
The feed company purchased the ties and rail to extend a 1,100-foot spur from Farmrail's track in south Altus. According to Rodney Roof, Farmrail executive, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation owns the railroad but leases it to Farmrail in a public-private partnership. Farmrail hired a contractor to install a new switch needed to utilize the spur; Farmrail supervised the design and installation but the state provided approximately $50,000 in funding.
The company will primarily blend cattle feed. “We bring in railcar loads of different feed ingredients in pellet form and we keep them in different bays in the large barn,” Jones said. “Based on the specifications of the farmer or rancher, we mix together complete rations and deliver them to the farmer's location.”
Most of the ingredients used in mixing the feed are byproducts of other types of processing: corn gluten feed (byproduct of corn syrup manufacturing and some types of alcohol manufacturing); wheat middling (byproduct of making flour), distillers grain (from the production of corn ethanol), linseed meal (high-protein pellet derived from flaxseed); two or three different forms of corn (old, flaked and cracked); cotton seed hulls; soybean hull pellets (from producing soybean oil--probably the highest priced ingredient this year due to droughts in the South).
To be effective, LNC not only mixes and sells feed but also provides nutritional support. LNC contracts with professional nutritionists to help its customers. More important, LNC only hires salesmen with extensive feed background and experience or college degrees in animal sciences.
“The service side (consulting and feed delivery by truck) is the unique thing that makes LNC click. It's not exactly like every feed mill that people have dealt with; it's a little more tailored,” Jones said. “Most of our sales people are capable of making recommendations. A lot of farmers know what they want; but a lot ask us what we would do and most of them visit with the nutritionist and follow his suggestions.”
LNC helps increase the cattleman's profits by making the end product less costly and gives the farmer more options by offering product combinations that, due to low demand, were not readily available previously. The mid-sized company is small enough for flexibility but large enough for volume buying to reduce the ingredient cost.
A dual-delivery system enables farmers to purchase large or small quantities of feed at LNC or from a dealer, such as Badger Oil in Altus. LNC delivers feed to the ranchers either directly or through the dealer. “Or, if a farmer wants to fill a feeder on the back of his pickup, Badgers have an overhead bin so they can fill up there,” Jones said.
“LNC and its dealers constantly provide options on buying feed. Often, contracting feed for a specific time period provides good protection against fluctuating prices,” Jones said. “So, through the combination of us being here with the best price we can offer today or the dealer network or the individual farmer's option of contracting his feed, I think that we provide several alternatives for the farmer to pick how they want to buy their feed.”
Initially, LNC will contract outside firms with hopper-bottom trucks to deliver feed products and possibly hire two or three people to drive the two company trucks in Altus. Jones anticipates purchasing more trucks in the future. “We really don't want to be in the trucking business except to satisfy our customers,” Jones said.
Using primarily local contractors, LNC moved and renovated the former offices of Dr. Carter on East Broadway to use for office headquarters and built a scale to weigh delivery trucks. Although the old cottonseed oil mill equipment provided no value to the feed operation, LNC salvaged the auger that runs the full length of the roof and will use the large barn for feed storage. “We had the roof repaired by a local contractor; it wasn't in terrible shape, but some sheets of steel had to be replaced, and there were lots of small holes in the roof, requiring a tedious patching job using silicone.
“The city of Altus has been top-notch to work with, giving the impression that they want to help us get this done and at the same time, being responsible to the citizens for what they need to watch out for-safety, etc. We've been well received; it has been a good experience with the city.”
According to Geno Redmon, the city's economic developer, “Livestock Nutrition Center found that the cost of power the city was providing to them was very much in keeping with what they'd find in other communities in this area. I think they've made a commitment that will not only ensure that we have jobs but will benefit all of the livestock people in this area and the rest of Southwest Oklahoma as it spreads into East Texas and the Panhandle. We're pleased to have them on board as community partners.”