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               Oral History Interview

                     John Hall

                  By Meryl Rubin

    John Hall‟s office, Southern States Feed Mill
  421 Chesapeake Avenue, Harrisonburg, VA 22801

                November 10, 2006
                      JAMES MADISON UNIVERSITY:

General topic of interview: After a tour of the feed mill, this interview was about the feed
mill, and the feed industry in general. Topics discussed were history of the feed industry,
the feed mill in general, and what goes into feed. Other various topics were discussed
relating to the feed industry.

DATE: November 10, 2006
PLACE: Southern States Feed Mill

Birthdate: February 10, 1951
Spouse: Wife
Occupation: Feed mill operator


Born in Wisconsin, now lives in Weyer‟s Cave, VA. Has two children, a son in Missouri,
                      and a daughter in Iowa. Has two siblings.

                            INTERVIEWER'S COMMENTS

This interview was about the overall importance of the feed industry as a whole, more
specifically the feed mill. In this interview, various aspects of the feed mill was
discussed, from the workers who work there, to the machinery involved in making feed,
to the feed itself. What ingredients go into the feed, what nutrition aspects go into it.
Even the distribution aspect of the industry was discussed, from the railroads to the

                                      KEY WORDS

John Hall, Rockingham County, VA, feed mill, feed industry, chickens, vitamins,
minerals, Southern States, ingredients, railroads, trucks, mill workers
                      Shenandoah Valley Oral History Project
             Transcription of Interview with John Hall on November 10, 2006
                     at John Hall’s office, Southern States feed mill.

MR: Initials of Interviewer
JH: Initials of Interviewee

MR: Okay, what was your date of birth again?

JH: February 10, 1951

MR: How about place of birth?

JH: It was Baraboo, Wisconsin

MR: Parents names?

JH: John [er] I‟m sorry, Paula and Layton Hall

MR: Do you have any siblings?

JH: I have a brother and a sister.

MR: How about your parent‟s birthplace? Do you know where they were born?

JH: Both in Wisconsin.

MR: Both in Wisconsin.

JH: Yes.

MR: How about your current family?

JH: My wife is with me in here in Weyer‟s Cave. I have a son in Springfield, Missouri.
And a daughter in Iowa City, Iowa.

MR: How about your education status? Are you a college graduate?

JH: Well I have some college.

MR: Some college. How about previous work experiences? Have you ever had any
previous jobs before coming to Southern States?

JH: Yes, I‟ve been at Southern States for a total of about six years. And the whole rest of
my whole life has been working in the feed business.
MR: [feed business]

JH: I‟ve got 36 years experience in the business.

MR: How‟ve those jobs helped you now? Like any previous jobs, have they helped you?

JH: This is all that I‟ve done, my whole life, feed business.

MR: So what exactly is your job here?

JH: I am the plant manager. I oversee the production of the various types of animal feeds,
and the delivery, the quality control and federal regulations. Basically the whole overall
manufacturing process.

MR: So how big is Southern States?

JH: Southern States is about, its total business is about 1.5 billion dollars a year.

MR: So you‟ve been working here how long again?

JH: About a year and a half here.

MR: A year and a half here. Would you happen to know a little bit about the company, a
little bit of background about it?

JH: Southern States is a farmer owned operative. Where basically farmers own it, and
your on the board of directors. And they started off just as a supply company for farmers.
Seed, fertilizer, fuel, feed, and they‟re basically in the same process today.

MR: So where exactly is the feed grown that you showed me? Like where?

JH: Its all local, its all crops that corn, wheat nibs. The corn probably comes from the
Midwest, some probably come from Virginia, the wheat nibs have to come from the
Midwest. And the process, like over in Culpeper, Winchester. Any other process, salts
which is mined someplace and brought in. Phosphate comes from rural North Carolina.

MR: So I guess the railroads then have a very big influence? Like the railroads you
showed me.

JH: The railroads have some influence.

MR: Some influence.

JH: They‟re not very predictable.

MR: I know, like at JMU, like they come at different, various times.
JH: Yea, like I say we can get a car in anywhere from four days to ten days. We can‟t rely
on them.

MR: So what relationship does the company have with those who grow the feed?

JH: […]The corn we‟re directly reliant on the corn that we buy here, comes directly from
the farm. Purdue, is their buyer, and the farmer, truckers, actually bring it right from the
farm to here. And the buyers work directly with the manufacturers and set up trucking
and ship it directly to here. And that‟s all done in the main office in Richmond, Virginia.

MR: So then the seed then basically comes from the different suppliers, or does the seed
come from here?

JH: The seed?

MR: Like the seed that is grown.

JH: No, that‟s a whole different process. That‟s a whole different area.

MR: That‟s a whole different process. […] whole different area.

JH: That‟s agrometey, that‟s a whole different process for Southern States.

MR: So is there any research done in the industry?

JH: Research? [nods] Yes. […] Co-ops have they have research farms. Years ago, every
big Co-op had their own farm. There‟s one up in New York that they use for dairy cattle.
Poultry I believe is done in Ohio or something like that for poultry. The Midwest is hogs,
we have a research farm for a company I used to work for did hogs and beef cattle. So
yea, then they have research. Turkeys and chickens are done in Georgia, down south. So
there are research farms around the country that […] try different feeds, and different
ingredients and different drugs.

MR: So I guess that genetic engineering definitely plays a big part in like the feed
industry then?

JH: Yea, your getting there. Even in the, the like, for, I know that hogs again being the
genetics and even in the feed itself, like soybeans and corn, genetics is going to be a big

MR: I know you showed me on the tour, but can you say again what exactly goes into the

JH: A lot of the major ingredients in the feed are some are just by-products like soy bean
meal, which is a by-product of crushing the excess soybeans with oil is extracted. Wheat
mix is a by-product of flour manufacturing. Corn is just the corn that comes off the farms.
Same corn that you and me use for goes in corn flakes, or making corn meal for your
corn bread. So and thats the major ingredients that we use for making chicken feeds here.
Then we have the minerals and vitamins which are manufactured by major manufacturers
in our country.

MR: So you showed me that cake mixer. Like.

JH: Yea, the mixer?

MR: Can you tell me a little bit about it?

JH: Its just that they call it a ribbon mixer. Where the ingredients are all put in there, and
it just rotates back and forth in there. To get a continuous or a smooth mix through the
whole thing. So like the protein level and all the vitamins and minerals are accurate
throughout the whole batch. From it being added.

MR: I think you were telling me before about making different feeds here. So how often
do you actually make poultry feed?

JH: We make about a third of our business is poultry feed. We do between 3 and 4
hundred ton a week of poultry feed.

MR: That‟s a lot.

JH: Which if you think about a ton of feed, if you have a 50 pound bag of 40 bags, that‟s
a ton.

MR: How long does it take you to make a pound of feed?

JH: Well, I‟d rather talk tons.

MR: Alright tons.

JH: I‟d say one batch of seed could be 3 tons fours. From the time we start weighing it
up, to the time it goes on the truck. We can probably have it done in fifteen minutes.

MR: Fifteen minutes.

JH: Yea.

MR: Wow. So that would make about like four tons an hour? Or…?

JH: That‟d be one bag would be three tons.
MR: Three tons in a bag.

JH: We can do, we can do 3 ton in fifteen minutes. But once you get in the process we
can try and make easy 24 ton an hour.

MR: Oh whoa. Can you tell me about this mill that we‟re in right now? Can you give me
a little background about it? When was it built?

JH: It was built back in the 1950‟s and Southern States leases this mill from Rockingham
Co-Op. We just rent the building from them, we pay them so much a month for rent for
every ton of feed we make. And we‟ve been here for probably thirty years.

MR: And I would like to talk to now is about antibiotics and like minerals and vitamins
that go into the feed.

JH: Hmm hmm.

MR: Like does the company include any antibiotics in the feed? Any minerals? I know
you showed me that.

JH: We use minerals, vitamins. We can use medications as requested by the farmer,
patron, or the owner of the chickens. Like Perdue, or Penembryo. They can request if
theres some problem in the chickens. We can put different additives in the feed to help
out the disease they have or problem they have.

MR: So I guess the bird flu then is a big concern for you?

JH: It can [pause] yes and no. It can be. We do. We take precautions now to protect.
When we deliver feed, the drivers wear coveralls, tibex suits, and we have sprayers on the
truck with antiseptics that we spray down our wheels and they spray down. So we do
everything we can to help the [spread of a.] But if there is a problem and the feed we
come in is clean feed and B.S.E. is not a problem. We‟re a BSE free company which is a
mad cow problem.

MR: That‟s good. How has the manufacturing and distribution of feed changed over

JH: It really hasn‟t changed much. The bulk trucks are still the same. We take them to
the farm, deliver them to the bulk bins, and basically the same process that‟s been done
for years and years. It really hasn‟t changed much as delivery [incoherent].

MR: [whisper] Backing up a little bit, does the company that you supply to the food to,
do they demand certain types of food? Like can they tell you one day “I want this type of

JH: [talking over] Yes.
MR: And like, tomorrow.

JH: We have probably three or four hundred different formulas we can make of all the
feeds we make. Even poultry feed we can probably have a dozen different formulas to
feed the chickens, and it goes from the various stages from growing up to the late cycle
layers. And we have rooster feed which is a different ration for the roosters then the hens
do. But yea, there are different combinations we can do.

MR: [incoherent interviewer not speaking clearly] Has this format changed over time? Or
has it basically been uniform all throughout the years? Like can you just make a batch
during the spring, Like I want this type of feed, and that type of feed?

JH: It will, sometimes during the season they can put out like theres some place that has
[not sure] Lemoynes and chickens and can put stuff in that. By that and that will vary by
the season and usually in the wintertime too, they‟ll eat more feed because to keep their
body heat up.

MR: Has it ever been difficult to meet the demands of the company? Like have you ever
been not able to produce the feed in time?

JH: It‟s just the timing of it. Like farmers run out of feed that day. And we just like to
know what‟s going on about a day ahead of time to schedule our trucks like that. But we
to handle everything as needed.

MR: As needed. How has the amount of feed that is produced and sold changed over
time? Like has it always been a ton or whatever that statistic you told me?

JH: Yea, a ton of feed is pretty much standard.

MR: [underneath] standard.

JH: The only exchange over the years is that you have your big integrators. Like with
Perdue and Cargill and Georges that they own their own chickens, own their own feed
mill, and truck fleet. And your simple mom and pop farms are gone.

MR: Can you tell me a little bit about how feed is actually produced? Like step by step?

JH: Okay. We get the ingredients in by truck or railroad car. It goes into separate bins
which are the huge bins above in the tower here. The ingredients all go into scales which
is computerized with formulas that we have so many pounds we need for every batch of
feed. Then when all of the ingredients are weighed up, we drop them into the mixers. The
ribbon mixers we talked about, and mix it for four to six minutes. We can put in liquids
as needed. Then from there, it goes into the bins. It goes to the bins either in bulk load out
where we can put it right on the semis and go to the farm or we can put it above the pellet
mills and make pellets or chromos out of them. And then go to a bin and put them on
trucks and take out.
MR: [incoherent] So can you describe a typical day for you personally?

JH: A typical day?

MR: Um hmm.

JH: Well I put in about 10-11 hour days. And a lot of it is just overseeing production and
checking out yesterday‟s production. And just keep a good flow going for the safety end
of it, and the production. And making sure that the batches of feed were blended
correctly, and their additives were added correctly. Then of course all the paperwork
that‟s needed cause were regulated by FDA, EPA, OCHA, Air Quality. So we, were

MR: Does your day vary upon the season? Like would a day like today vary from a day
back in August?

JH: Usually our Fridays and Mondays are busier than others. Just because it‟s the
weekend. And summertime is usually a bit slower because when farmers have pastures,
they can go out there and do that. The poultry business is usually pretty steady all year

MR: around.

JH: Yes.

MR: So what exactly is the feed industry‟s relationship to the railroad? Has this changed
over time?

JH: I think just from the dependability of it. But the big companies they‟ll get in like
train cars like 75 cars at one time. And that‟s not even to do with keeping the price down.
But the railroad has been an important part of the feed business just because they get like
Virginia is a grain poor state. So we get corn in from the Midwest, by rail. That‟s the only
way its cost effective to do that.

MR: So how long does it usually take you to get your grain in from Missouri or places
like that?

JH: We got to figure a week to ten days.

MR: A week to ten days.

JH: To get a railroad car in. Yeah.

MR: Do you happen to know the route it would take to get from [incoherent]
JH: [talking over then by himself] Just the major railroad. We use Norfolk Southern here
as our railroad. Its whatever routes they have, and who their in business with or work
with to get their trains coming in from different parts of the country to get connected

MR: Does the company operate any grain elevators?

JH: Southern States does not operate „em, All of Southern States‟ grain elevators are
leased to Perdue now.

MR: [underneath coherent]

JH: Perdue now. Perdue runs our grain elevators.

MR: Has Southern States ever had issues with government regulations? Have they ever
had any issues with them?

JH: Basically no. We self inspect ourselves monthly. Everyday we do a drug inventory
which is done. We have FDA inspections every two years. OCEA inspections are, can be
regular. EPA shows up, OCEA shows up ever so often, and its all. I can say we do a lot
of self inspections.

MR: Do you have to wear a special uniform that is required either by federal law or
company/industry standards?

JH: Our company requires us to wear uniforms. Which are supplied partially by them, or
we pay part of the cost, to pay for the cleaning of them. [stuttering] And otherwise
besides that especially. Like I said when we deliver chicken feeds, we‟ll wear tibex suits,
like farmers, or truck drivers will wear and will dispose them after every delivery just to
keep the disease from crossing to another farm.

MR: Are there any safety hazards in the business?

JH: Yes. There‟s always, when you run mill equipment and running fork lifts and hand
loaders and railcars and moving machinery like pellet mills, there can be hazards. But I‟m
happy to say that this mill is going on twelve years without a loss time accident.

MR: So what safety precautions do you take to prevent accidents and to keep both you
and your fellow workers safe?

JH: Well, what we do is we have safety meetings every month; we cover various topics
dictated by our main office. We require safety steel toes shoes be worn here. We have
dust masks available for people who want it from dusty conditions. We were gloves as
needed with chemicals that we may use for the boilers, or otherwise for handling the
drugs, vitamins and minerals around here. And we do have coveralls available if people
want them to [stuttering] worry about taking any of the products home with them when
they go home.

MR: Can you tell me about the workers who work here? Do you know about like how
many workers you have here?

JH: I have twenty people working for me now, and of that, two are truck drivers…I have
three truck drivers I‟m sorry, I have three people working the second shift, I have a staff
of myself, Mage, we have a plant superintendent of quality control, they have two offica

MR: [whisper] [incoherent] That‟s about 20 people?

JH: About 20 people I have total.

MR: Do they cut…switch around, like I guess I‟m trying to say like to they quit
sometimes? Like I know that I know that your going to have that problem all the time.

JH: No. I have long term, I‟ve had people that are here been around going on thirty years.
Truck drivers have twenty-five years next month, and basing business, good place here to
work, and Southern States is a good company to work for. People have been here a long

MR: So I guess you can never, so I guess you can say then you‟ve never had labor
trouble? Like strikes.

JH: When you have to hire somebody, there is a trouble, hiring confident people that
want to work.

MR: Right

JH: And that just industry wide no matter what business you‟re in. So far we‟ve been
very lucky in hiring people around here that want to work and keep coming back anyway.

MR: So can you tell me a little bit about the distribution aspect?

JH: All our distribution is done by bulk delivery trucks which have separate
compartments on them. And ardors that can be put up in the feed bins right on the farm
wherever they dictate. And the delivery trucks anywhere from 9 ton up to 24 ton units
and each compartment on each truck can hold three ton of feed. So I, we can hall eight
kinds of different feed on each truck going to the farmers.

MR: So you mentioned on the phone that you only distribute to one specific company.
Can you expand on that a little bit?

JH: What?
MR: One specific company?

JH: That we?

MR: Distribute the feed to?

JH: Umm, Perdue is our biggest individual that we supply to. But they‟re all individual
farmers we go to. Perdue is just the farmers contract with them. And most of our business
is just individual farmers. It‟s the same process if its Penembryo, or the dairy farmers or
whatever. Just individual farmers that our feed goes to. We take nothing to a big
corporation or anyplace.

MR: So getting back to the trucks. Have the trucks themselves changed, I know
automobiles break down but…

JH: Trucks have just been like cars over the years, they‟ve gotten more dependable, better
their bodies are made from aluminum, light weights so they can haul more feed on the
roads. Just like any mechanical or automobile you drive. Just regular maintenance,
routine, and just how good you take care of them.

MR: I know its expensive to maintain it, but do you have a budget for the trucks?

JH: Yes, I have a budget I use for trucking, manufacturing, and administration. And for
like example one steering tire on a truck will cost you five hundred dollars for a new one.

MR: For a new tire?

JH: For a new one.

MR: [whisper incoherent]

JH: Yea, and that‟s just one. So you‟re going to put on a pair, so you can spend up to one
thousand dollars for steering tires on a semi.

MR: Oh my God. I just had tires put on my car back over the summer and it cost my Dad
just four hundred dollars just for tires. Oh whoa, so I can imagine that.

JH: Yea, that‟s not uncommon. A lot of times what they do now with tires is take them
off and retread them.

MR: Retread?

JH: And you can save some money that way. And the user the tires that you take off, you
can redo them and save some money, but new tires even on a trailer will cost you two
hundred dollars. And like I said in an eighteen wheeler, you got eighteen tires on there.
[phone ringing]
[phone call]

MR: Staying on the recycling business, do you recycle your wastes here? How do you

JH: We recycle our wood pallets, we have a company that comes in and rebuilds them
and sells them. We do not recycle our paper products. There‟s just not a good location for
us to recycle paper. We have other feed mills and company that does recycle paper and
plastic. But they‟re just not available in this area.

MR: So how about the wastes that you get. Like I know if your going to make products,
your going to have some wastes. How do you get rid of the wastes?

JH: The only wastes we really have are empty paper bags and maybe something we‟ll
sweep off of the floor and we put that in a down switcher that goes to a sanitary landfill.

MR: So how can you tell…Let‟s say that you make a bag of feed and like it gets flawed,
like how can you tell if there‟s a flaw in the feed?

JH: We can go by the print off we have from our blending system. And every hand
ingredient that we put in by hand, is written off by hand and signed for, so that‟s how we
can tell that way. Or we can tell if a batch of feed comes up longer or shorter than it
should. We can do some investigating to see if something got messed up, a bin didn‟t
open right, or like that. So investigations can be done, and its all done in house.

MR: So I guess you can say that normal maintenance has been an issue for you over the

JH: Maintenance?

MR: Like maintenance of the machines. Like machines have to be operating right…

JH: We have maintenance routines that are done every month. We have called Chemifile,
and we routinely grease and maintain sheets. We replace belts, and its just on a program
that we have that dictates when were supposed to check the lot.

MR: Like I know that you don‟t handle the birds here, but have you ever had a problem
with birds getting loose when your delivering?

JH: No. Birds are basically in confined houses and all the feed bins are outside, and our
drivers have no contact with the birds whatsoever.

MR: I know since were really next to JMU, I know that college students when they get
drunk are ridiculous, have you ever had problems with them trying to enter here
JH: No, we‟ve had very little trouble with vandalism or any problem with anybody
around here. No.

MR: So like no thefts?

JH: Right, very secure, and I guess carefree area.

MR: So I guess you have no security systems then, do you?

JH: No, we just lock the doors at night and we do not have an alarm system. We do for
our boiler. We are possibly set up for one down the road, but not right now. We do not
have a security system.

MR: Getting back to modern times, has modern technology made your life easier?

JH: Oh definitely, the coming of computer age where we can blend feed with a computer
now instead of by hand. Before we used to have to open a bin by hand and weigh up each
ingredient by hand and put it in. So computers have helped the system greatly. Help us to
reduce our man power and cost or producing feed.

MR: Can you give me a little background of feed. Like how was it made back in like
1954, do you know?

JH: Basically it hasn‟t changed much in how feed is mixed. We either had vertical mixers
or horizontal like we have. Basically back in the old days we used to take the feed down
to the local feed mill and grind it. They grind it up to mix it and take it back home. And
that actually process hasn‟t changed much. Just modern technology has made it simpler
and easier.

MR: Has there ever been a time where cost of manufacturing has cause a decrease in

JH: It could be just wear and tear of the equipment. Like a [not sure]paladine gets worn,
can reduce the output on it. But otherwise everything else is just maintaining. And our
output stays just about level.

MR: Has the feed industry in general ever been affected by current affairs? Like rising oil
prices? Or the California wildfires?

JH: No, wildfires won‟t affect us, oil prices just affect the price of manufacturing. Like
natural gas or the diesel fuel we use in our trucks will increase the cost, but otherwise we
are somewhat recession free because we‟re part of the food chain and that has to go on no
matter what.

MR: So has Wall Street ever affected the industry?
JH: No I can‟t say that Wall Street affects us much either.

MR: So does the feed industry have general conferences? Like do a bunch of feed
manufacturers get together and talk about…

JH: [talking over] We belong to the AFIA, which is the American Feed Institute, and we
have meetings there‟s seminars every year, conventions, shows for new equipment, and
there‟s also, we go to training, we go to certain trainings that are inside a company, or
now even a computer. There‟s a lot of computer training being done now. And people
having classes available, for maintenance and staff people doing all types of training. In
fact we just did a harassment training on a computer the other day.

MR: So can you tell me about what you just mentioned, the American Feed Industry..

JH: Hmm, mmm…

MR: Tell me a little bit about that.

JH: It‟s just what, you get all the feed companies that pay dues every year, and we get
information from them, research possibly, and new ideas, and workers safety, its just
where all the feed companies and co-ops belong to that, if they desire to get that type of
information. And to help share the knowledge that they have with other companies.

MR: So is that based out of anywhere or is that just?

JH: They‟re up in Washington, DC is where the main office is. And they have contests
every year for [not sure] “keep me” of the year how were rated, and our truck fleets.

MR: Does working in the feed industry require any traveling?

JH: Not necessarily. We do some traveling for going to meetings, but overall if your
stationed at a feed mill that‟s basically where you work out of. We do some traveling to
visit our stores and our patrons but besides that there‟s not a lot of traveling involved.

MR: Let‟s say you have a shortage of one of your ingredients, what do you do?

JH: If were out of an ingredient or have a shortage we can put in, in what we call a cuts
in, where we‟ll use other ingredients to make up for that. We can make up for the fat, and
possibly fiber, and protein, by using other ingredients that we have. And what it does, it
might raise the cost but we can still manufacture still guarantee what‟s on the tag.

MR: What‟s on the tag.

JH: Yea.
MR: Like, so I know there‟s been droughts in the Midwest so like the corn and the wheat,
so the droughts been affecting the feed then?

JH: It would just raise the prices. And sometimes its harder to get some of the products.
Especially like sometimes wheat is hard to get. Soybean is a problem before they start
harvesting. Its tight, soy holes are tight because before harvesting they were hard to come
by. And it just a tight business right now, and ingredient wise, its hard to get some

MR: [off the record] I‟m trying to think of what else I can ask you, like were under a half
hour, and this has to be at least 45 minutes.
Like do you see the industry growing in the future? Or is it pretty much decreasing?

JH: The only thing that is really going to change is that their going to add more
consolidation. Like it has over the years when you have your poultry farmers. Basically
hog farmers are the same way, you do not have individual hog farmers anymore you are
all your big corporations. Beef cattle are getting that way. Dairy farmers are getting that
way too. Which there are huge dairy farms instead of your mom and pop farms. Even
though were good in this area right here, but that‟s just the way the industry is, everybody
is just getting bigger.

MR: Have you noticed that different animals prefer a different mix of feed? Like
different dairy cows they eat different…

JH: [talking over] Hmm-hmmm

MR: that they last a while? Like what I‟m trying to say do different cows prefer different
kinds of feed or…

JH: They‟ll, they do testing is what they do when they feed dairy cows, they try to keep
the fat level up, and the output, so that‟s why the work with the protein, and fat that may
be in the feed. And different ingredients that we have for like bypass proteins, That we do
a lot of research with, the different stomachs in the animals, that way, of course you
always want to keep the butter fat up in the milk cause that‟s where you get your cream
from to make your ice cream, and like that. That‟s how farmers get paid.

MR: [talking under] get paid.

JH: Its just a lot of research is done on that. That‟s where your companies like Land O
Lakes come in, and your drug companies come in, to do tons of research in that kind of
stuff, to develop products to help promote that for better production in all animals.

MR: Getting back to poultry and like do chickens and turkeys do they change over the
years in what they prefer? Or does that depend on the different varieties?
JH: I don‟t think that they do something different in breeding, just like everything else,
you get a little better to give more efficiency on the feed, or maybe more weather-
resistant in hot weather. But overall, its just that more people just get bigger and bigger
houses that consolidation, and your big companies doing that. But, umm, production
hasn‟t changed much, its just that the more efficient that they‟ve gotten, and even all
animals, its just more efficient. Especially in hogs.

MR: I was looking through some newspaper articles back from the early 1970‟s, in
another assignment from class, and I saw something interesting about recycling and
wastes in chicks. Have you ever gotten back some wastes?

JH: The wastes of?

MR: Chickens. Let‟s say they, you give them like some food, and they don‟t eat the food.

JH: Umm, if there‟s a problem with the food, we can send it in for analysis, we can look
back at our records at our printout to see if there‟s a problem there, but the majority of the
time, it happens then there‟s a problem on the farm itself. Birds might be having some
kind of disease, or something else going on or could be cause the farmer didn‟t clean his
bin out, and there‟s moldy feed there. So we try to think and we do a pretty good job of
putting out a quality product going out here.

MR: Like let‟s say I would come to you and order a thing of feed…

JH: hmm, hmmm

MR: Like how much would it cost normally?

JH: Normally a ton of chicken feed let‟s say for regular corn would probably be $160 a

MR: A ton. How many chickens would that normally feed?

JH: That right now I really couldn‟t tell you. I don‟t have the kinds of ratios about pounds
of chicken would eat a day. A lot of feed tagging you get with that will tell you what it is,
and even places things. Like in summertime they‟ll regulate how much the chickens will
eat because if its real hot, they‟ll cut back on chickens eating to maintain them. Cause if
they eat too much feed, the heat will affect them, in their metabolism. So they, and that‟s
all done by testing too. And they‟ll cut back on feedings just to help the birds get through
hot weather.

MR: Do the birds, like, have you ever noticed the birds not liking your feed particularly,
JH: No, we have not had a problem here with that. Not liking the feed, we make the same
feed for all birds consistently every week. Farmers order feed every week. It has not been
a problem with them backing off and not eating.

MR: So I‟ve noticed that my friend interviewed someone about chicken growing,

JH: [talking under] hmm hmm,

MR: And he said that his chickens were sick on the farm,

JH: [talking under] hmm, hmmm.

MR: So let‟s say that someone gets a ton of feed one day, the next day they call you up
and say that I need something like my chickens have the avian flu

JH: [talking under] yup.

MR: for example.

JH: They‟ll be a specialist out there that will receive those vox, that should be versed in
that, that they will be able to dictate or know what kind of drug or medication that needs
to be put in the feed. And if we know that, we can change in a day. If they need to figure
out that day, we can have it to them tomorrow, with the medication in there needed to
help take care of the foul.

MR: So can you tell me a little bit about the machines in here? What kind of machines do
you have working at any given time?

JH: On the receiving end we have conveyors that take the product to a leg. A leg is just a
vertical conveyor with it‟s a belt with buckets on it. Plastic buckets that just goes round,
and takes the product up to the top of the mill, and goes in the bins. Which just gravity
slows down. Then there‟s agors that feed from those bins to the scale, and once their
weighed up, like I said, the feed is dropped off, by air gates drop feed into the mixers.
And there‟s also conveyors, just called drag conveyors that will take the product to the
legs that take it up to the bins to load out in bulk. And those are loaded by conveyor belt
there. Or if you go to the pellet mill, that‟s the rotating eye that forces feed through the
dyes that will make pellets. And then we have coolers which cool and dry pellets by
natural air flow. And then we have pumps that we can pump fats and molasses and water
to put on products. Besides that that covers everything but just a lot of motors that run the
conveyors and arters here.

MR: [incoherent whisper] Like how do you clean up after a typical day? Do you ever
like, I know machines probably get dirty every once in a while.
JH: Every night when they‟re done with the pellet mills, they‟ll run barley through the
dyes to flush them out. We use that for flushes between medicated runs if need be. And
we do a lot of sweeping, cleaning, keep the floors swept down. And sometimes we‟ll just
come in and just blow down the whole plant. Just take air and blow down and sweep up
and just to maintain a good working atmosphere for everybody. For visitors and the
workers here.

MR: Has there ever been a time where you‟ve had to stop production for emergencies or
something like that? I know you take safety precautions but let‟s say that something went
horribly wrong with production in one of the feed bins.

JH: Just empty the bin or if you have a break down like the main shaft breaks in the pellet
mill, your down, you have to wait to get another one in. I was just talking about one now
that the main shaft costs you about ten thousand dollars just for the shaft.

MR: [talking under] Wow

JH: Besides getting it here, and otherwise and there are things that like a few weeks ago
we had trouble with our blending computer, the hard drive froze out, so we had to put
another one in, and reformulate or recalibrate a lot of things in the computer. It does

MR: If that can happen, how long can it take you to get back on track?

JH: Like when the computer went down we were down about three hours, back where we
can blend with it by computer again. We have a back up where we can blend manually.
We measure each ingredient by hand, basically. And we can still continue that way. But
if its something cost mechanical, conveyors or legs we can be down from a few hours to a
couple of days, depends on what happens.

MR: Let‟s say the worst happens with a power outage happens, what would you do in
that case?

JH: Nothing you can do.

MR: Nothing you can do?

JH: Yup. You got a big generator to run that but it would have to be a large generator to
run electricity to run what we need here to run the pellet mills and everything. Bust
basically we‟ll have as much problem with a power problem around here.

MR: I remember you talked to me about the JMU building causing the flooding in your
building, has that been an issue here? Like I know you haven‟t…

JH: Its just that we have maunders here that maintain our sump pumps that we have
outside while we do that we have a sump pump in there. There is also a backup sump
pump sitting on top of that sump pump. So if one doesn‟t work the other one will kick in.
And down in our basement if we get water down there we have water mites they call
them. Where there‟s sensors that if water gets to a certain level it will set off an alarm. Or
we call the home if there‟s a problem like that. A leak or anything like that. We have
pumps available, and we do have air pump available, we have backups, in case it gets that

MR: Has there ever been a case where you‟ve had to call an emergency like processing
time. Like if your closed on the weekend for example, or like…

JH: Yes. We‟ve had situations have been called on a Saturday morning, and farmers are
out of feed and has to have feed that weekend.

MR: [talking under] right.

JH: I just call workers up and get in here, and try to get a driver and try to get the feed to

MR: Has that been an issue, or? Trying to get people in.

JH: It would be more of a pain than anything. Just try to get people done, like everybody
else. Get their work done on a five day work week.

MR: Like I know you mentioned this before earlier, but can you describe to me a typical
worker who works here like what they do for a day?

JH: Okay, for the receiver that receives the trucks and railcars, a big part of his job is to
verify what were getting in is what‟s stated that were supposed to be getting in. He
verifies the paper work to make sure that there‟s no BSE product received in that truck
and we have certificates filled out by the driver that states that I have not done that. And
he‟s going to make sure he selects the right bin for the product to go into, cause with 15-
20 different ingredients that‟s different places he can put products. Make sure that‟s done
that way. And keep a clean area out there. The person who does the blending makes sure
that he keeps up on the number and the work order numbers the amount of tons are
punched in right. And the hand added drugs are weighed up right and are dumped in each
batch the way they should. The pellet mill operator makes sure he has the correct amount
of steam on that, the right speed, he checks his quality of every pellet run he does. We do
a durability test. And with bulk load out they have to be very careful that their getting the
feed out of the right bin, the right tags. Be careful when running from one medication to
the next. Or medication to a horse feed afterwards. So its just a lot of checking yourself
and following procedures.

MR: Have you ever had a case of cross-contamination? Like…

JH: Once in a while we can get some contaminations, say like if were running a
rumindicine product, which is a no-no to go in the horse feed, and if it gets out to it, we
just bring the feed back here. We recall it, if we don‟t get it to the farm. We don‟t unload
it, or if it gets out to the farm, we‟ll get it. We have ways of emptying bins on the farm
and bringing the product back here. So it won‟t get into the food chain or into the horses.

MR: You mentioned something about the food bins, like getting them out, do you know
anything about that? Like how that happens?

JH: On the farm, most of the bins they truly give away some have arders that can lock the
bottom of the take that feed into the chicken houses. Or some just have a slide gate on
there that can open and close and get out the feed they want. And we have a retrieval
truck that puts an agar system underneath that bin and just take the feed out of the bin and
put it back on our truck and bring it back here.

MR: So let‟s say that the feed like happens to one day you walk in its moldy. Do you
throw it all out? I‟m sure you probably do.

JH: That‟s going to be up to the farmer. The product we monitor our moisture here and
were in acceptable limits, but if you have feed on the farm that‟s in a bin and hasn‟t been
cleaned out in a couple of months they will run into a mold problem on the farm. The
responsibility goes back to the farmer. The responsibility to maintain his bins, make sure
they don‟t leak, especially with water in them. But the products in the bins, there‟s no
problem for keeping them at least a month in even the worst part of the summertime.
With the heat, the feed we produce, should be no problem but, its up to the farmer to
make sure that the bins are cleaned out and the feed is rotated. It‟s the biggest thing.

MR: Rotating feed.

JH: Yea, make sure the bin gets empty every so often, before you put new feed in there.

MR: You‟ve never had any problem with mold here, right?

JH: Basically no, not in the mill. Cause we move enough of our product fast enough, like
we‟ll go through three loads of wheat mizz a day, and we can hold four, so basically we
turn everyday. Soy meal the same way, but every two days our whole bean meal stock is
turned around. We do maintain our bins. We physically clean them out and scrape them
out, as time permits.

MR: As time permits. So has the trucking industry ever affected you before? I know you
have private drivers here but like…

JH: Well the biggest problem is probably just getting fuel could be a big cost, in a time
when it wasn‟t available. And just finding competent drivers that want to work is the
same problem to. Which is industry wide. Were doing okay right now. Trucking wise,
were doing okay with what we have.
MR: Can you tell me a little bit about the feed industry as a whole? Across the country,
does it vary much from let‟s say Missouri or Nebraska?

JH: The only thing that would change an awful lot would be the type of ingredients they
use. Like if you go to Kansas and that area around there they might use myelo, for the
main grain instead of corn, cause that‟s what they have. If you go up in North Dakota,
you‟d be using maybe a lot of sunflower meal. And it just depends upon the region of the
country. You go to Europe they use a lot more byproducts and they try to make upon
anything that they have, because its so hard for them to get them. And like I say we use
beef pulp here, they‟ll use left over cookies. You get cookie crumbs from cookie
manufacturers that is a big feed ingredient.

MR: Your kidding.

JH: Nope. They get it right from Nabisco or whatever it is. They get sucked in, some of
our guys even get cookie crumbs or cookie byproducts. And there‟s companies that get
like sweetening like candy bars and stuff like that would be processed into a thing we put
in the feed for sweeteners usually little pig feeds. They need some kind of sweetness in
there. But like with cookie crumbs you got protein in there and fiber, a little energy, some
fat, that‟s formulated into the feed, to meet guaranteed on the tag.

MR: So basically it goes back to the food chain then.

JH: Yes.

MR: You make the feed for the animals and the animals basically make the cookies and
the cookie crumbs go back to them.

JH: We‟ll the cookie crumbs are basically for human consumption. Whenever they have
bad batch of them, maybe they take back and want to recycle, they‟ll just talk to a broker
and find a feed mill to go to.

MR: So the brokers, they‟re the people who like the man in the middle?

JH: They‟re like the middle man, like buyers. They‟ll be buyers, just like we have buyers
for soybean meal. And they have people who are buyers for that kind of product to.

MR: I don‟t think I asked you about this, where do soybeans come from?

JH: Soybeans are grown on the farm. Just regular soybean plant. Which are the same
ones you can buy in the store after they‟ve been roasted. And the process is basically
taking the oil out, which is the oil you use for cooking, Crisco oil, and Canola, canola is
from corn. And the soybean meal is a byproduct of the extraction process of taking the oil
out, cause oil is worth more than soybean meal is.
MR: So how about vitamins and minerals, like I know you mentioned about it, but what
specific vitamins and minerals go into the feed?

JH: We have a whole gamut here. We have a lot of combinations of A,D, and E. We have
Vitamin A as separate, E can be separate, Vitamin C by itself. We have vitatin which is I
think is an E vitamin. Colene is a vitamin. And its just whatever specific requests they
have. Depends on whatever the farmer wants with that. Same thing with minerals.
Minerals by the time we get them packaged, we also have a combination of all of the
minerals that animals need for their basic needs. With all your zinc, and your phosphorus,
and salts, slayims can be in there. Copper sulfate, it‟s a prepackaged product. Then we
also have the ability to add extras if needed.

MR: How about like new minerals? Someone invents a new mineral like let‟s say
tomorrow, how fast can they get it to you? After the FDA approval.

JH: It depends on the research done with it, and if its approved by our company, they go
through a lot of testing and make sure its going to work for the company. But usually by
the time it gets out here, research has all been done, and its seen if its worthwhile or not,
put into our feeds, and to introduce it to the farmers if they want to buy it or not.

MR: So I guess you can say that minerals and vitamins have been a big part overall.

JH: Oh always, its just like as in humans you need minerals for a balanced diet. It‟s the
same thing for animals. They have to have a balanced diet for optimum performance.

MR: Have vitamins and minerals changed over time of what you add in there? Like new
research comes out all the time in humans, like I‟m a health science major like…

JH: Like well animal feed especially here on the east coast, soil here is selenium
deficient. Just because there‟s been farming here for years in this part of the country than
California. There‟s a lot more selenium put in the feed in this part of the country than
there would be in the Midwest or even in California. So besides that and that‟s just
whatever new ones may come up with. There maybe someplace where there may be a
need for extra copper sulfate just for a problem that the may have, or through research
and testing they may feel that certain minerals or vitamins may do an animal more good
than it did before. Its all done by research.

MR: How about like how fast can something else get to you? Like I know I mentioned
this before, but how fast can something get to you in an emergency?

JH: I can do the same day.

MR: Same day

JH: We get a lot of orders like today from next door from Procal. We‟ll get orders this
morning that can be picked up and delivered the same day.
MR: Do the airports have anything to do with you? Like do you have to fly anything in
like in the case of emergencies?

JH: No, not really. The only thing we have to get in like sometimes is UPS. We‟ve run
out of something, or somebody wants something special that we don‟t have on hand like
a vitamin or mineral, but like I‟ve said major ingredients we‟ve run out of, the options are
flexibility, use some other ingredients to get us by until they get it in.

MR: Like special orders, like how often do you get them?

JH: Special orders can happen, if farmers want certain products or if there‟s a problem,
say like there‟s a disease on a farm. We have to add a certain additive, we sent it over to a
nutritionist and they get back to us, if we push we can get things done the same day if we
know the morning so we can get a formula made and entered, the same day.

MR: Like how often does it happen though?

JH: Not very often. But it just takes time, usually everyone is far enough ahead on stuff to
know that they‟re going to need something down the road. Emergencies do happen.

MR: Let‟s say tomorrow like someone doesn‟t come in for a good reason, like a worker
gets sick. Do you have any backups?

JH: I have people who are fairly cross trained that can do other jobs, can take them off
one. My staff people in the mill, my QC guy and my superintendent are pretty well
trained, they can do other functions in the mill also. Like I can go out and like if I need to
blend feed it can happen, or weigh up hand adds, or receiving ingredients, we can get it
done one way or another.

MR: So I guess, do you see the industry booming again in more modern times? Or do you
see it kind of decreasing?

JH: I think its probably going to be pretty much stable. It will probably be increase
because of the population growth, more food, and that‟s also why you have genetics
involved for optimum performance out of animals. Get more animals in and out of the
year, instead of expanding. But there are people expanding. Perdue is expanding in this
area right now, putting in more chicken houses and getting more, and growing that way.
And there will be an increase in our business. But it could be just certain parts of the
country. But overall I think the food business will have to grow some just cause of the
population demands.

MR: So how about influences on other companies around here? Are you like the primary
company or…?
JH: No, it‟s a very competitive area. You can go up on top and you can look off and you
can see 6 or 7 feed mills from on top of our feed mill. So from what I‟ve heard
Rockingham County is the biggest poultry producing county in the nation, or one of
them. And we have a lot of competition, between other feed mills. Tyson and Cargill,
Pilgrim‟s Pride and Rockingham Mill down the road here, and Richie‟s, so there‟s a lot
of competition in this area for the feed business, very competitive. A lot of other

MR: Do you foresee the competition getting out of hand in future years?

JH: No, it seems to be where it is now. Been around for a long time, we‟re big enough
and far enough I guess to make money and to stay with it.

MR: Like no company mergers or takeovers, or?

JH: No-no, there‟s not many left anymore. A lot of the mergers are already done. We still
might get a few more going. Like Eggway went out of business, and Southern States
bought one mill from them. And some other mills went the other way. But it probably
will still happen down the road. Some mergers and some other companies going vinegar.

MR: We were reading in our class that Pilgrim‟s Pride was a big one too and was the
other one Holly Farms? Did you have anything to do with those two farms?

JH: [talking over] No

MR: Or were they…

JH: Whole separate business, whole separate operation, whole separate company.

MR: Do you remember anything about the feed industry about how it used to be before
you were born? Have you ever been told or..?

JH: Not really, I just know that ingenuity has helped a lot. From like unloading railroad
cars. We‟ve gone from boxcars. We used to unload with electric bobcats and even with
power shovels, we just pull it off with a cable scoop and that‟s changed now, cause most
ingredients come in now by hopper cars, or trucks, and just technology has been the
biggest thing that has improved the feed industry.

MR: Have you ever had any problems with wild animals coming in like mice or crows
flying in?

JH: Birds not much of a problem. We do have a pest control here. Southern States has a
national account with Hookasand. We have people come in twice a month to maintain
bait and traps around here. But we have very little problems with rodents around here.
Birds there‟s very little problem. Besides that, were in the city here, we don‟t have any
problems with any other critters coming around that I know of. No.
MR: Do you know if any other companies have the same problem?

JH: Um, you‟ll get some companies depending on where they‟re located have a lot of
trouble with rodents. Some people have trouble with pigeons, possibly just depends on
what kind of program you have to maintain. And get rid of them. A lot of it is how you
well you keep your mill maintained and cleanliness and if you keep up on it, you‟ll keep
on top of rodents.

MR: So I guess you can say that overall safety standards are very important to you, right?

JH: Overall?

MR: Overall, like to you, safety standards of the company since you‟re the manager.

JH: Yea. I can say that a lot of standards are dictated by our QC area, and our safety area,
I would say we have self-inspections, so its just a standard we keep high and its just the
quality of feed that we have to maintain our customer base, and the name for Southern
States. That‟s been around for a long time, and just try to maintain that.

MR: I‟ve been researching other companies that are like around before I came to
interview you, I‟ve found a lot of companies that were founded back in 1992 or
something like that.

JH: It can be a management thing, Southern States had a rough goal a few years ago. It
just depends upon how the business is going. A few bad years maybe weather wise or
farmers or price of products is down, the farmers don‟t buy, and it can affect but a lot of
it goes by management like how they can handle situations like that. Always different
from year to year.

MR: So have you exported to other states, or is it primarily Rockingham

JH: No, Well we ship feed basically all over the state of Virginia. We take horse feed
every other week over to the Virginia Beach area. We take quite a bit of calf feed over to
West Virginia. When I was in Richmond, we ordered feed that went over to Syria.

MR: Oh whoa.

JH: There‟s a Southern States mill there. We exported feed over to Portsmouth and they
bagged, put it into containers and shipped it over there, the feed. Overseas, there is a fair
amount of business that goes overseas.

MR: That‟s weird. Do you have any feed mills over in my area, like New Jersey, New
York City?
JH: Yea we have New York, not New York City, up in the country. New York is a big
dairy state.

MR: [talking under] right

JH: And you get out into the country there, Eggway was up around Syracuse, up in that
area. New Jersey has many feed mills. A lot of feed companies around there.

MR: We‟re primarily corn, tomatoes.

JH: Feed the people.

MR: Feed the people, not the animals. How do you deal with like unusual smells?

JH: Basically people say it smells here, but to me it smells like say like we use molasses,
we put in the feed, which gives it a nice sweet smell. And everything else we use here, of
any quality does not have any odor to it.

MR: So your not the culprit of the Harrisonburg smell?

JH: No, I..I..I..can‟t say that we are.

MR: I remember when I first moved in, the first time I smelt it I was like you‟ve got to be
kidding me.

JH: No, as far as I know we haven‟t had any complaints from neighbors or anyone like
that, since I‟ve been here. And I can also say that we‟re regulated by the Air Quality of
the state here, they come and they check our cyclones and our exhaust, and we‟ve had no
problems with that.

MR: How often do they come in? Like monthly?

JH: They‟ll come in about once a year.

MR: once a year.

JH: To check out things. The FDA inspection would probably be about every two years,
we have inspectors coming in and taking feed samples randomly. They can come in
anytime and do that.

MR: So that means there probably can be someone here right now?

JH: Could be, yea. We have no idea when they‟re going to show up. Its their prerogative.

MR: How do you know when they‟re going to come in, do they drive like a certain car?
JH: They can drive just any little car they have, they can come in and present themselves
to you. They‟ll show you their badge and tell you what they‟re here for. A specific reason
for the visit, if its inspection, if its just a routine, you come up on the list and say your
due, or if there‟s something specific they‟re looking for, or they‟ll let you know that.

MR: Like a culprit of a disease or something like that?

JH: No, it‟d be a problem say like there‟s an animal kill, if they get involved with it, that
they might come in an do an inspection. Investigate your paperwork, your batches to see
how you blended the feed and see if there‟s any problem on this end of it.


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