CP Feeds LLC
In 2000 five feed manufacturers in eastern Wisconsin combined to form CP Feeds LLC (CP Feeds). The acting partners at the time included four cooperatively owned feed mills and one privately owned mill; the unique collaboration has since proven to be a winning combination, as CP Feeds continues to grow steadily 13 years later.
Jim Loefer, part-owner and general manager of CP Feeds, has been in the industry since 1987. In 1981 Jim’s father bought Collins Agri-Services. According to Jim, it was at this mill that he learned the ins and outs of operating a feed mill. During this time, Jim realized his passion for working with local farmers to meet their needs and improve the market.
“We are a LLC, with 61 percent of the business owned by our dairy farmers through their cooperative and 39 percent owned by my siblings and me,” Jim details. “My brother, Tom Loefer, is on the board of directors, although his focus is his own cash grain farm. My sister, Nancy Beckman, is the controller. Altogether, we have about 50 employees at our single facility in Valders, Wis., including a plant and a warehouse on about 15 acres. We serve farmers within a 100-mile radius, although most of our farmers are within 50 miles of the plant.”
CP Feeds is a feed and nutrition manufacturer and supplier.
“Approximately 99 percent of our business is with dairy farms,” Jim explains. “This part of Wisconsin is a huge dairy area, so feed supply is in high demand. We have tried to stay ahead of the curve with dairy farmers’ needs; as the farmers grow, those needs change. Our customers are starting to look for truckload quantities now. We built a state-of-the-art facility in 2001, which was specifically designed to handle customized feed and nutrition for cattle in all stages of life. It is different from most feed mills in the area, because it is computerized and automated to assure precision in each of our feeds.”
Jim goes on to note that with 600 dairy farms as customers, CP Feeds boasts its own trucking fleet, which helps the company customize service to meet the needs of each individual farm.
“The farmer will raise his own forages, meaning alfalfa and corn primarily,” Jim continues. “CP Feeds bridges the gap between what the farmer grows for his cows and what the cow needs for a balanced diet. We have eight nutritionists on the staff plus we work together with private nutritionists that create the best diets for each producer’s animals. The feed we deliver consists of corn, wheat, oats, soybeans, plus byproducts like corn and wheat distiller’s grains and canola and soybean meal, as well as vitamins and minerals.”
CP Feeds mainly focuses on supplementing the forages already on the farms. However, the team also helps farmers manage the harvesting and storage of forages, which are the main component of the cows’ diets.
“They need to reduce shrink and prevent mold,” Jim elaborates. “There are three main ways of storing feed on the farm: a tower silo, long plastic forage bags, or piles on slabs of concrete or in bunkers. We supply SiloStop, an oxygen-barrier plastic that covers feed stored on piles or in bunkers to keep it protected.”
Growth and Diversification
One of the company’s greatest challenges is managing growth. “We have had some growing pains,” Jim notes. “In our first year, sales were about $20 million. Over the last decade or so, that has increased by more than 500 percent. We have had to keep up with plant upgrades and government regulations; all while adding and training extra employees.” To support those efforts, the company is undergoing a major expansion to increase capacity by adding space for storage, mixing and batching.
Regardless of how large the operation becomes, service is paramount. “We have to serve our farmers and bring new management ideas to their farms,” Jim notes. “If the cows thrive, we thrive.”
According to Jim, all of the company’s products must pass through CP Feeds’ Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP) program. CP Feeds made the decision to become HACCP-certified to guarantee the company’s part of the food supply chain is safe.
“The HACCP certification is an internationally recognized standard for food safety,” Jim elaborates. “It is currently used primarily with human food production, but we felt the need to also assure the quality of the feed given to our customers’ animals.”
Environmental and economic changes have had an impact on the business, as well. “There’s always the weather, which can have a big impact,” Jim explains. “And it seems like the market gets more competitive every year. Farmers ask us to reduce their price of feed when they are hit financially for whatever reason. We have to maintain our margins, so we have to lower costs elsewhere to serve them without breaking their bank or ours. We live or die by our dairy farmers. The prices of milk and feed stocks impact us. In the end, we are only profitable if they are.”
As the economy moves in a more favorable direction, CP Feeds remains stable. With a major expansion in the works and a heightened marketing presence, Jim and the team are eyeing geographic expansion, as well. “We want to become more of a regional multi-location entity,” he says. “Hopefully, we will find a partner with which to expand into more locations.” For now, CP Feeds LLC will continue serving regional customers with first-rate customer service, integrity and efficiency.