Hi-Pro Feeds LP
Not all feed is created equal –that’s what the animal nutrition experts think at Alberta-based Hi-Pro Feeds LP (Hi-Pro). The company’s roots trace back nearly 73 years in both the U.S. and Canadian feed industries.
Hi-Pro’s team of professionals are well-versed in an array of animal nutrition products for all sorts of livestock operations, including dairy, beef, poultry, swine, equine, sheep, goats, wildlife, show animals, sporting dogs and more.
With a network of 12 feed mills across western Canada and the southcentral United States, Hi-Pro’s animal nutrition expertise helps customers get the most out of the feed and ultimately, the operation. The company takes a collaborative approach, working with customers to understand individual needs and develop the optimum feed formulation for each operation. Nutritionists work with the company’s manufacturing and customer service teams to ensure that feed is produced and delivered to the desired specifications of the purchaser.
“Over the last two-and-a-half years, we’ve completely revamped the company building a strong foundation of world-class systems, processes and people,” details Daren Kennett, senior vice president and founder of what is now Hi-Pro. “In other words, we’ve established an industry leading platform that is rigorously invested in animal nutrition.”
And Kennett says this improvement and potential for growth across North America is fueled by the Hi-Pro shareholder program. “We’re also working hard on our employee ownership culture to really execute,” he says. “Having the systems in place requires our team to execute and bring them to life. Our people have a personal stake in the operation. They understand the importance of producing the right feed products at the right time for the right animal – that’s what’s important to us.”
The product of 73 years in feed
Based just south of Calgary in Okotoks, Alberta, Hi-Pro is a product of more than 73 years in the feed industry, but the company didn’t officially launch until April 2012. Today, Hi-Pro is a single system of 12 individual feed mills serving the animal nutrition industry, each with a story rooted in its local community. These 12 mills were once eight separate livestock feed companies.
The company’s 70-plus-year history began in Edmonton, Alberta, in 1942, when a farmer co-op built the first feed manufacturing mill in the system. It was a new venture by farmers to serve farmers and still serves the area today. “The first company called Unifeed was founded in 1942 to support Edmonton farmers,” shares Kennett.
Meanwhile, in Friona, Texas, another mill was taking root in 1968. The Friona mill was built to service the growing cattle feeding industry in the Texas Panhandle. Since 1972, Friona has operated as Hi-Pro and this brand has been synonymous with the southcentral U.S. beef and dairy industry.
“Hi-Pro as we know it today was most recently part of Viterra, a major Canadian grain handling company,” recounts Kennett. “In October, 2011, I received a call from a senior Viterra executive saying that they were planning to complete a strategic business review of the animal feed division.”
New ownership and a new direction
When Kennett realized Viterra planned to sell the company, he decided he wanted a chance at the opportunity to purchase it. “I didn’t have the money to buy the company outright, so I became part of the process,” he tells. “I wanted to run it differently, and over the course of three months a few of us worked day and night to find partners and develop a proposal. By the end of January, 2012, we put out the final offer. Long story, short – Hi-Pro officially started under new ownership in April 2012.”
One of the things Kennett wanted to do differently was integrate more employee ownership. “I really believe strongly in employee ownership and I wanted the opportunity for our team members to be owners where they work,” he says. “People take care of things when they own them. We created an employee shareholder program that allows everyone at Hi-Pro to invest and be rewarded for the success of the business.”
Today, 76 percent of Hi-Pro employees have shares in the company; something Kennett is extremely proud of. “We have 438 people on staff and a strong senior leadership team,” he adds. “We’ve all come from different paths. Our goal is now the same: to build the best animal nutrition company in North America.”
Expanding across North America
Now, almost three years after acquiring the assets of Viterra’s North American feed business, Hi-Pro is growing at a healthy rate. “There are always new products coming down the line for us,” explains Holly Nicoll, director of marketing for Hi-Pro. “Every type of feed we produce is very geographic specific, tailored and customized for the customer base that Hi-Pro serves.”
In an effort to support more customers across North America, Hi-Pro is in acquisition mode. “We’re looking to grow across North America by adding new facilities in new areas, as well as evolving our product line with our current customers,” suggests Nicoll.
The most recent Hi-Pro acquisition was the New-Life Mills Feed Plant in Lethbridge, Alberta on Nov. 26, 2014. New-Life Mills is the feed division of Canadian-owned Parrish & Hembecker. Hi-Pro has invested $4 million over the past three years at its Lethbridge mill, which includes six new ingredient tanks, a new grinding system, two more hammer mills, an additional pelleting line and modernization of two other pellet mills. The New-Life Mill was closed, and the business transferred over to the Hi-Pro facility in early December 2014.
“A large portion of New-Life’s business was poultry, then beef, followed by some swine and dairy,” says Nicoll. “Over at Hi-Pro, we have the ability to make the same products New-Life has been producing for their customers.”
Now with a strong footing, Kennett notes the acquisition is just one of the first steps in a serious growth strategy for Hi-Pro. “We have established an organizational culture of collective mindset and integrity along with a focus strictly in animal nutrition,” he reveals. “Our goal is to be a $2 billion company in the next five years.” If there’s a company that has the history, cutting-edge systems and vested employee ownership to do it, it’s Hi-Pro Feeds LP.