Hoover Feed Services Inc.
Animal feed plays a leading role in the global food industry. Feed production is one of the largest and most important components to ensure safe, abundant and affordable animal proteins. In an industry that’s worth an estimated $370 billion in the U.S. alone, Indiana-based Hoover Feed Services Inc. (HFS) is keeping pace with big-name competition through innovative custom feed manufacturing and blending.
The family-run operation was built on a faith in God and the deep respect of the American farmer. With this as a foundation, the company works with a large group of independent nutritionists and an in-house nutritionist, developing 500 custom-fit feed formulas.
“We have always made it our commitment to supply new ingredients by offering a wider range of commodities and new manufacturing processes,” explains Herb Hoover, second-generation owner and HFS president. “We have remained ahead of the curve in the industry and able to compete with some of the biggest names in the business.”
Today, the company supports dairy farmers and a range of other operations in a 100-mile radius of Goshen, Ind. “We’re selling mostly to medium to small sized dairy farms, but we offer all types of feed,” notes Herb.
A Solid Foundation to Grow on
HFS fully understands the trials and tribulations of running a dairy, because that’s where the company started back in 1974. “My father was a dairy farmer,” recalls Herb. “Thirty years ago, farmers had to buy whatever the local feed mill offered. If it was 16 percent cow feed, that’s what they got and they often didn’t know what was actually in it.”
David Hoover, Herb’s father, set out to change that with a new wave of animal nutrition-based feed production. “He realized this upcoming trend in the feed industry,” recounts Herb. “He started supplying minerals and bulk commodities for blending and kept adding services as time went on.”
Growing up in the business, Herb worked with his father throughout high school, delivering bags of feed and riding along in the feed trucks. “I pretty much joined HFS right out of high school,” he says. “We officially incorporated in 1995 and I became part owner.”
Staying Ahead of the Curve
Today, Herb does all of the company’s commodity purchasing, sourcing mainly from local farms within 100 miles of HFS’ facility in Goshen. “Another thing that sets us apart is we try to haul in as many local ingredients for our feed as possible,” he adds. “We also utilize common carriers for ingredients further away to ensure some flexibility, but we do have a base of growers we always buy from.”
HFS now employs a skilled 13-person team. “We have many key employees who have given their time and talents for the good of the company,” reveals Herb. “For example, we have a driver who’s been with us from the start. He brings in the commodities and literally keeps us running. We hired our nutritionist about three years ago and he’s been a huge asset to our business. Our plant operations are run by dedicated hard-working people.”
With an in-house nutritionist, HFS is staying ahead of the curve and keeping up with big-name competition. “Transparency is a huge part of our product,” shares Herb. “Unlike other feed mills and sizable manufacturers, our customers can see every ingredient that’s in our feed. Some of the big names are working with independent nutritionists as times have changed, but it’s not as easy to get an itemized list from a big-box feed company.”
A Custom Solution for Better Nutrition
HFS also offers a level of customization its larger competitors can’t quite match. Today, the company offers more than 500 feed formulations. “A large-scale poultry feed mill might have 10 blends from start to finish, running huge amounts, whereas we have various blends doing about 1,000 tons of feed a week,” notes Herb. “We have to do some specialty things to set us apart from the big guys.”
One of HFS’ specialty offerings is textured feed. “This segment has really taken off in the last five years,” says Herb. “We make a concentrate pellet and blend it with flaked corn and molasses that makes a nice sweet feed. The texture is more palatable for the animals and similar to a crunchy granola. It’s sort of an art and there are a lot of places that struggle to get it right.”
The textured pellet-size feed is especially useful for dairy calf operations, because it generates less dust and is more attractive to the animals. “It’s essentially dust free and there’s a higher animal intake because our formulas are high quality,” ensures Herb.
Herb goes on to explain that textured feed has been around for a while. “We have set a new standard as far as consistency, though,” adds Herb. “We’re taking a familiar product and doing it the right way by taking some of the variables out of the equation.”
To improve the textured feed making process, Herb has designed equipment for HSF that’s on the cutting edge of feed technology. “Our plant was old and when you can’t go out and build all new you need some ingenuity to find a solution,” he explains. “We’ve developed a special method for steaming flaking that is unique to the industry.”
HFS has also installed a new pellet mill to support robotic milking operations and customers, allowing for more volume. “It’s not in production yet,” notes Herb. “We just finished the building about three months ago but we’re in the process of getting it up and running.”
Elevator Expansion on the Horizon
In an effort to streamline HFS and remain a leader in industry innovation, Herb says the company is making plans to build a new grain elevator outside of Goshen. “We’re moving in that direction in phases,” he says. “The goal is to have a separate grain handling and receiving facility before the raw product comes into our main plant.”
But it’s all a matter of managing growth and finding the right time for expansion. “We suffer from the growing pains, which is good,” notes Herb. “Sometimes it’s a balance between not having the capacity and wondering if you should invest the money to grow, but at the same time keeping our customers happy and deliveries on time is our first priority.”
Herb explains that the team strives to stay ahead of the curve. “That’s the key to success,” he says, “Changing with the times and embracing new technology, nutrients and process while adapting to the needs of our customers.”
Deeply understanding the challenges of its customers has helped HFS weather an economic storm. “The high price of corn and other commodity crops have made it difficult for everyone,” he says. “I can feel for our customers. They have to sell their milk every day and normally there is no negotiation in price, but dairy farmers have to take what they can get for the most part. It’s a tough business.”
At the end of the day, Herb says it’s all about ensuring dairy farmers have good quality feed at a fair price. “That’s the reward for me,” he admits. “We continue to grow by doing so. You know you are growing if you need to order product earlier and earlier and adding delivery trucks, but it’s also a matter of constantly improving.”
After 40 years, Hoover Feed Services Inc. remains committed to the local farms it serves, meeting and exceeding expectations for quality, wholesome feed that improves animal nutrition.