Pat O'Brien & Sons Inc.

The gold standard in steam-flaked corn for dairy operations across the Northeast
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
Drew Taylor

After eight years of related grain trading and feed experience working for three international companies, Pat O’Brien, now president of Pat O’Brien & Sons Inc., decided it was time to put his hard work to use — at his own company. O’Brien founded Pat O’Brien & Sons in 1995 in Hamburg, New York.

In 2003, family-owned Pat O’Brien & Sons began producing what it’s now known best for: steam-flaked corn, a high-quality dietary starch product formulated particularly for dairy cows. With a processing facility equipped with a dryer and storage for more than 300,000 bushels of corn in Geneva, New York, Pat O’Brien & Sons is the largest steam-flake producer in New York. “We’re one of only a few companies in the Northeast that makes this type of product,” says O’Brien.

Pat O’Brien & Sons is centrally located in the heart of the New York dairy industry and Corn Belt. “From our location, we can effectively serve all of New York, parts of Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Maine,” says O’Brien.

The company’s office and logistics staff is located in Eden, New York, and the processing team is based in Geneva, totaling approximately eight employees. Pat O’Brien & Sons purchases all of its grain for processing from local growers. Once the corn is processed, it moves on to serve a range of regional dairy farms and feed mills.

Golden flakes for high-energy feed

While a number of other feed companies in the Northeast produce hot-rolled corn and other types of corn-based feed, O’Brien says the difference between its steam-flaked corn and other versions is enormous. “No one else in New York makes the same quality steam-flaked corn that we do,” he asserts.

By heat treating the corn, similar to how bypass soy and canola meals are processed, and then flaking it extremely thin, the result is more starch and carbohydrates available to the cow, making for a high-energy feed. “Our process makes the starch that is in the corn more readily available for the animal to digest before the feed is passed,” explains O’Brien. “Upward of 98 percent of the starch in corn is available with the steam-flaking process, whereas digestible starch levels attained by conventional grinding, cracking and rolling methods could be as low as 60 percent.”

By properly processing the corn, Pat O’Brien & Sons generates a more efficient feed. Other benefits of Pat O’Brien & Sons signature Golden Flakes include:

- Increased net energy of lactation

- Increased dietary starch fermentation in the rumen

- Increased total starch digestion

- Increased urea cycling in the gut

- Increased microbial protein flow to the small intestine

- Decreased milk urea nitrogen

- Decreased fecal nitrogen output

Eyes on efficiency

O’Brien says it all comes down to efficiency and getting the most “bang for your buck,” in feed. “With so many input variables — the price of corn, moisture and weather, equipment and machinery costs and more — producers are depending on a consistent source of starch and steam-flaking is the best way to go. Although they might spend 8 percent more on the source of starch, they’re getting 25 to 30 percent more back in efficiency.”

Since Pat O’Brien & Sons started steam flaking in 2003, the company has added mixing capabilities so it can offer “straight” flakes or blends with other ingredients such as chocolate, AminoMax, whole cottonseed, molasses and more. “We’ve also expanded our load-out structures,” says O’Brien. “We can now load roughly a 35-ton load in just five minutes. We offer delivery and pick up.”

Strong industry ties

Pat O’Brien & Sons has fostered many longstanding relationships over the years with dairy farmers and feed mills. “Feed mills are one of our biggest customers,” says O’Brien. “They buy our flaked corn and we buy protein mixes back from them to service our dairies. We’ve formed good working alliances with many area feed mills.”

These relationships, which often still come down to a simple handshake, are key to success for Pat O’Brien & Sons. The company is also a member of the Northeast Agribusiness & Feed Alliance (NEAFA), which helps build industry connections. “Our membership with NEAFA is very helpful,” says O’Brien. “We attend many meetings throughout the year and have the opportunity to meet with a number of the principals that work in the feed mills we deal with. This strengthens our relationships with them.”

In an area where more ethanol plants have moved in, making for greater corn competition, building industry ties and staying at the forefront of the industry will equip Pat O’Brien & Sons for the long haul. “Another thing we do is we work closely with Cornell University’s Ag division,” adds O’Brien. “We attend nutrition conferences that help us stay on the cutting edge of dairy technology and allow us to do a better job for our customers.”

After 29 years, Pat O’Brien & Sons Inc. continues its tradition of serving the Northeast dairy industry with the highest quality feeds, with steam-flaked corn as the golden ticket to animal efficiency and farm productivity.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Shur-Gain, a Nutreco Company