Sometimes in a general overview, talking about feed milling equipment or feed milling process is talking about the entire production line or process to transform raw material into animal feed. This general overview includes storing and handling, milling or grinding, mixing, pelleting, and cooling. But here, we will focus on the milling or grinding process that reduces the particle size in animal feed production.

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The feed milling can have two configurations in the production line: pre-grinding or post-grinding

There are two configurations of the grinding system in the animal feed production line: one is called pre-grinding and the other one post-grinding. The pre-grinding or pre-milling configuration happens before mixing the raw material, often used in places where cereals grains are available and at low cost. On the contrary, the post-grinding or post-milling happens after mixing the raw material and is used in places where cereals are expensive, and the formulated raw materials often vary due to their availability. Choosing the best configuration depends on the raw material to use, its availability, the volume, and the dedicated space for storage.

Pre-grinding is good when the facility produces one or few feed products

The pre-grinding or pre-milling system is not connected to the feed production line; therefore, the grinding capacity can be less than the capacity of the feed mill, and the production program can be different without affecting the process. These give the advantage of doing maintenance without affecting the animal feed production process. But the facility should produce one or few products in order to use efficiently the grounded material. It is important to have a big storage capacity for each raw material grounded, so the milling equipment can operate at full capacity and for long periods. To have more flexibility to operate, you can have multiple milling equipment to process different single materials at the same time. With this configuration the hammer mills or rotor mills are smaller and have smaller motors than in post-grinding, meaning in most cases a lower requirement of horsepower, sometimes even with a lower overall energy consumption.
Post-grinding is the most common configuration in a feed mill plant The post-grinding or post-milling system is the most common configuration in a feed mill plant due to its flexibility in terms of formulation. This process allows you to mill a wide range of materials simultaneously and keep a uniform particle size. In the post-grinding, hammer mills need to have a higher capacity than the entire feed mill line not to affect the production capacity. This means higher horsepower requirement and higher energy consumption than in pre-grinding. But this is still a less expensive option for a feed mill facility.

Size reduction needs to be according to the feeding animal palatability and digestibility requirements

The milling equipment reduces the size of the particles, removes some moisture, and in post-milling, it blends the materials. In the feed grinder machine, the gap between the hammer or the roller and the screen needs to be adjusted depending on the desired particle size, according to the requirements of palatability and digestibility of the livestock and the formulated raw materials. If you want fine particles the gap needs to be small, if you want coarse particles the gap should be bigger. Producing fines requires more energy consumption and may cause quick wear in the hammer and the screen. Besides, dust can be formed from fines during the process, turning into an explosion hazard. But fine grounded material contributes to a better agglomeration and homogeneity of the mix, as well as easy absorption of fat and coating, thus a better pellet quality.

Aspects to consider in the milling process

The first aspect to consider in the milling process is the design of the process itself. Not only choosing the right mill machine but the related equipment to it, such as the feeder, the air extraction system, the conveyors, the controllers, and the magnets. To choose the right equipment it is important to consider the physical characteristics of the raw materials to grind, the difference in size before the mill and after grinding, the moisture content, and the temperature sensitivity. At the same time, consider the mill technology; the operation requirements, maintenance, and safety. Take into account the volume of material to grind per day and the different feed formulations, to decide the production capacity of the mill, which should be compatible with the capacity of the feeder, the air extraction system, and conveyors. Also, consider the requirements for speed and horsepower to choose the motor.

Use sensors and magnets for the safety of the operation

The safety of the operation requires the installation of a magnet before the milling equipment, to protect it from any piece of metal that can cause great damage to the machine. A metal detector for non-ferrous materials and a pre-cleaner will add extra safety to the process, and clean all of them on a regular basis. Use sensors and switches that are able to stop the milling machine immediately if they detect explosion hazards and severe vibrations. Install sensors and controls for temperature, speed, volume, or weight to manage the overall operation. Nowadays automation will help with efficiency, productivity, and safety, as well as reducing the environmental footprint of the process.

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