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Feed mixing mill creates nutritionally balanced menu

June 01, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

by Kevin G. Gilbert / staff photographer

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Feed Mill

LEMASTERS, Pa. - Not too long ago, feeding dairy cows meant growing a few simple grains and feeding them to the animals.

Now, dairy operations use formulas so complicated that many farmers hire professional nutritionists to work out the best menu for their herds.

Modern feed mixing mills like Snider's Elevator Inc., in Lemasters, use computerized mixing systems to come up with formulas for the proper mix of vitamins, minerals and silage for all kinds of cows.

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The mill mixes feed suitable for calves, heifers, dry cows, cows about to calve and mature milking cows, said William Snider, 62, a third-generation owner of the mill.

The compositions of hay and grasses grown by the farmers are analyzed, and vitamins, trace minerals and other supplements are added according to the formulas designed by the nutritionists, said Susan Snider, William's daughter and marketing director for the mill.

She showed one farmer's invoice for nine tons of feed that had 20 separate ingredients.

"We have to keep up with technology," said Susan Snider. "New products come out all the time. We almost have to be like pharmacists," she said.

Her great-grandfather, Bruce C. Snider, started the mill in 1929 in Williamson, Pa., about five miles from Lemasters. Her grandfather, Paul Snider, took it over, then passed it on to William Snider. William's wife, Phyllis, son Paul, and Susan are making it a fourth-generation family operation.

The family moved the business to Lemasters in 1986, when they bought the former Myers mill. The Myers operation, which burned down in 1905, dated back at least to the turn of the century, William Snider said.

The Sniders modernized the mill and doubled its size.

William Snider said he learned about the feed business from Charles Kuhl, a longtime employee of his father's.

"He worked here for 28 years and he taught me how to work here and how to treat customers. He smoked, chewed and drank beer and lived to be 96," he said.

The mill's nine full-time employees drive feed delivery trucks and run the mixing mill.

About 80 percent of the feed mixed at the mill goes to dairy farmers.

Another 10 percent is for horses and the rest goes to hog and poultry farmers, he said.

William Snider said he started in the business at a time when families kept small flocks of chickens in back yard coops, along with a pig or two, he said.

Back-yard flock owners bought their feed by the pound. Regular customers bought their feed in 100-pound bags. While most is sold by the ton in bulk, the mill still puts together 200 to 300 bags a day, Snider said.

The mill has storage capacity for 400,000 bushels. Farmers bring their corn, barley wheat and other grains to the mill, where it is cleaned, dried and stored until it is mixed into their custom formulas.

The Sniders hold an open house every fall in the middle of harvest season, their busiest time of year, Susan Snider said.

Snider's is one of three feed mixing mills in Franklin County.

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