Submitted by Steve Sheaffer on Saturday, 10/12/13
On Friday we visited the Big Dutchmen plant in Vechta. We were met by Bo Molin and he shared the story of the company. Big Dutchmen was actually stated in Holland Michigan by the DeWiltt brothers and now has plants located all over the world. Big Dutchmen specializes in poultry and swine feeding systems. It was interesting to note than many of the European swine feeding systems are a wet slurry, not dry feed. It was also noted that European hog houses provide fans that ventilate through the roof and not the end of the building. Big Dutchmen also provided filtration systems for the swine and poultry buildings. On the poultry side, Big Dutchmen provides cage systems used in the United States and also cage systems to accommodate European law.
We had lunch with Mr. Molin at the Big Dutchmen canteen. We then departed for the Rothkotter Company chicken processing plant in Haren. 10 years ago the Rothkotter family operated one feed mill. Today they have 2 feed mills and 2 chicken processing plants slaughtering and packaging a combined 39,000 broilers per hour. Mr. Rothkotter took the time to meet with us personally and we appreciate his time. They are a vertically integrated company in they supply the feed and contract the growers to feed the processing plants. They do not own the birds while they are being raised at the farms. The grower provides capital for the birds and feed but has an ensured market for his finished product. They have 230 contract farms located within 50 kilometers of the processing plant.
The Haren plant is a state of the art processing plant employing 1600 workers, working 2 processing shifts daily. We received a very detailed tour of the plant led by Christoph Buter, the plant manager. He explained the efficiencies of a whole chicken vs. smaller cuts and the consumer is preferring the smaller cuts or "pan ready." He also showed us various packages for the chicken. This is a complicated marketing process to appeal to consumers in various countries. The color of the packaging should match the flag on the front! It was a great tour.
Our next stop was across the road to the Rothkotter feed mill. The mill we toured supplies 900,000 tons of chicken feed for 20 million birds per day. This was a new plant located along next to a barge harbor. This allowed the plant to receive over 50% of their raw feed product by barge. They are loading out feed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 98% of the feed leaves in a pellet form. There are 5 different rations available for the chickens. The plant mixes different rations of wheat, corn and minerals into a pellet for the poultry. The other feed plant the Rothkotter owns mixes only feed for swine. The family does not process swine. Tomorrow we will be visiting a poultry, swine and dairy farm.