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It's all in the right mix of things for local feed mill

The feed mill business is all Richard Reisdorf has ever known.

Reisdorf, the 72-year-old president of Reisdorf Bros. feed mill in North Java, has worked at the family-owned business since he was a teenager.

Today, as the feed mill business turns 100, it's nothing like it was when he started.

"It's not even the same," Reisdorf said.

Neither is the feed the mill produces.

The mill's computerized mixing system allows Reisdorf Bros. to customize its feed for each individual dairy farm it serves. The company uses 177 different ingredients in its feed, from corn, oats and soybeans to a variety of vitamins and minerals.

"For every farm that we deliver their food to, it's their custom feed," said Jim Carter, Reisdorf's son-in-law and part of the family's fourth generation to work at the mill.

The ingredients are important because farms use the feed to supplement the nutrients that are found in the forage in their customers' fields. Adding the right mix of vitamins and minerals gives the farm animals the proper diet -- one that can change with the seasons as the makeup of that forage changes, said Carter, the mill's general manager.

"There's a lot of tweaking that goes on," said Becky Carter, Jim's wife.

Feed for cows, primarily on dairy farms, accounts for about 90 percent of Reisdorf Bros.' business, with horses second. The company also makes its own line of food for dogs and cats, which it sells under the Country Magic brand name. The company also sells fertilizer, seeds and has a small farm supply store in the business' office across the street from the mill.

Reisdorf had long wanted to add pet food to the company's offerings, but the notion didn't really get off the ground until about 25 years ago, when Carter, who had met Becky while both were students at Canisius College, came up with a plan to develop, market and distribute pet food as part of his senior project.

"He researched what it would take to start up something like that," Becky Carter said.

Reisdorf Bros. serves 500 to 600 dairy farms within about a 100-mile radius of the mill. That gives the company a market that stretches from Syracuse to Pennsylvania and even into Ohio, she said.

"We have everything from 1,000-cow dairy farms to farms with one cow," she said.

Reisdorf Bros., along with Gramco Inc. in Springville, are among the few independent feed mill operators in Western New York. It's a market that puts the independents up against agricultural giants, such as Cargill Inc. and Shur-Gain. Another big local competitor, Agway, went bankrupt about a decade ago.

Reisdorf Bros. customizes feed blends, which are mixed with a computerized system that dispenses the proper mix of ingredients into a four-ton mixer that blends them together. The individual recipes for each farm are stored in the company's computerized system. The resulting feed is either packed into individual bags or loaded onto trucks for bulk delivery to larger farms.

A rail siding outside the mill allows for the delivery of the feed ingredients by the train car.

The mill currently has about 40 employees, but that number will swell to 52 at its seasonal peak, Becky Carter said. Reisdorf also operates a fleet of about 25 trucks to deliver the feed to its customers.

Reisdorf said the business has grown steadily over the years, with its truck fleet tripling in size and the addition of a line of liquid feed products for dairy farmers.

"It's kind of like protein shakes for cows," Becky Carter said.