J.D. Heiskell & Co.


Mar 7, 2012

Komatsu loaders “have more power and are much more fuel-efficient”

Earlier this year, J.D. Heiskell & Co. expanded its Friona, Texas, operations by adding a flaking operation that complements its feed-grinding service. It’s just another in a long line of expansions the company has seen throughout its 125-year history.

Founded in California in 1886 by J.D. Heiskell, the family-owned business has continually grown through four generations, partnerships and acquisitions to become one of the United States’ largest livestock-feed suppliers. Its products include rolled, flaked and bumped grains, as well as custom vitamin and mineral packages.

J.D. Heiskell’s great-grandson, Scot Hillman, currently leads the company, which has a dozen locations throughout eight states. Three years ago, J.D. Heiskell & Co. opened its Southwest Business Group regional office in Amarillo. The Friona operations fall within that area, along with a location in Portales, N.M.

“At Friona, we unload unit trains (100 rail cars) of commodities that come from several sources throughout the U.S. and Canada. Then we grind and flake those commodities to make feed for feedlots and dairies,” said Aaron Reid, Vice President Southwest Business Group. “The Portales location mixes minerals that supplement the feeds. So each locale has its unique niche, but they’re the same in terms of the guiding principles J.D. Heiskell brings to all its locations. Those include excellence, innovation and integrity.”

Tailor to customer needs

Those guiding principles helped J.D. Heiskell continue to develop and expand its long customer list during the past century and a quarter, but a good deal of its growth has occurred in the last decade. During the most recent 10-year span, the company grew 300 percent in volume, putting it among the Top 250 Privately Held Firms, according to Forbes magazine.

“We have what’s considered the nation’s single, high-producing, feed mill in California, and through a joint venture, the world’s largest grain-rolling facility in Idaho,” said Reid. “Our operations in Texas and New Mexico are smaller in comparison, but no less important. We bring the same commitment to all our customers, and that’s to provide the best value with high-quality products at competitive prices.”

One way it ensures that happens is by listening to its customers and tailoring feed rations to their specifications. “We have nutrition experts who can custom blend rations to fit customer needs,” Reid explained. “By working closely with them, we can design a feed mix of vitamins that best meets those needs, so their livestock gets the most out of it.”

No matter the need, the rations begin with the commodities J.D. Heiskell & Co. Continued . . . brings into its facilities by rail: corn gluten, dry distiller’s grain and canola at Friona, for example. The company unloads the cars, stockpiles the commodities, grinds and flakes them and loads them back into trucks for customer deliveries.

“We’re unloading thousands of tons of commodities each month, and we load out thousands of tons of product per day” said David Musick, Friona Location Manager. “We’re running nearly around the clock, shipping not only to Texas and New Mexico, but Colorado, Kansas and Mexico.”

Komatsu loaders stand out

To meet its production needs, J.D. Heiskell & Co.’s Southwest Business Group mainly uses Komatsu WA320PZ-6 wheel loaders equipped with roll-off buckets. In the past year, the company purchased three loaders with the help of Kirby-Smith Machinery Territory Manager Britt Stubblefield.

“The decision to buy Komatsu loaders was easy because we had a Komatsu WA320, and two top, competative brands, and the Komatsu always stood out,” Musick pointed out. “We have limited space in our storage facilities, so keeping the stockpiles pushed up is extremely important. The Komatsus allow us to go into the pile and continue to push when the competitive machines would stall out. That power also is important when it comes to breaking up the distiller’s grain, which can get hard. The Komatsus are the only machines that will do it.

“The Komatsu loaders have more power and are much more fuel-efficient,” he added. “We did some comparisons and found that when we started with a full tank first thing in the morning, the competitive brands had to be refueled in the middle of the afternoon, where the Komatsu ran all day and into the next before it needed refilling. Komatsu saves us a substantial amount of fuel and money.”

Kirby-Smith Machinery’s Amarillo Service Department performs service through a three-year, 9,000-hour preventive maintenance agreement. “Britt and Kirby-Smith are great to work with. They keep track of the hours and contact us to schedule the service,” Reid noted. “Whenever we’ve needed something, they’ve responded quickly.”

In addition to Komatsu loaders, J.D. Heiskell & Co. purchased two NPK pedestal-boom systems that are used to unload railcars at the Friona facility. “The dry distiller’s grain tends to adhere to itself and becomes like concrete,” said Musick. “The NPKs break it up easily, which makes our unloading more efficient.”

Innovative tradition

Finding ways to be more efficient has been a hallmark of J.D. Heiskell & Co. since its founding. It built one of the nation’s first computer-driven, high-production feed mills in the 1970s.

“This company has been built on a tradition of innovation and finding ways to better serve our customers,” said Reid. “It will continue that tradition while looking for expansion possibilities. We’re still delivering product to customers we’ve dealt with for decades, and at the same time, we’re constantly gaining new customers. As long as we continue to provide quality products to their specifications, that will always be the case.