This region is in many respects like a pig in four-leaf clover. In the Oldenburger Münsterland region, pigs are fattened both to meet domestic demand and for export. The local compound feedstuff plants – including the one operated by the Austing family – are of vital importance for feeding them.
Damme-Oldorf is in the middle of the so-called pig belt: the region between Vechta and Cloppenburg, which has the most pigs being fattened in Germany. Visible from afar, the Austing compound feedstuff factory stands on a small hill – the ideal place for the former windmill that laid the foundations for today’s compound feedstuff factory more than 100 years ago. “In 1911 my grandfather built the windmill, which at that time served as both a flour mill and a feed mill,” says Bernhard gr. Austing, who has been running the business since 1977. In the past, the company also had its own pig fattening unit – but over the course of time, the family business has concentrated exclusively on the production of compound feedstuffs.
After the Second World War, a modern compound feedstuff factory was built, because as part of the Marshall Plan, cheaper maize and sorghum were permitted for pig fattening purposes – this made the livestock industry very interesting for the region and laid the foundations for the high livestock density that still exists today. The partnership with the Landschaftliche Bezugsgenossenschaft Damme (LBD), which is still the compound feedstuff plant’s largest client, also dates from this time. Since then, the compound feedstuff factory has been continuously enlarged, and the historical buildings have been displaced by these conversions and extensions.
“Today we are solely a contract manufacturer without our own brand,” is how Bernhard gr. Austing explains the business model. “We produce about 280,000 tonnes of feed a year, of which about 90 percent is pig feed. The remaining 10 percent is cattle or poultry feed. The majority of our products are fed to livestock within a radius of 30 kilometers.” Nevertheless, the product range is very extensive: the compound feedstuff factory produces about 300 different mixtures, as farmers have very specific requirements – from low-cost basic mixtures to special feed, everything is included, plus individual mixtures for individual farms. “To meet these requirements, we depend above all on competent staff.”
That is why the company has been training millers itself since 2004 and has sent its journeymen to the DMSB in Braunschweig several times in the past. This is also the path taken by Simon gr. Austing, the youngest son, who would like to take over the business one day. After completing his miller’s apprenticeship at Agravis in Münster, he went on to train as a technician in mill construction plus cereals and feed technology at the DMSB. He is currently studying for a Master’s degree in agricultural sciences in Göttingen to deepen his knowledge of animal nutrition and business management. After his degree, he would like to gain further experience in another compound feedstuff company before returning home. His father is convinced: “They teach the necessary fundamentals of compound feedstuff production at the DMSB.” He can also well imagine looking for the next operations manager among DMSB graduates.
Trend towards individualization
“We are noticing a clear trend towards an increasing number of mixtures, which are then produced in smaller quantities – this trend is associated with a huge amount of extra work for us in terms of process flows,” Bernhard gr. Austing observes. “Added to this is the challenge of just-in-time production. Farmers call in the morning and want to find the feed in their silo by the evening. That places high demands on staff and production planning.” Simon is looking forward to the future, despite more difficult general conditions and growing competitive pressure, but has confidence in his DMSB training, among other things: “I can only recommend that anyone who wants to take over their parents’ business in the future, become a production manager or similar, attend the DMSB – the two years are definitely worth it. First and foremost, of course, professionally speaking, because of the extensive teaching content, and it is also a very enjoyable time!”