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Flexible Screw Conveyor Moves Whey Powder for Animal Nutrition Products

September 11, 2013
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Immuno-Dynamics Inc. is a science-based manufacturer of animal health products providing cattle, calves, lambs, and piglets with essential antibodies, proteins, vitamins, and minerals during their first hours of life.
    The supplements are produced using a valuable milky fluid secreted by dairy cows called "bovine colostrum", which the company processes and combines with various ingredients to produce end products in the form of tablets, injectable liquids, and powders.
    To move powdered products containing whey and other ingredients from a blender to a packaging machine, the plant continues to rely on a Flexicon flexible screw conveyor it purchased more than 22 years ago.

Learning from Nature
Human and animal newborns cannot acquire antibodies from their mothers’ blood while they are in the womb. Instead, they derive this essential protection from the colostrum they suckle during their first few hours of life. Colostrum, also known as “first milk”, contains vital immunoglobulins (antibodies) and cytokines (protein), as well as vitamins and minerals.
    Immuno-Dynamics founder Dr. Richard H. Cockrum is a veterinarian who researched colostrum for more than 40 years. He founded the company in 1980 to manufacture colostrum-based products for farmers who hand-feed their calves, lambs, and piglets.

From Farm to Packaged Product
One of the company’s products is VitaPak, a powdered formulation that promotes health and growth in cattle and pigs. Available in four grades to suit different species and ages of animals, VitaPak is made from dried colostrum, dried whey, vitamins, and minerals.
    “A cow may produce several gallons of colostrum, of which the calf needs only half a gallon or so,” says plant manager Mike Helms. “Farmers collect the surplus within six hours of birth (when its potency is highest), freeze it, and sell it to us.”
    At the plant, the frozen colostrum in 2-gal containers is thawed, tested, concentrated, and then spray-dried to yield colostrum powder. The whey powder arrives in 1-tn bulk bags from neighboring dairy plants. Both sweet whey and colostrum are plentiful in Wisconsin, which is the state ranked first in cheese production and second in milk production.
    A forklift is used to discharge a bulk bag of whey powder through a sifter and into a ribbon blender, where colostrum, vitamins, and minerals are added. The batch is then mixed and gravity discharged into a transfer hopper — a 45-minute process in all.
    The powder is gravity fed to the intake of the flexible screw conveyor having an outside diameter of 4.5 in. The powder is then moved 20 ft at an incline of approximately 45 degrees by the conveyor to the surge hopper of a packaging machine, where it is filled into 25-lb polythene-lined cardboard boxes. Packaging a 2-tn batch takes about two hours, according to Helms.
    Fully enclosed and dust-free, the USDA-approved conveyor has crevice-free interior surfaces and a smooth stainless-steel flexible screw that is connected to a drive system above the point at which powder exits the conveyor, precluding product contact with seals. Sanitary operation is critical in the Immuno-Dynamics plant, which has a USDA veterinary biologics license, and operates to strict quality standards, Helms explained. “The conveyor is easy to clean at the end of each operating campaign, and is also reliable and easy to maintain,” he said.

Two Decades of Reliable Conveying
The Flexicon conveyor was installed in 1989 at the original Immuno-Dynamics plant in Perry, IA, and then relocated in 2005 to the company's new facility in Fennimore, WI.
    "After operating for more than two decades, the conveyor continues to do the job well and has needed little maintenance,” said Helms. "When I checked our maintenance records, I found that the conveyor had been in service for 22 years. Over that time, maintenance has been limited to a new spiral in 1996, new tube couplings in 2004, and a new outer tube in 2011.
    “I’m responsible for the smooth running of the plant, including maintenance operations, and I work in production as well. It means a lot to have a conveyor that not only does the job well but also keeps running for many years with very little attention.”
    Flexicon Corp., Bethlehem, PA 610-814-2400 www.flexicon.com

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