Another feed firm to use cheese plant byproducts

By Ryn Gargulinski: CNJ staff writer

Southwest Cheese continues to attract new ventures.
A Texas-based firm has reached an agreement with Southwest Cheese to purchase a cheese-processing by-product called whey to be used in animal feed.

Officials for Houston-based Westway Feed Products and Southwest Cheese confirmed the agreement on Wednesday.

Westway, which uses the protein-rich whey to produce molasses for livestock feed, plans to build a terminal near the cheese plant and haul the product by truck to processing plants in Texas, according to Westway Vice President of Operations Steve Boehmer.

Preliminary processing of the by-product will be done at the terminal in Clovis so it can be handled and transported easier to their plants in Hereford, Dimmitt, and Stratford, Boehmer said.

The construction cost for the terminal is about $1 million, Boehmer said.

The Westway deal will bring six to seven new jobs to the area later this year and add about $750,000 a year to the local economy, according Boehmer. He said it’s possible the company could build an area plant in the future depending on market conditions.

Westway is currently breaking ground on the project and construction is slated to begin mid-June.

“This is a long-term supply and purchase agreement between the two companies (Westway and Southwest),” Boehmer said. “It’s a way to best utilize the flows in the market place.

“The agreement looks good, it’s very promising.”

Westway plans to purchase about half of the estimated 16.5 million pounds of whey Southwest Cheese will produce a year.

Mesa Corp., a worldwide feed company that is building a plant near Southwest, will purchase the other half for the production of a protein-rich powder used in mostly pig feed.

The Mesa project will create 30 new jobs at the facility once it’s open for business in the next six to eight months, according to company officials.

A hefty $44 million is expected to be generated in direct and indirect salaries over the next 20 years and nearly $4 million in new tax revenue for New Mexico through gross receipts and payroll taxes, according to the Clovis Industrial Development Corp.

Southwest Cheese, which is scheduled to open in October, will produce an estimated 250 million pounds of cheddar cheese a year, according to company officials.

Southwest President and Chief Executive Officer Maurice Keane said the economic impact to the area goes beyond the two recent agreements.

“One of the big benefits is that transportation piece,” Keane said, speaking of the fleets of trucks that will be hauling cargo in and out of the Southwest plant. “Whether it’s a local truck or long distance, they will need gas, stop for pizza, maintenance; and we can’t forget those spin-offs as well.
“We expect 140 trucks of milk coming in each day.”

Keane said the market for cheese is steadily growing in the U.S.

“With all the (companies) buying and cutting cheese,” Keane said, “we are confident we will have a market for it.”

Keane said the cheese will be sold to large companies, who will in turn market it to retailers.

“If you went into Wal-Mart or Albertson’s and see colby jack, pepper jack, cheddar, it could potentially be our product,” Keane said.