Do different breeds require different feeds?

April 5, 2017 – Modesto, CA

Some breeds of chickens grow and reach egg-producing maturity much more quickly, while others traditionally grow and mature at a slower pace. So, questions come up about whether it makes sense to prolong the use of chick feed, grower, etc. The simple answer is that it depends.

There is not an exact science to feed choice or length of time each feed phase should be maintained. Factors such as cost, age and size of flock, philosophies and other goals all need to be considered.

Agriculture production levels may require developing more rigid phase and feeding schedules just to maintain processes and profitability. Backyard or urban farming, however, may allow much more flexibility and, in some cases, may be the only way to achieve a desired outcome.

Many people want access to organic poultry and eggs to reduce exposure to GMOs and to avoid unnecessary pesticides and toxins. Those needs might be satisfied by commercially available products in the general marketplace. But clients who want soy-free or corn- and soy-free poultry and eggs will likely be unable to find them at their local big-box or grocery store. The only options for these consumers will likely be raising chickens themselves or finding local producers who put those qualities over profitability.

Ultra-specific goals like these will reduce feed choices and may affect production and costs. Soy-free feeds may meet the goal of avoiding soy, but there can be tradeoffs in the areas of quality of protein and amounts of amino acids. Lowering the amino acids may also reduce egg production, which could increase the amount of time, cost and birds needed to reach the same overall production goals.

The feeding of flocks for specific goals isn’t necessarily an exact science, but if it starts to feel complicated, reach out to Chris Wagner at 209-523-9167 ext.9107 or He will help you simplify the process and reach your goals.

It’s Back…Chick Season!

March 1, 2017 – Modesto, CA

It’s that time of year again…chick season. Raising chickens is gaining popularity not just among the farming set, but also urban chicken owners, many schools and others have taken a fancy to these fowl. People are choosing to acquire chickens for meat, egg production or just to have a less traditional pet.

If you are new to raising chicks, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Provide young chicks a draft free brooder for warmth and protection
  • Clean your brooder before the chicks are brought home
  • Cover the brooder floor with pinewood shavings
  • Position incandescent bulbs about one foot above the floor to provide heat
  • If the heat level is good, chicks will spread evenly around the brooder
  • If chicks are too hot, they will pant and their heads will droop
  • If chicks are too cold, they will huddle directly under the heat lamp and be noisy, a sign of distress
  • Give chicks space to move around
  • Make sure your chicks have access to clean, fresh water
  • Check water levels daily to be sure your chicks are consuming enough water
  • Sprinkle chick starter on the brooder floor for the first few days
  • After chicks are a few days old, use a chick feeder for feed
  • Raise the lamp as chicks grow until it is no longer needed

Choose a feed that is high in protein to properly nourish your chicks. Modesto Milling has three formulations to meet your feeding goals: Organic Chick Starter and Poultry Grower Crumbles, Organic Soy-Free Chick Starter and Poultry Grower Crumbles and Organic Corn and Soy-Free Chick Starter and Poultry Grower Crumbles. A 10 pound bag should feed 6-7 chicks for about 30 days. We also have 25 and 50 pound bags or larger quantities depending on the size of your flock.

If you have questions, reach out to Chris Wagner at 209-523-9167 ext.9107 or

Happy chick season!

Make Mama Happy

January 30, 2017 – Modesto, CA

This is the time of the year when our customers start to see an increase in the number of lactating mothers on their farms and ranches. Goats, sheep and cows are especially likely to be producing milk for new babies in February.

Milk-producing mamas have different feed needs than other animals. For example, they need higher levels of protein to support health, energy and milk production. Modesto Milling has four feed formulations specifically designed to meet the needs of nursing ruminants. Two of the formulations are soy-free and the other two contain soy, but at much lower quantities than competitive offerings.

We prefer to focus on formulating feeds with diverse ingredient mixes as opposed to being heavily dependent on one ingredient or another. This diversity means we include items you won’t find in other feeds. Unique ingredients include flax seed, peas, alfalfa, coconut flour and vitamin and essential oil mixes. Each component in our feed formulations is chosen for flavor, scent or nutritional attributes that round out the offering to meet breeder requirements and animal taste preferences.

Copper is toxic for sheep. We don’t add copper to our feeds, which allows cross feeding for ruminant species and reduces worries about one critter accidentally eating another critter’s rations.

If you have or are expecting to have milk producing cattle, goats, sheep, pigs or other livestock, Modesto Milling’s 2 soy-free options are the Organic All-Purpose Soy-Free Livestock & Dairy Grain Pellets #5040 (13.5% protein) or Organic Soy-Free Dairy Livestock Pellets #5046 (15% protein). Options that include soy are Organic Goat Dairy Pellets #5030 (16% protein, 10% soy) and Organic Dairy Ewe & Lamb Pellets #5042 (15% protein, 6.2% soy). Our customers often use the higher protein feeds, which cost slightly more, as new babies are born and energy needs are highest. As these needs decrease, the customers may move to a lower cost, lower protein ration. The Organic All-Purpose Soy-Free Livestock & Dairy Grain Pellets #5040 is the least expensive of the four options, but also works as a finishing feed for clients who are interested in pre-slaughter weight gain.

Please contact Chris Wagner at 209-523-9167 ext.9107 or if you have questions about which formulation will best meet your needs.

10 Pound Bags Now Available For Scratch and Some Feeds

December 30, 2016 – Modesto, CA

Modesto Milling serves a very diverse customer base. Some of our customers have large, commercial ag businesses. Others have varying sizes of family ranches and farms. Yet others are backyard or urban poultry or small animal owners.

Previous posts have talked about availability of palletized feed orders and totes for large-scale breeding and farming operations, but this one is more focused on the needs of smaller-scale owners.

We have had many requests for smaller quantities of feed for people with small flocks, individual birds and rabbits as well as people who want to try Modesto Milling feed without investing in a 25 or 50 pound bag. We have listened and are now producing Scratch (#732), Chick Starter (#702), Soy-Free Chick Starter (#712), Corn & Soy-Free Chick Starter (#722) and Rabbit Feed (#682) in 10 pound quantities.

This new offering is well suited for shipping, people lacking in storage space or others concerned about not being able to go through larger quantities of feed in a 90-day period. Timing of the release of the new starter product sizes will also nicely coincide with chick season, which is coming up in February and March.

The new packaging is designed to resist bugs and moisture, but will also be convenient for retailers that have limited shelf space and still want to stock Modesto Milling feed for their clients with low feed volume requirements.

As always, we value your feedback. We look forward to hearing what you think of the new sizes and are also working to determine which other feeds you would like to see in the 10 pound sizes.

Happy New Year to you, your families and the critters you keep!

Tom Turkey’s Big Week

November 24, 2016 – Modesto, CA

Travel, family, football, gratitude, sanctioned gluttony and post-meal naps are all on many people’s agendas this week. But the big star and most popular topic of the week will probably be Tom Turkey.

Cooks across America will be thinking about how to prepare good ole Tom for his starring role at Thanksgiving dinner. Cranberries, bread, spices, and whether he should be treated to hot oil treatments or roasting could come up in conversations. But, for many of our customers, thoughts are starting to come up around how to prepare Tom for next year’s festivities.

Raising healthy, heavy (and tasty) turkeys doesn’t have to be as complicated as many conventional feed mills might make it out to be. Some mills promote as many as ten different stages of turkey development with feeds to match. Modesto Milling has boiled it down to three: starter, growth and finisher.

In the early stages of turkey development, these birds need a lot of protein. The protein gives them energy and helps with growth, but also reduces their mortality rates. Our Turkey Starter features 28% protein. Other feeds with lower protein percentages often come up short when it comes to getting the turkeys off to a strong start in life. We find that soybean meal (which we mill ourselves) is the best source of protein for this stage of turkey development. This phase is typically 7-9 weeks, but may be longer for heritage breeds.

The next 7-9 week phase of growth has lower protein requirements, so turkey breeders and growers can switch to a standard chick starter with a 22% protein formulation. The higher protein feed will still be fine for the birds, but many of our customers like the ability to save about $3 per 50 pound bag of feed. $3 per bag may not be an issue for people raising a couple turkeys, but when congressional numbers increase or dozens, hundreds or thousands of birds are being raised, savings can quickly add up.

The final phase of finishing can be open ended in terms of time. Finisher feed reduces the protein percentages to about 17%. These pellets can be fed until the turkeys reach the desired weight.

As always, you can reach out to Chris Wagner at or 209-523-9167 ext.9107 if you have questions about turkey feeds or feeds for other species.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Dairies, Cows and Conferences

October 27, 2016 – Modesto, CA

This is one of those weeks when Modesto Milling’s roots, philosophies and community involvement converge. Members of our team are attending the Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (WODPA) conference in Washington. You can see more about the conference at:

We have mentioned in previous posts that we started as a dairyman’s cooperative in 1974. What we did not mention is that the ownership team of the mill is still comprised of 19 local family-owned dairies that value the Modesto Milling culture and value set. We are still involved in the dairy community, even as we have expanded our lines into poultry, rabbits, hogs, goats, chinchillas and other livestock. This involvement is one of the reasons we are attending the WODPA conference.

But our attendance is not just for nostalgic reasons. We find this conference to be well attended and well run and it allows us to keep our fingers on the pulse of the dairy community. Events like these give us exposure to clients, prospects, competitors, vendors, certifiers, speakers and subject matter experts. We get to track trends, test product receptivity, discover untapped needs and be submersed in the community for several days.

Sure, we are marketing products like our livestock feed and full-fat soy bean meal, which we have mentioned in a previous post. ( But we also do a lot of listening. We are tracking legislative demands in law-heavy states like California and also seeing a lot of vendors and conversation around the inclusion of diverse feed ingredients like mined ingredients, natural ingredients and new health benefits of supplements like kelp. We are also seeing new production capabilities and equipment offerings.

Some of these insights are great affirmations that Modesto Milling has been ahead of the curve with the use of kelp, Redmond Salt products and other unique ingredients that help us deliver a unique and, we believe, a superior line of feed products. Other ideas are new and we get to determine whether tests and more due diligence could lead to further improvements. In any case, we are literally travelling around the western region and beyond to find out what is important and available in the feed marketplace. You can learn more about the kinds of places we go to learn about the species and needs of our clients here:

Updates to Rabbit and Chinchilla Feed Formulation

October 2, 2016 – Modesto, CA

We don’t normally post two months in a row about the same animal species or group of species. But, since last month’s post about Chris Wagner’s family heritage in feed formulations and his grandfather’s reputation for chinchilla feeds, we have decided to announce Modesto Milling’s newest rabbit and chinchilla feed formulation changes.

We have continued to work closely with chinchilla breeders who wanted a bit higher fat and energy content in the feeds to meet growth, health and breeding goals. The result has been a slight decrease in the percentage of alfalfa used in the feed mix and an increase in oats, flaxseed and black oil sunflower seeds, plus the addition of coconut flour.

The extra oats help with growth, but the other ingredients increase fat content which provides more fur density, darkens the fur color and boosts energy levels. Other benefits we have heard from breeders include larger litters (with enough milk production to keep up with the greater demand) and it being easier to maintain the mama chinchillas post-natal body condition. (**Optional: Sorry, we don’t make feeds for mama humans trying to maintain post-natal body condition.)

We have polled rabbit breeders who have seen similar outcomes with their animals and have also mentioned that the rabbits’ eyes look sharper, which the breeders see as another sign of improved health.

The main differentiator for this feed, when being compared to formulas produced by competitors, is that it continues to be made with no corn, soybean meal & oil or molasses, which our breeders tend to want to avoid.

The feed is available in 25 and 50 lbs. bags, pallets and totes. You can learn more at

A Feed Heritage

August 25, 2016 – Modesto, CA

Customers who have researched Modesto Milling’s history know that the mill has been operating since 1974 and started as a dairymen’s co-op. In 1998, we began manufacturing organic feed, and then got our first organic certification in 1998. We formulated organic and conventional feeds until 2007 when we began formulating 100% organic feeds.

What most customers don’t know is that all of Modesto Milling’s formulations are overseen by Chris Wagner whose feed formulation roots go back three generations.

Chris’s grandfather, Clarence, settled in Petaluma, CA in the early 1900s. He was the only man on the ranch and had never worked for anyone else. Petaluma was known at the time as the egg basket of the world and Clarence raised poultry (mixing his own feed) until he sold his business in the 1950s.

The chinchilla craze started in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1957, Clarence began breeding and raising 100s of chinchillas using a couple of converted multi-level chicken houses. He sold animals, equipment, supplies and four feed formulations he had manufactured at a local mill. Clarence bought a lot of chinchillas from a partner in Sonora, exporting the animals to Denmark. He also made a name for himself showing and judging chinchilla shows.

Chris Wagner remembers selling feed for his grandfather every weekend starting at the age of 11 or 12 (or whenever his math skills got strong enough to give change to customers.)

Chris’s dad was known in the agricultural circles for raising award winning sheep and rams. His father mixed his own ingredients and became very good at timing the formulations so the rams would look their best at show time. Chris remembers doing up to 9 open division fairs per season and it was his job to feed the sheep.

Chris has never escaped the poultry, chinchilla, sheep or hog feeds his family has formulated over the decades. His formulations have only continued and expanded to include rabbits, cattle, horses and others over time.

For Modesto Milling, feed isn’t just about making organic feed to make a buck. For people like Chris Wagner, it is literally part of their genetic makeup and family heritage.

Pellets, Crumbles or Mash?

July 29, 2016 – Modesto, CA

Modesto Milling recently started formulating soy-free layer crumbles. This augments our organic poultry feed line that already includes starter and grower crumbles; broiler finisher pellets; layer pellets and crumbles; whole grain layer; turkey starter crumbles; scratch; soy-free layer pellets; soy-free starter and grower crumbles; soy-free finisher pellets; corn and soy-free layer pellet; and corn and soy-free starter and grower crumbles.

So, the question is why use crumbles versus pellets or mash? Several factors go into the choice.

Some people prefer to make their own feed or buy mash (where the ingredients are ground up and/or mixed together in a powdery form), then mix in their own ingredients. Popular add-ins include milk, cream, yogurt, scrambled eggs, table scraps, vitamins and others. But mash also has some downsides. There tends to be more waste and poultry also may pick out the pieces they like, leaving behind pieces they don’t, which may mean they don’t get all of the intended nutrients.

Pellets take the mash process further and use heat and pressure to form the mash into pellets. The heat and pressure help to break down some of the starches within the pellets, making digestion easier. Extra benefits include less waste and that the poultry have a harder time picking out the pieces they want, meaning they get a more balanced diet with all of the intended nutrients.

Crumbles add another step to the pellet process. The pellets are sent through two rollers that break the pellets into smaller pieces or crumbles. All of the benefits of the pellets still remain.

Some breeders have a preference for one of the three feed processing methods. Others vary the feed selection based on the age of the bird, the breed or the flock’s preferences.

Starter crumbles, as an example, tend to be fed to younger birds that may have a harder time eating large pellets. Bantam breeders tend to like crumbles because the breed is smaller than other breeds. And some birds just prefer crumbles over pellets or vice versa.

Modesto Milling produces organic crumbles and pellets that meet the needs of most breeders and the poultry they are feeding. If you have questions about which type of feed is best for your goals, situation and birds, we are here to help. You can learn more at or by emailing

Organic Egg Production

June 23, 2016 – Modesto, CA

Nobody is 100% sure which came first between the chick and the egg, but the way things currently go, good chicks start out as good eggs. Organic feed is important whether you are aiming for healthy chicks or are more interested in the eggs themselves.

Egg production methods can affect the quality and quantity of the eggs. Many of our customers, and egg consumers as a whole, are concerned about excessive medications, GMOs and birds having the ability to stretch their wings as opposed to being confined in cages or in conditions that limit mobility. This has increased interest in free range and organic eggs.

Organic eggs are actually held to a higher standard than free range eggs. Organic eggs come from organic hens. Organic hens are required to be fed organic feed, which contains no GMOs, antibiotics or animal byproducts. Free range eggs don’t have these requirements. The one thing both types of eggs have in common is that neither allows putting hens in tiny cages but, even in this case, organic eggs have stronger animal welfare requirements.

Organic feed is required in organic egg production, but feed quality matters. We regularly talk to customers about differences they are seeing when switching to our feed after using conventional or other organic feeds. We have heard stories of stronger shells, darker yolks, better flavor and others when talking specifically about eggs.

Quality organic feed also helps the eggs’ mamas stay happier and healthier. We have heard testimonials about better plumage, production and meat taste when layers are given Modesto Milling feed.

Modesto Milling makes a number of formulas including corn-free, soy-free, whole grain, starters, finishers, growers and layers along with individual ingredients and supplements. Our clients aren’t just using the feed for chickens. Some are using them for turkeys, pheasants, ducks, quail and others.

If your goals include eggs, chicks, layers or meat birds, you can learn more about ways Modesto Milling can help at or by emailing