MORONI, Utah – Fascinating wood fiber stories are all around us. Yet this one brings together a great number of players, which at first look might seem unrelated, making it particularly intriguing.
There are the heated houses (brooders) for young turkeys; there are also chickens, horses and mink. There are Engelmann spruce trees and the spruce beetle. There are glamorous lodgings in Las Vegas and beyond. And there are two wood shaving mills from Jackson Lumber Harvester Co., Inc. in Mondovi, Wisc.
Sanpete Shavings Supply, LLC ties all the players together. The company is owned and operated by Mickey Beckstead.
“We bought the business and a Jackson shaving mill in June 2013,” said Mickey. “We supply shavings for turkey growers and for horses and chickens.”
When the business got new ownership, it was given a new name. Recently, it moved to a new site that encompasses 85 acres. The acreage will be put to use for expansion as well as a recently launched enterprise in firewood processing and bundling.
What brought Mickey to the wood products industry? “I’d worked for 28 years in the freight business,” he said. He wanted to run his own business.
“I was raised on a mink farm,” said Mickey. So he had experience with wood shavings. “At one time, I owned a small brokerage.” So he had experience running a company.
In addition, Mickey knew his market. The number of turkey farms in his area is large and growing.
The shaving machine that Mickey purchased with his company was a Jackson Wood Shaving Mill® model 30D6H, which can produce as much as 400 cubic feet per hour. With a focus of producing more product, Mickey was soon looking for a second shaving mill.
“When it came to buying the next shaving mill, I did look around,” said Mickey. The research he did persuaded him that he had the machine he wanted. He decided that his second mill would also be from Jackson and in August 2014, he purchased a model 30D10HL.
“Jackson Lumber Harvester does a wonderful job of building a rugged machine,” said Mickey. “They build a good machine.”
The Jackson 30D10HL can produce as much product as 700 cubic feet per hour. Like the smaller model that launched Mickey’s business, it is designed to produce wood shavings from round wood, pulp wood, low-grade logs, slabs and other kinds of wood that would be deemed waste in the grade and ancillary marketplace.
Space to grow was one reason that Mickey moved his company to the new site. Grid-supplied electric power was another. The electric 50 horsepower motor on the Jackson model 30D6H and the electric 75 horsepower motor on the Jackson model 30D10H both require three-phase power.
In its first full year of business, Sanpete Shavings Supply delivered 160 semi-truck loads of shavings. The company is on track to deliver more than 200 semi-truck loads in its second full year of business and perhaps as many as 250.
The buyers of shavings that Mickey’s company supplies are all located in Utah. With a home base in the town of Moroni in the center of the state, Sanpete Shavings Supply is situated well for reaching every buyer in the shortest amount of time.
Moroni is part of Sanpete County, which ranks among the top 10 turkey producing counties in the nation. The town has approximately 1,200 residents and the county has a population of about 24,000.
When Mickey purchased the newer, larger Jackson model 30D10HL machine, he also bought an end-feed system for cut logs from Jackson Lumber Harvester. To help its customers make the most of their shaving mills, Jackson offers an array of equipment that complements the shaving machine, including tree-length infeed decks, cut-up systems and log decks for loading mills.
The team at Jackson is committed to understanding how its machines are being used and ensuring that initial setup goes well. William (“Bill”) Becker, the vice president of Jackson Lumber Harvester has taken a keen interest in the way that Sanpete Shavings Supply operates.
“Bill’s been out on our property three times,” said Mickey when we spoke with him on February 17. “He’s coming out again next week. He spent a week and a half with us on installation.”
The majority of the material going into the shaving mills is Engelmann spruce. “There’s a little white fir and Douglas fir,” said Mickey.
“We have a couple of different suppliers [for logs],” explained Mickey. A more direct arrangement is in the works. Through it, the company would take care of the logistics of clearing away (and then using as raw material) Engelmann spruce from land that falls under the authority of the U.S. Forest Service.
A slow-growing species, Engelmann spruce may live for as long as 850 years, although most mature and dominant trees are in the range of 300 years old.
During the 1990s, Utah had a major infestation of the spruce beetle, Dendroctonus rufipennis. As many as three million spruce trees died and an area over 120,000 acres was affected. The removal of the long-dead spruce trees is important to reducing the amount of tinder in the forests.
Sanpete Shavings Supply will be helping in the removal effort of dead Engelmann spruce if it gets permission to begin to collect logs from the dead trees. Now, the company buys from others engaged in the clearing efforts. And it buys waste wood from loggers. “We take the stuff that [loggers] call seconds,” explained Mickey.
With a greater supply of wood, Mickey’s plans for growth across the next five years include adding bundled firewood as a product. He already has on site a new Cord King CS47 firewood processor with tumbler. A shed was being built for the machine, the second shed on site, when we talked with Mickey.
Also underway in conjunction with the firewood product is the construction of a bundlers. “We are manufacturing our own,” said Mickey. Five or six pieces of wood will be bundled and wrapped and sold to wholesalers that will private labeling for convenience stores and the like. A drying pad on the acreage will be used to season the wood prior to processing.
Eventually, the product ratio at Mickey’s company will be an even split between wood shavings for turkey farms and firewood. The entry into firewood will mean an increase in the number of employees, which is now two at full time.
In both the wood shavings and the firewood product lines, Mickey’s business mirrors the entire wood products industry in its commitment to see wood fiber used to its fullest potential. Just as firewood is now being kiln dried to add value, shavings are being used in ever-more creative ways.
Consider the wood shavings used in brooders. An industry has developed around collecting such shavings, which are laden with turkey manure, and composting the mixture to sell as a garden product. Moroni-based Nutri-Mulch® (www.nutrimulch.com), for example, does just that and sells its compost to some of the best known establishments in Las Vegas, Nevada, including the Bellagio, MGM Grand and McCarran International Airport.
Extending the life of wood fiber by making it a substrate for new plant growth puts the concept of re-use or recycle together in one great way. But there is an abundance of good ideas.
The Jackson Wood Shaving Mill® supports operations that produce mulch for nurseries, product for weed suppression, substrate cover at fairground and similar venues, and oriented-strand board (OSB) construction. Shavings can also be dried to remove microbes. They must be dried if they are bagged. To meet the needs of customers who require dry shavings, Jackson has been selling Webb BurnersTM for more than 10 years.
The Jackson Wood Shaving Mill dates to 1961. Jackson Lumber Harvester Co. was established in 1944 by Clinton D. Jackson, who invented a portable sawmill.
Wood shavings produced by the Jackson mills are curly, fluffy and highly absorbent. To make them even more attractive to turkey farmers, the individual from whom Mickey bought his company and first Jackson mill made a slight modification to the blades.
The objective is to “bring down the size of the shaving” so that it is even “softer” than it might otherwise be.
Aiming to deliver the precise product that buyers want is part of the business strategy of Sanpete Shavings Supply. Finer shavings make a good fit in the brooders because they don’t tempt the fowl to eat them.
“The interaction with the growers” is a wonderful aspect of his profession, said Mickey. He enjoys hearing their concerns and needs as he makes deliveries.
Guiding Mickey each day is his philosophy to be honest in all dealings. “Be totally honest, even if it hurts,” he said. That way – with “your cards on the table” – it’s possible to resolve any issues that arise.
In his free time, Mickey enjoys heading to Fish Lake, Utah for camping and off-road riding.