||Billy Smith, co-owner of Southern Alabama Wood Products, moves a 5-foot log onto the log loader to ready it for shaving.
Where there’s a need, there’s a way.
That’s the philosophy of two Goshen buddies, Michael Sanders and Billy Smith.
So, when they saw that area poultry farmers had a need, they began to look for ways to meet that need.
"We have a large number of poultry farmers in our area," said Sanders, who is among them. "For years, we have been using peanut hulls as bedding for our poultry houses. But it had gotten where peanut hulls were hard to get."
|Michael Sanders, left, and Billy Smith inspect the logs that have been cut and readied for shaving. They buy pulpwood from local suppliers and haul wood shavings to poultry farms in a 60-miles radius.
Area farmers have cutback on peanut production and a Dothan company that makes fire ant bait had contracted for the peanut hulls from local suppliers.
"The peanut hulls are being ground and used as a carrier for fire ant bait," Sanders said. "With peanut hulls being cut off, we had to find another type of bedding for our houses. We could make out all right with what we had for a while by taking the cake off the top off the bed or by pulverizing it. But you can do that for only so long. Then you’ve got to clean the houses out completely and start again. We had to find something for bedding when we had to start again."
Sanders and Smith began to look for alternative bedding for poultry houses. They searched the Internet and found that sand and paper were being used.
"One or two growers in our area had tried sand but the use wasn’t widespread so evidently that didn’t work so well," Sanders said. "And, as for paper, I just don’t see how that would work. So, we kept looking and found that wood shavings were being used for bedding in poultry houses in a lot of places.
"Billy and I started thinking about that and decided that wood shavings would be the best alternative. Maybe even a better one because wood shavings aren’t nearly as dusty as peanut hulls."
||The mill shaves 5-foot logs into shavings that are 1/16-inch in thickness and from three to seven inches in length. The shavings are an alternative to peanut hulls that have been used for bedding in Goshen-area poultry houses until recently.
The more Sanders and Smith researched alternative beddings for poultry houses the more convinced they became that wood shavings were the way to go.
"What we found was that not only are wood shavings cleaner than peanut hulls because they produce much less dust, they also don’t attract rodents like peanut hulls," he said. "Peanut hulls often have peanut swivels that mice really like, so that’s a real advantage of wood shavings. And, wood shavings give a house a fresh, clean smell – like pine."
Satisfied that they had found an alternative bedding, Sanders and Smith then began to consider the supply for the potential demand.
The idea of up-starting a wood shaving mill seemed like a viable one. They took a trip to Arkansas to look at the type of shaving machine that was needed to do the job.
They came back to Goshen convinced that a wood shaving mill would be of great benefit to area poultry farmers.
"We’ve got probably a thousand poultry houses in a 60-mile radius and we saw a real need for an alternative bedding for those houses," Sanders said.
Determined to meet that need, Sanders and Smith formed a partnership, South Alabama Wood Products LLC and are now "in the wood shavings business" in downtown Goshen.
Smith oversees the day-to-day operation of the South Alabama Wood Products and also owns and operates Graceland Trucking, which is the sole carrier of the shavings that are processed in Goshen.
"I have been hauling peanut hulls for a while so I’m familiar with that type of hauling and also with the poultry farmers in our area," he said. "The product that we have will be very beneficial to them, so we feel like we are offering a service as well as a product."
Smith said the process of shaving wood is not complicated. It just makes a little racket.
"We buy pine trees from local pulpwood suppliers and haul them here to the yard and weigh them as they come in," he said. "We then unload the trees with a knuckle boom loader and cut them into five-foot lengths with a ground saw."
The logs are then carried to the mill area and loaded onto a log chain loader. From there the shaving process begins.
Smith operates the mill from his perch in the center of the entire operation.
The logs are shaved to about 1/16-inch in thickness and from three to seven inches in length.
The shavings are carried along and up the conveyer belt and are spewed directly into the waiting 53-foot truck to be hauled to the farm.
"We just got started in August, so we’re still young," Smith said. "Right now we’re averaging about two loads a day. Our hope is to soon get up to about 20 loads a week.
Sanders said wood shavings are a little more costly than peanut hulls but the cost evens out with the loads.
"It won’t take as many loads of wood shavings as it does the peanut hulls," he said.
Speaking from personal experience, Sanders said, on his poultry farm, his houses required four loads of peanut hulls compared to two of wood shavings.
"So the cost averages out," he said.
How many loads a grower needs depends on how and how often he cleans his beds – whether he removes the cake or pulverizes the bedding – and how often the grower completely cleans the houses.
"Normally, a grower will take everything out down to the floor once a year," Sanders said. "Some might do it more often. The number of loads depends, too, on how deep they want the bed."
Sanders and Smith believe area poultry farmers will greatly benefit from their wood shaving mill and are looking forward to growing their business.
They have a good product and are offering a needed service to the area and hopefully beyond.
"We plan for this to be a year around business," Sanders said. "We have plans in mind for growth but that’s down the road. Right now, we’re concentrating on promoting our business, mainly by word of mouth."
Sanders and Smith expressed appreciation to the Goshen Farmers Co-op and its board for being a good neighbor business.
"They worked with us in every way to get our business up and started and we really appreciate all of their help and support," Sanders said. "And, we also want to the thank the Goshen Town Council for working with us to bring another business to town."
Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.