FAQs and How-to’s
After many years in the Industry, we have thousands of FAQ’s to share. In case we did not share the answer you were looking for, please feel free to email or call us. We are here to share our knowledge!
- Save up to 30% on feed wastage by feeding animal pellets
- Cut out selective feeding habits by supplying a balanced diet
- Increase digestibility by up to 14.2% opposed to loose feeds, because of gelatinization of starches
- Control what the animal’s intake is and decrease competition whilst feeding
- Decrease feeding time and increasing resting time which will burn less energy
- Decrease respiratory problems due to less dust inhalation when feeding pellets
- You control what is in your own pellets, thus no blending to hide poor quality ingredients
- Easier storage and handling of pellets and easier to feed to animals
- Seal ingredient quality into the pellets, thereby slowing oxidation for longer shelf life
Animals prefer pellets over lose feeds and will eat ingredients which they would ordinarily not touch, once it is pelletized. The reason is that feeds become more palatable and digestible and has very little dust which irritate the respiratory tract. Ingredients also improves in taste due to the application of heat (it cooks) and pressure (it grinds) the feed.
If pellets are stored in a dry place without insect infestation, it lasts longer than loose feeds because pellets are compacted and sealed from oxidation. This decreases the exposure to oxygen which is the main reason for loss of vitamins and nutrients through rotting or the organic material (composting is stopped).
Garbage in = Garbage out. Your pelletizer can only bind materials with inherent binding properties, in other words, it must have some form of adhesiveness and must also be cohesive. To fix a lack of adhesiveness in feeds, you need to add Proteins, Starches, Edible Oils, Lignin, Sugars or Molasses. Some lesser-known sources may also exist.
To fix cohesiveness of ingredients, make sure the ingredient is milled finely to demolish the structure which resists cohesion. Maize stalks are a good example, due to the spongy nature of the inner core. Also determine what the maximum inclusion rate is of this product, to achieve a good quality pellet. You will rarely fix an incohesive product by just milling it, therefore decrease the inclusion rate to a point where better pellets are formed.
Agricon machines are not built for wood pelleting and we suggest you don’t try this without purpose designed wood pelleting equipment. When pelletizing wood, steam is essential and in most cases the addition of various binders are required.
The material must be as fine as the pellet’s diameter. In other words, if you make a 6 mm pellet, you need to mill your roughage with a 6 mm grid/sieve in your hammer mill. Maize is the exception, as whole maize kernels increases the pelleting capacity by flushing the Die Ring out. Sufficient breakage of whole maize will be achieved in the pelleting process to ensure optimal digestion.
When pelletizing various grain products, mill everything together for consistency in the mixture. Grains requires a higher compaction ratio than roughage mixtures. Maize is the exception, when including it in roughage blends. We prefer whole kernel maize for 6mm and bigger diameter full-feed pellets as it increases the pelleting capacity.
No. This must be done before pelleting. Ask Agricon about mixer options.
Definitely not, it will decrease the capacity of the machine and increase wear-and-tear and/or causes blockages! Please follow the milling guidelines as this is a prerequisite before pelleting.
Die Rings can be ordered in different diameter sizes, but only one diameter size can be used at a time. It takes about 20 minutes to change Die Rings on your Agricon machine.
- The general Die Ring Sizes are 4mm, 6mm, 8mm, 10mm
- The odd sizes are 3mm, 5mm, 11mm (These may cost more and are not standard stock items)
- Special orders can vary from 2.2mm – 12mm, but only recommendable in very special instances.
- You need a spongy and slightly softer mixture, but never free moisture in the ration.
- In animal feeds, a moisture content of 12-14% is ideal.
- Any product with more than 16% moisture content will form a hard layer that will be baked hard by the heat, creating a blockage of the Die Ring.
- Some organic products like fertilizers and compost allows for higher moisture content
- Chicken Manure is the most sensitive product for high moisture content and is too wet and sticky in most cases. Once you add heat to the manure, a cement-like layer will form.
When field grasses have a high protein value when harvested, it can be used. If the grass was harvested after seeding and/or when frost killed off vegetative growth, the protein value drops dramatically and it becomes very “woody” with protein content under 3%. If this type of grass is used, please include lower percentages of it and do a mixture of higher protein ingredients for improved binding of the pellets. Also mill poor quality feeds very fine, as it create light weight “pockets” of material when not hammer milled well. You need to achieve a fine, loose consistency of the material when milling it. In many instances, using only veld grass would require some binders (like molasses) to form proper pellets. Ask Agricon advice on this.
No. Special wood pelleting plants can be supplied by Agricon, but please realize these will cost about 5 times the price of an animal feed pelleting plant per capacity output. In our experience, it is not worth the investment when considering the revenue from wood pellets.
In most cases Molasses is not required when using a good pelletizer. Inferior pelletizers, with insufficient compaction capabilities or poor drive power will require molasses in the mixture to “stick” the pellets together; much the same as briquetting. Agricon pelletizers apply the right amount of pressure to produce the needed heat for steam production from the moisture in the mixture to bind the pellets. These higher compaction ratios also lead to an increase of about 14.2% in digestibility, in comparison with the same feed before pelleting, due to gelatinization. This is a process where the cell layers are broken down through pressure and grinding of the materials in the machine. We suggest you only use molasses in your Agricon machines when you pelletize very poor quality feeds with little starches and proteins.
Dogs (and cats) has sensitive digestive systems and will get diarrhea from raw maize products. The fat content is also very high in dog rations, therefore it can become rancid if not processed correctly. Dog food is therefore mostly produced by extruders, because this technology achieves higher temperatures (220 Degrees Celsius) opposed to pelletizers (65 Degrees Celsius). The variety of pellet shapes in pet foods can also be made with extruders, opposed to the standard cylindrical shape of a pellet produced by a pelleting machine. It is therefore not a general practice to make pet foods in a pelletizer, but it can be done when the ration is pre-cooked.
The pelleting process compacts materials and increases the density. In fish feeds, you have bottom feeder fish species and species who prefers floating pellets. Pellets made with a pelletizer will not float, so keep this in mind if you need floating pellets. In such a case you need an extruder. Regrettably this is a more expensive system with higher running costs.
Yes we do deliveries within our transport capability range or use hired transport, depending on the size of the order. Fixed kilometer rates will apply within the borders of South Africa and export quotations can be obtained through Agricon (or directly) for international clients.
We prefer to install our Agricon equipment and also train the customer’s operators to avoid any misunderstanding of the operational principles. We try to keep the installation cost as low as possible, so that we encourage our customers to opt for this additional service.
Agricon custom parts are readily available and we only use standard off-the-shelf motors and bearings. Since we started Agricon in 1993, we served our market with sales, parts and services. We also choose our suppliers in such a way that we can refer our customers to local suppliers for general parts. Please visit our online shop for Agricon parts orders.
We try to be available 24/7, or as far as humanly possible for advice, support and backup service. We have a field services team who can come out to assist when needed and we visit all provinces on a rotation basis to ensure we cover the full geographical reach. Agricon also welcomes trade-in machines when a customer upgrades to a newer model.
Agricon was established by the current owner in 1993 and is going stronger than ever.
We can assure you that we have many machines in the market in need of our parts and services, making Agricon a stable, lucrative Company who won’t disappear. At worst, ownership may change, but the Company will be sustainable for many, many future years to come, as it has a broad client base.
- Service orientation and client needs focused
- Trade-ins on equipment to grow with customers’ expansion
- Agricon develops and mentors clients to run optimal pelleting plants
- Variable speed drive technology making the application of the machines very easy
- Drive systems which achieves pelleting results where others failed, supported by active R&D
- A Wide product base and capacity to custom build items when required, thereby being a one-stop service
We run Agricon operationally from Bloemfontein, as our focus is on centralised service delivery. Our Cape Town office is administrative and R&D focussed. We also have agents in various locations, but prefer centralized control over quotations to provide the best service to clients.
- Check the moisture content of your mixture firstly. It is most probably too dry and has too little moisture to ensure the production of steam to bind and seal the pellets. This is the most common error.
- If the moisture is fine, look at the coarseness of the mixture. If the mixture is not fine enough, in other words, as fine as the pellet’s diameter, it will struggle to bind and break off in short pellets. The finer the material, the more solid the pellets will be and also more even and shiny. Please investigate the size of your sieve in your hammer mill. It is a very common mistake.
- Look at the ingredients list. Do you have hard, coarse or spongy ingredients in the pelleting mixture like bark, maize stalks or any ingredient with no binding ability? If so, consider changing the ration or contact Agricon for advice on how to adjust the inclusion ratios to get a better quality pellet.
- Is your Die Ring designed for the product you are pelletizing? Remember even if you stick to the same diameter pellet, the thickness of the Die Ring determines the compaction ratio. Not all mixes can be pelleted at the same compaction ratio. We would always refer to compaction ratio when talking about a certain product group.
- Investigate the wear-and-tear on the Die Ring. Make sure the rollers are still running on a flat surface in the Die Ring and that all the holes are pressed evenly by the rollers. If not, your Die Ring may be worn out and needs replacement.
- Evaluate the front bar and see if there is excessive clearance between the front bar and the Die Ring. The main reason for this problem is when your Main Shaft shifted backwards or forward. It should not happen, but foreign objects like steel in the ration can force the main shaft out of position. Immediately call Agricon, so we can advise or send a technician to assist you.
- Look at the top- and bottom seals of the Die Ring on the from bar (half circle with packing). If the packing worn away, replace it by inserting new packing into the guides. The packing must touch the Die Ring to ensure no material passes in front of the Die Ring
- Make sure all the rows of the Die Ring are unblocked and producing pellets. If the outer layer of rows is not producing pellets, the roller is not running in the correct place. Refer to points above.
Refer to all of the above. The following may also apply:
- Too Dry
- Incorrect Mixture for Die Ring
- Mixture that has no binding ability
- The initial mix was wet enough to start the pelleting process, but then the Die Ring heated up (around 90 Degrees) and the moisture is turned into steam. This process is responsible for shiny, smooth pellets and binding. You need to have 12-14% moisture in the mix, as 2-4% of that moisture will evaporate as steam during the cooling process.
- In other words, as the machine heats up, more steam will evaporate, making the mixture too dry to bind properly and therefore producing more fines/dust as you continue.
- Solution: add a little more moisture and mix your ingredients thoroughly.
- When your pellets looks scales/tiled on the outer surface, they would also bend away from the scaled side of the pellet. These scales are the exit points where steam escaped from the pellet.
- If this happens, there is a possibility of blocking the Die Ring. Moisture also makes the pellets sweat when bagged, or pellets will mould due to the high moisture content.
- The internal binding ability of the mixture is too low. You need to add more adhesive ingredients to bind the pellets. Examples of these are starches, proteins, oils, and molasses (moderately).
- In some cases, adding moisture will also enhance the binding ability
- Usually this is an advantage, as it indicates a good adhesive- and cohesive ability
- Just use your pellet cutter to cut these pellets to the required length
- This means you did not flush out the Die Ring before stopping the machine.
- Most materials will set and harden in the Die Ring. It is therefore important to use whole maize kernels to flush the Die Ring from any left over material, but the maize. Normally you would need 5-15 kg maize to flush the Die Ring properly. This maize can be reused in rations.
- Keep adding maize until nothing but maize meal comes out of the machine, with NO other pellets in between. Do not go on until maize pellets is starting to form as this will also block the Die Ring.
- All Agricon machines are tested with a 70% Lucerne / Alfalfa base (milled with a 6mm Hammer mill grid) and 30% Whole Maize pelletized with a 6 x 45 mm Die Ring to determine pelleting capacity.
- As there is an infinite number of ingredient combinations, we cannot possibly guarantee a capacity for each mix, give that the ingredients differ. The reality is that the ration has a huge influence on the capacity. The reference ration we use (70% Lucerne and 30% Maize), is a very general- and representative mixture and serves as an indicator of capacity (also see terms and conditions of sale) and not as a guarantee.
- Agricon can also guide you towards a better capacity by managing your input materials.
- If your material is too coarse, your capacity will drop. The machine will struggle to press the material into the holes, causing slower pelletizing tempo, burnt pellets and even blockages, because of the slow throughput of the Die Ring.
- If your product is too adhesive/sticky, it will cause a thick layer of material which the rollers will struggle to break up.
If you pelletize a spongy product that does not naturally stick together, you will lose capacity and even struggle to get quality pellets. Normally these products can be identified by trying to press a “sausage” in the palm of your hand. When opening your hand and no form of compaction occurred, you will also struggle with it in the machine.
Amps at which the machine is operating
- Know what your specific pelleting machine’s optimum operating amps should be, and see if it is operating at that level. If not, increase the feeder auger’s speed to the maximum.
- Make sure that the feed is not bridging in the feed auger by creating a tunnel and stop pushing feed into the machine.
- The last possible reason is that the specific material is very light and easy to pelletize in which case Agricon will advise you on how to increase the amps of the machine to reach the maximum amps.
Too much molasses or semi-blocked holes
- When you use more than 6% molasses on a 6 mm Die Ring, or more than 8% molasses on an 8 mm Die Ring, you will gradually (or immediately) block the Die Ring. This happens because the Die Ring increases in temperature to 90 Degrees Celsius during operation. This boils the excessive sugar in the molasses which will make a glazing when the Die cools off. The holes will eventually close up totally, causing a very solid blockage of the Die Ring.
- Once this happens, you need to drill all the holes to unblock and apply the run-in mixture to remove the leftover sugar in the holes. See how to run a Die Ring below.
Too thick layer of feed is formed
When the rollers are not set properly, the material mat between the Die Ring and Roller becomes too thick. This leads to a decreased pelletizing tempo and eventual blockage. See how to set Rollers.
Die Ring not run in properly
- All case-hardened Die Rings are handmade and the drill causes some unevenness in the holes due to the drill bit action. This needs to be removed by running the Die Ring in.
- If a Die Ring was run in for at least 30 minutes, the holes will be absolutely spotless, causing no obstruction for pellets to “slide” through the holes.
Worn out Die Ring
The Die Ring can produce poor quality pellets as time goes by. It may be caused by a decreasing compaction ratio or the rollers may not operate optimally because of the wear on either side.
See above. Rollers must run smoothly on a flat surface in the Die Ring to produce quality pellets.
Wet material will cause scaled pellets with uneven outer surfaces
Pellets moulding in bags
By sealing warm (uncooled) pellets in a bag, or using too much moisture to begin with, the pellets will become mouldy during storage
Pellets disintegrate in bags
These pellets were either not cooled off properly, or was made with the wrong compaction ratio or ingredients. When pellets cool off, the steam must evaporate before closing the bags. It may also happen when the mixture has little adhesive- and cohesive properties or the Die Ring’s compaction ratio is too low.
Material is too dry
Lots of fines/dust will be seen between the pellets when moisture needs to be added before pelleting.
Wrong Die Ring or incorrect compaction ratio
Make sure you communicate to Agricon exactly what you intend to pelletize and be aware that you may not be able to make major changes to your ingredient list and use the exact same Die Ring compaction ratio. If unsure, call Agricon for assistance. Some Dies will block and some would produce very loose pellets, or even no pellets at all.
Stainless Steel Rings are preferred by the Pelleting Industry as it is manufactured with gun drilling technology which gives a smoother inside surface and does not require running the Die Ring in before use. The temperature profile is also more even through the length of the hole and the steel is harder throughout. These Die Rings lasts 20% longer than other types. Generally they are also at least 20-25% more expensive and are 100% imported, as no gun drilling is done in RSA.
The most commonly available option in Africa, is case hardened mild steel rings. These Die Rings are handmade where each hole is drilled individually on a “blank” steel ring. Once all drilling is done, the steel is baked at extreme temperatures to harden the surface. Penetration depends on the hardening process and is anything from 3-5mm from the surface. These Die Rings need to be run in with a mixture and sand and oil for 30 minutes to remove any internal drill bit patterns that formed during the drilling process. This will ensure optimum capacity during production.
This is the most important point to remember in pelleting. It will determine your success-, or failure and will determine your wear-and-tear cost of the Rollers and Die Rings.
The rollers must be pulled towards the Die Ring until it touches the Die Ring and you can no longer turn the roller freely with your thumb. From here, give it another half twist and lock in position.
How do I test this?
Start your pelleting machine with an open pelleting chamber, then check:
- Both rollers must touch and spin at equal speed without intermittent stopping
- The rollers will make a grinding sound
- Switch the machine off as soon as this is checked
- Now start feeding the machine and your rollers will immediately be quiet when the feed enters the pelleting chamber and the sound above will decrease. If not, you set the rollers too tight.
The principle behind this is that the rollers must touch the Die Ring lightly and just enough not to slip. Once the feed enters the pelleting chamber, the feed will be pinched between the Die Ring and Roller and the roller shaft will allow one millimeter mat of feed to form. If this mat gets too thick, the machine will decrease the feeding speed, and vice versa. Should you tighten the rollers too much, the amps will increase and the machine will feed itself at a slower rate with subsequent lower production tempo. The opposite will happen if the rollers are too loose and the mat increases in thickness. The machine will allow it to a point and then stop feeding itself. This layer will not be pressed into the Die Ring holes, but will heat up and bake into a solid layer which will prevent any further feed from entering the Die Rings and a blockage will occur.
Rollers cannot be revamped, once the surface has worn out. The surface must be even and with enough grip to push the feed into the holes. Without grip, the layer (mat) of material will increase in thickness and will eventually lead to a constant slipping of the fan belts and will block the Die Ring.
Theoretically a Die Ring can only be revamped by cutting the shoulder away and reaming the inside track of the holes and fixing any damages on the holes. But to do this, the Die Ring must be “softened” first, then engineered and case hardened again. In this process, there is a very good chance that the Die Ring will burst in the oven. Also keep in mind that it is as expensive to do this, as it is to make a new Die Ring. This is a double baking process and you only save on the material cost of the Die Ring. The disadvantage of revamping a Die Ring is also that you lose thickness on the Die Ring, in other words your compaction ratio drops, which will lead to softer (poorer quality) pellets.
Also see the explanation on Case Hardening of Mild Steel Rings. Many farmers think they can just remove a Die Ring’s shoulder to an even level. Apart from losing lots of bits on a lathe (“Draaibank”), in the process you will cut through the Case hardened layer. Once you reach the Mild Steel, the ring may only last a few hours before the holes start “falling in” or developing a lip due to the roller’s action.
Talk to us for guidance on the best pelletising machine and layout options.
With over 30 years industry experience, we can provide the best advice on a broad spectrum of pelletising solutions.