How to Start an Animal Feed Business in 14 Steps (In-Depth Guide)

Updated: February 22, 2024 is reader-supported. When you buy through links on my site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

The animal feed industry is a major market, with sales projected to reach $166.88 billion by 2032. As rising incomes drive greater meat consumption demand for quality animal feed continues to surge. Entrepreneurs who can develop nutritious, affordable formulations can stake their claim in this rapidly growing sector.


New entrants also face competition from established feed mills and integrated livestock producers with their feed manufacturing operations. Transporting bulky feed ingredients and distributing final feed products while keeping costs low also pose logistical challenges.

This guide will walk you through how to start an animal feed business. Topics include market research, competitive analysis, registering an EIN, obtaining business insurance, marketing, and more.

1. Conduct Animal Feed Market Research

The first step before launching an animal feed operation is thoroughly analyzing the target market. Market research helps you develop a thorough business plan and optimize marketing and sales for your animal feed production business.


Some details you might learn through cattle feed production business market research include:

  • The expansion of commercial livestock farming creates demand for nutritionally optimized feeds to enhance animal performance.
  • Innovation in feed ingredients and additives to promote animal health, improve feed efficiency, and meet nutritional requirements for various animal species and production stages is another factor.
  • Many small-scale or regional feed mills fill local market demand not met by national players focused on large commercial feedlots.
  • Potential targets include smallholder farmers or hobbyists raising livestock, who need customized feed in smaller quantities than commercial feedlots purchasing bulk loads.
  • Organic livestock farms with specialized nutritional needs or restricted access to conventionally grown feed components are another opportunity.
  • Specialty feeds for equine facilities, pets, aquaculture farms, zoos, or other non-traditional markets represent further prospects (e.g. cricket farms, worm farms, etc.).
  • Niche sectors see above-average growth as owners increasingly humanize animal diets.
  • Contract feed manufacturing for integrated livestock companies supplying feed for their internal needs or regional customer base is another option.
  • Gaining keen insight into your local feed market’s dynamics and growth factors will dictate the viability and strategy of a new mill.
  • Useful data to analyze includes the number and types of livestock farms or feed buyers in your target region; feed production, and usage trends based on livestock inventories.

Conducting in-depth animal feed market research will determine if launching a feed mill in your area addresses unmet demand from underserved farmers. It also informs strategic decisions regarding ideal feed formulations, production volumes, pricing, and how to competitively position your products.

2. Analyze the Competition

Gaining a comprehensive picture of the competitor landscape is vital when assessing the viability of an animal feed operation. This analysis should examine both local brick-and-mortar feed mills as well as larger integrated livestock producers that manufacture their feed.


To evaluate regional feed mills, drive around the area to identify all existing establishments. Gather data on their longevity, production capacity, product offerings, pricing, and any niche markets served. Talk to their customers to gain insight into perceptions of quality, customer service, and loyalty.

Search regional business registries to compile information on their annual revenues, staff size, and ownership structure. Monitoring their social media and online presence weaknesses is also useful for tracking expansion plans or new products.

Online tools can provide additional data on competitive standing. Search engine results indicate relative search visibility while Facebook and Google reviews reveal customer sentiment. Utilizing SEO software shows keywords competitors rank highly on and where potential gaps exist.

Trade association membership rosters are another place to identify regional feed mills and livestock producers. Their industry publications may feature member news on capacity expansions, represented commodity groups, and longevity milestones.

Analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of current feed suppliers will shape decisions on geographic focus, product mix, and marketing for a new entrant. It also signals where opportunities exist to forge partnerships, such as contract manufacturing deals, rather than pure competition.

3. Costs to Start an Animal Feed Business

Embarking on an animal feed mill venture requires extensive capital outlays before production begins and ongoing operating expenditures to sustain operations.

Startup Costs

Facility Infrastructure and Equipment

  • Building purchase/lease ($100,000-$500,000+), renovations ($50,000-$250,000), permitting fees ($5,000)
  • Feed milling and blending equipment (e.g hammer mills, mixers, conveyors) ($50,000-$200,000)
  • Delivery trucks and industrial weighing scales ($50,000+$30,000)
  • Industrial racking, pallet jacks, and grain handling accessories ($5,000)
  • Safety equipment like dust collection systems and spill containment ($20,000)
  • Initial ingredient inventory orders (~$100,000)
  • Security system, fire suppression, telecoms/internet ($10,000)

Administrative, Consultancy, Licensing

  • Business registration and licensing fees ($500)
  • Consultancy from animal nutritionists on feed formulations ($5,000+)
  • Lawyer fees for liability protection and contracts ($2,000)
  • Commercial general liability insurance ($1,500/yr)

Working Capital

  • Employee salaries during pre-revenue setup phase ($30,000)
  • Marketing costs like website, and promotional materials ($5,000)

A $500,000 minimum is typical for scaling equipment and 3-6 months of working capital to become operational. Economies of scale dictate higher startup costs for larger production targets.

Ongoing Costs

Raw Materials

  • Grains, seeds, hay, supplements, etc based on formulations ($300,000+ annually)
  • Packaging like bags and tags ($15,000)

Operating Costs

  • Labor: Feed mill manager ($60,000/yr salary), operators ($40,000/yr, 2+ staff), drivers ($35,000/yr, 1+ staff), admin support ($35,000/yr)
  • Loan repayment costs on equipment, facilities, and ingredients
  • Electricity, gas, and water utilities ($30,000+)
  • Equipment maintenance and repairs ($20,000)
  • Insurance premiums
  • Vehicle fuel and transportation costs of ingredient procurement and feed delivery ($50,000+)
  • Telecoms and internet access ($5,000)
  • Rodent control and food safety testing ($15,000)

Sales, Marketing and Distribution

  • Website hosting, digital ads, and printed promotional materials ($15,000)
  • Commissions to sales agents or farmer cooperatives ($100,000 on $5M revenue)
  • Distribution logistics to get feed to customers ($50,000+)

Other Charges

  • Accounting fees
  • Legal and professional services fees
  • Loan interest payments
  • Local business licensing fees (~$500/yr)

Careful financial planning and cash flow management are vital with the considerable invested capital required and significant recurring overheads to sustain an animal feed operation. But for dedicated entrepreneurs this steadily growing sector holds long-term profit potential.

4. Form a Legal Business Entity

When establishing a new animal feed venture, one of the first legal steps is selecting an ownership structure that provides liability protections while easing future expansion plans. Key options include:

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the simplest and most common small business structure, especially when initially launching operations. A single owner controls the entire company and assumes all profit/losses. The owner has unlimited personal liability for debts and legal claims, placing personal assets at risk.


Forming a general or limited partnership allows the pooling of capital and talents from multiple owners under one animal feed business. Partners split managerial duties, financing burdens, and company earnings based on predefined ratios.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

For feed mill entrepreneurs seeking liability safeguards plus operational flexibility, forming an LLC is advisable. LLCs limit owners’ financial responsibilities to their investment amount while avoiding “double taxation” of corporate profits. They accommodate unlimited owners through flexible membership units versus static share amounts.


C-corps provide the highest level of personal liability separation but face double taxation of profits and cumbersome record keeping. Issuing company stock allows raising funds from unlimited shareholders but restricts everyday management roles predominantly to directors and officers for legal protection. Corporations are expensive and complex to form.

5. Register Your Business For Taxes

Before an animal feed operation conducts any sales, proper tax registrations must be completed to comply with IRS and state requirements. The first mandatory step is obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN).

What is an EIN?

An EIN serves as a business’s IRS tax ID number for tax filing and reporting purposes. Similar to an individual’s Social Security Number, the EIN uniquely identifies your feed business to federal and state tax authorities. Some key reasons animal feed entrepreneurs need an EIN include:

  • Opening a bank account specific to your company’s financials
  • Applying for business licenses and permits
  • Registering for state tax obligations like sales tax
  • Hiring employees and paying payroll taxes
  • Filing annual IRS tax returns for your business revenue/expenses

Applying for an EIN is free through the IRS website and takes just minutes to complete. Simply navigate to the IRS website and respond to basic questions about your company structure, ownership details, and contact information.

Along with your federal EIN, contacting your state revenue department is necessary before selling any feed products. Sales tax obligations vary by state but often require obtaining a special seller’s permit, collecting tax on sales to in-state customers, and submitting regular sales tax returns.

Your county administration may also impose certain permitting rules for local sales tax collection. Confirm precise requirements for your feed mill’s physical nexus locations but expect registration fees below $100 when launching operations.

6. Setup Your Accounting

Proper accounting practices are essential for animal feed entrepreneurs to control finances, ensure tax compliance, and provide credibility to stakeholders. Investing in tools and services to establish robust bookkeeping systems has both short and long-term benefits.

Accounting Software

Rather than relying on spreadsheets, feed business owners should utilize dedicated small business accounting platforms like QuickBooks. Integrating directly with bank accounts and credit cards, transactions are automatically logged for near real-time visibility into cash flow.

Hire an Accountant

Handling key accounting activities in-house does not eliminate the need for professional expertise. Feed mill owners should establish relationships with accredited accountants or bookkeepers to advise on registering the business, implementing financial systems, and training staff on processes like payroll and inventory management.

Open a Business Bank Account

Maintaining completely discrete financial accounts for personal and feed business transactions reduces accounting confusion and improves loss protections. Establishing dedicated small business bank accounts and credit cards earmarked solely for company activities enables cleaner documentation of tax-relevant income and deductions.

Apply for a Business Credit Card

Apply for credit cards in your company’s legal name using your EIN. Issuers will assess eligibility based on projected revenue and your credit score. With approvals, use for all feed mill purchases then pay balances from the business bank account. Keeping finances distinct now simplifies everything later.

7. Obtain Licenses and Permits

Animal feed producers must secure relevant business licenses and regulatory approvals before manufacturing and selling feed. Find federal license information through the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA also offers a local search tool for state and city requirements.

Per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act, all facilities engaged in animal food manufacturing must register with the FDA. This allows government oversight over feed safety processes and enables tracking in case of ingredient contamination issues.

Registration is submitted electronically through the FDA’s website. For domestic feed mills, expect typical registration costs under $500 annually. Renewal is required biennially.

States administer their own permitting rules for feed manufacturing to ensure quality standards are met. These requirements center on appropriate labeling, nutritional claims, medicated ingredient disclosures, and sanitary warehousing practices for bulk grains vulnerable to fungal toxins.

Operators must demonstrate professional training in feed production or animal nutrition. On-site inspections will verify adhesion to regulations regarding equipment, storage warehouses, standard operating procedures, and hazard controls. Annual licensing fees vary but usually fall below $200.

Since animal feeds are sold by weight, feed mills utilize industrial scales to fill delivery trucks and prepare customer-specific ration quantities. To ensure accuracy, state departments of agriculture oversee scales via permit schemes and periodic testing by inspectors.

Some counties and cities impose local-scale licensing too. Expect potential fees to reach $100+ annually per weighing device. Proper calibration by accredited technicians is also periodically required.

Certain feed ingredients or production byproducts may impose special permitting rules depending on the state. For example, ingredient receiving and feed mixing generate dust that may necessitate industrial ventilation permits above certain volumes.

Separators reclaiming salvageable products also produce wastewater possibly requiring pretreatment and municipal sewer discharge allowances. Understand specific environmental rules for facilities under consideration.

While permit costs are generally minor, particularly compared to investments in milling equipment and ingredients, non-compliance risks product holds, fines, license revocation, or even facility closure. Seek guidance from legal and engineering consultants when interpreting applicability.

8. Get Business Insurance

Purchasing adequate insurance coverage is vital for animal feed businesses to mitigate financial risks from unforeseen losses. Without policies guarding against potential liabilities, a single event could lead to bankruptcy.

Common coverages to discuss with commercial insurance agents include:

  • General Liability Insurance: This protects against third-party bodily injury, property damage, personal injury, and advertising injury claims stemming from your facilities, operations, products, or employees. For example, consider if a contracted truck driver slipped and fell on a spill while picking up feed, suffering chronic back pain.
  • Product Liability Insurance: Closely related to general liability policies, this specifically covers damages caused by issues with the feed you produce and sell like contamination, nutrition errors, or choking hazards from foreign objects.
  • Property Insurance: This covers your physical assets like milling equipment, delivery vehicles, ingredient inventories, and facilities against losses from natural disasters, theft, vandalism, or electrical surges. Without coverage, replacing damaged assets could be financially devastating.
  • Workers Compensation: Nearly every state legally mandates worker’s compensation plans covering medical care, lost wages, and rehabilitation services when employees get injured on the job.

9. Create an Office Space

An office setup provides a centralized hub for animal feed mill administration duties. Housing staff managing orders, marketing, accounting, and coordinating with livestock farm customers, offices grant professionalism and efficiency. Depending on capital and space requirements, several formats fit the bill.

Home Office

Telecommuting from a spare bedroom or basement keeps overheads low. With accounting platforms accessible online and orders managed electronically, little physical infrastructure is needed beyond a computer, phone, and filing cabinets for around $3,000. However, home offices can prove distracting for staff and offer little room to meet clients.

Coworking Spaces

Shared workspaces like WeWork provide office infrastructure from conference rooms to printers without capital expenditures. Networking opportunities serving diverse industries also arise but industrial feed storage is prohibited. Coworking suits startup feed marketers but production staff need other bases.

On-Site Office

Some feed mills sell directly to farmers from a small retail storefront adjoining their mill or warehouses. This allows customers picking up feed bags or livestock owners to discuss orders, special formulations, and pricing. Dedicating 500 square feet to a few desks, product samples and a consultation room builds sales.

10. Source Your Equipment

From hammer mills and mixer wagons to conveyors and inventory silos, an array of specialized equipment is vital for feed manufacturing and storage. Both new and used options can equip startup mills based on budget constraints.

Buying New

Purchasing and gleaming new machinery from equipment dealers ensures acquiring desired features while benefiting from warranties covering repairs. Top manufacturers like Anderson and RMS Roller Grinder offer hammer mills, roller mills, mixing wagons, pellet mills, and automated delivery systems.

Buying Used

To conserve capital, shop previously owned equipment through auction sites like FSA and dealers reselling trade-ins. Expect to pay 40-60% less than new options. However, scope choices narrow to available inventories, frequent maintenance is expected, and hidden wear issues may surface.


If manufacturing niche seasonal feed varieties or confirming sales volumes before major equipment buys, renting lets entrepreneurs defer investments. Online equipment marketplaces like GNS Equipment Rentals offer nationwide rentals for hammer mills, conveyors, mixers, and industrial bagging stations from $500 per week including delivery/installation.


Several equipment finance firms propose multi-year leasing of essential feed processing and handling equipment like silos, generating sets, or automated micro-ingredient scaling systems. This may enable acquiring advanced machinery while preserving capital for ingredients and operating expenses.

11. Establish Your Brand Assets

Crafting a memorable brand identity helps feed mills connect with local farmers while conveying quality and expertise. Key elements to implement include:

Get a Business Phone Number

Purchasing a unique toll-free phone number from providers like RingCentral gives farmers and suppliers a consistent call center to inquire about orders, discuss custom formulations, or troubleshoot deliveries. Call routing, voicemail, and FAX services centralize communications for a growing venture.

Create a Logo

A custom logo instantly conveys professionalism and memorability. When developing logo concepts with online design services such as Looka. Consider an icon representing livestock health alongside the feed mill’s name. Complementary color palettes, typefaces, and graphical flourishes make for unique logos.

Print Business Cards

Vistaprint’s affordable, high-quality business cards enable networking with potential customers at trade shows or agricultural events while cementing legitimacy. Cards list essential contact info alongside staff titles and regional service areas. Enable all client-facing team members to share cards freely.

Get a Domain Name

Secure an intuitive .com domain for your venture via registrars like Namecheap. Aim for short, simple names mentioning your locale and “feed” while checking availability.

Design a Website

Develop an informational website through user-friendly site builders like Wix to share founder bios, location/hours, inventory categories, specialty product callouts, and farmer testimonials. This builds trust while enabling convenient ordering. You can also hire a freelancer through sites like Fiverr.

12. Join Associations and Groups

Tapping into livestock associations, trade events, and online forums fuels success for new feed mills by enabling collaboration with industry peers. Key groups to engage include:

Local Associations

State-level trade organizations like the Agribusiness Council of Indiana or California Grain & Feed Association host conferences covering regulatory trends in feed safety, quality benchmarks per species, and inspector training while lobbying for favorable legislation. Local chapters promote member feed mills while providing forums to exchange insights on regional market dynamics.

Local Meetups

Attend regional agriculture conventions like the World Dairy Expo to showcase products, understand farmer pain points, collect competitor intelligence, and absorb best practices from seasoned feed producers nationwide. Sites like Meetup list upcoming trade fairs by state including entry fees.

Facebook Groups

For on-demand troubleshooting, inspiration, and camaraderie, join groups like the multi-thousand-member Animal Feed Market and Poultry and Animal Feed Making Machine. They share advice on feed mill operations, animal nutrition, recipe customization, and pharmacy partnerships. Search for additional niche communities relevant to the species your feed targets.

13. How to Market an Animal Feed Business

Implementing multifaceted marketing exposes specialized feed products to local livestock producers and cement enduring farmer relationships. Tactics to deploy include:

Referral Marketing

Satisfied clients provide the most credible validation so request introductions to similar farms near existing customers. Offer modest incentives like 10% off their next batch for every three referrals. Word of mouth from trusted community members outweighs any advertisement when evaluating suppliers.

Digital Marketing

  • Google Ads geo-targeting farmers by zip code raises visibility for informational search queries like “cattle nutrition supplements”. Expect to invest $100-$500 monthly while analyzing click-through rates.
  • Facebook’s robust targeting by geography, interests, age, and behaviors enables the narrow promotion of new blends to specialized niches for under $10 daily. Share organic farm success stories.
  • An email newsletter with seasonal tips, new product launches, and research insights encourages existing customer loyalty and referrals.
  • YouTube videos touring the feed mill facilities and showcasing ingredients/formulations convey transparency around quality control.
  • Submit articles covering calf-rearing advice to homesteading blogs building subject authority and backlinks. Consider contributor deals.

Traditional Marketing

  • Print brochures and catalogs at local feed supply stores explain specialized services versus big-name brands along with nutrition specs and testimonials.
  • Radio spot advertising on agricultural stations expands awareness before peak seasons like spring livestock breeding. Negotiate discounted packages.
  • Booth exhibition at statewide county fairs provides direct customer conversations explaining custom feed cost benefits over DIY mixing.
  • Flyer placement at rural noticeboards in feed stores, tractor suppliers, and livestock veterinarians attracts area farmers.

Blend digital engagement with local outreach for regionally recognizable feed mill positioning. Monitor engagement levels and conversion rates across initiatives to optimize budget allocations moving forward.

14. Focus on the Customer

Delivering exemplary customer service is essential for your animal feed manufacturing business to stand apart while earning enduring farmer loyalty even facing pricing premiums over big brands. Small touches make major impressions.


Enable multiple ordering channels via phone, email, online, and in-person so farmers who lack smartphone access aren’t inconvenienced. Train staff to patiently answer formulation questions from first-timers unsure how the percentage protein/fat rations impact Holstein weight gain.

Offer hassle-free delivery changes when harvest schedules shift. Send handwritten birthday cards to top clients. These personal touches build community rapport.

Set up formal customer feedback channels like quarterly surveys, Facebook reviews, and a suggestion email. Solicit photographed testimonials for the website from delighted farmers. This feedback tailors offerings to local needs while improving transparency on quality controls.

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