In Dodge City, Kansas, “Queen of the Cow Towns,” cattle (meatpacking in particular) has long been one of the city’s dominant industries. Mike Hilderbrand, president of Roto-Mix LLC, one of the nation’s premiere manufacturers of feed mixers, outlines the city’s history in the industry as follows: “In the 1850s buffalo hunting was a large part of the city’s economy, but after all of buffalo were killed off cattle ranchers started driving their herds to the city. Dodge City had a rail head and was the terminus for meatpacking facilities in Kansas City and Chicago.”
After the invention of the refrigerated car, Dodge City’s leaders built cattle-processing facilities within the city itself and established Dodge City as a regional leader in beef processing. Today the city processes over 11,000 head of cattle a day, with another 6,000 head a day processed in nearby Garden City, Kan.
While they are waiting for processing, however, all of the cattle in the city needs to be fed. Area feedlots often turn to a Roto-Mix, the “Cadillac” of feed mixers, to meet their needs. For several decades Roto-Mix has been the leader in the manufacture of beef or dairy mixing and feeding equipment, manure spreaders, and compost mixing equipment—as well as waste disposal in-truck or trailer units.
Roto-Mix’s founder, Ben Neier, created the industry when he invented the Auger Mixer in 1961. With his business partner, Bill Pullen, Neier founded BJ Manufacturing, which changed names and ownership over the years—eventually becoming Roto-Mix in 1984. Since their inception, Roto-Mix products have delivered feeding performance at a competitive price, with a “do it right” attitude.
Company Holds 11 Industry Patents
The Roto-Mix company has grown organically to encompass multiple manufacturing facilities, retail locations, and a network of over 150 dealers throughout the U.S. and 35 international markets. The company holds 11 patents on its mixers, which are renowned for their quality, speed, and heavy-duty construction. The Roto-Mix commitment to delivering quality products with quality service has fit perfectly in with the industry surrounding the company’s location.
“Because of our region’s strong ties to the meatpacking industry, more than half of our business is within 300 miles of our company’s headquarters in Dodge City,” outlines Hilderbrand.
Determined to provide the top service to each customer—whether it is a client purchasing a new unit, a used unit, or someone having a unit repaired—Roto-Mix has maintained its base of operations and its commitment to its core clientele. When manufacturers began relocating to China in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Roto-Mix and its 130 employees remained in the United States.
“We are proud to be an American-owned manufacturer,” reveals Hilderbrand. “There is an American flag on every single product we manufacture, and we represent the very best in American manufacturing. We could have saved money moving overseas, but that would go against everything we believe in.”
Hilderbrand is also proud of the relationship Roto-Mix has established with its customers. “In our industry, we are very well known for the quality of our products,” he says. “Like a Maserati, our mixers, composters and manure spreaders are built one-by-one by hand, and because of the meticulous way we produce our products, we can easily customize one of our machines for a client to accommodate his industry.”
Southeastern Drought Results in Banner Year
Because of the ongoing drought in the Southeast, Roto-Mix’s sales have beaten all of the company’s sales projections. Hilderbrand explains, “During a drought, there’s not a lot of grass on the ground, but grass-fed beef still needs to be fed. In Texas they were bringing bales of hay down from Canada, but a lot of the grass-fed herds went to feed and we sold out immediately on all of our new and used equipment. 2012 has been the best year in our company’s history for sales.”
Roto-Mix has accrued a well-deserved reputation as a leader in the industry. Clients who come to tour Roto-Mix’s factory are often surprised at the factory’s intimacy. “People come here expecting a Henry Ford-like set-up, but it’s completely the opposite,” says Hilderbrand. “We bring in sheets of steel and do a lot of welding, cutting, and bending in-house to create each product.”
Thanks in part to this attention to detail, Roto-Mix has won several awards over the years for its contributions to the industry and to the state of Kansas. It won Kansas Exporter of the Year, and most recently, the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association’s 2011 Outstanding Industry Recognition Award.
Hilderbrand is excited about where the company is headed. “We’ve cornered the majority of the feedlot market, and each additional market share point we acquire in that sector will be extremely expensive to earn,” he says. “We expect to see our future growth in dairy, calf operations, and back grounder operations. There’s a large amount of room for us to grow in those industries, and with our customizable products we can quickly and effectively penetrate those markets.”
Normally, when a company is on top of the industry, the only place to go is down, but under Mike Hilderbrand’s leadership this award-winning company is expanding into new markets with its customizable products. Roto-Mix LLC has long been an industry leader, and with its American-built products and deserved reputation it should stay that way indefinitely.
Written by Eric Gundberg. Originally published in US Business Executive, 2012. Reprinted with permission.