TORRINGTON – When it comes to feeding livestock in Goshen County, no one has been more of a staple in the community than Z&W Mill.
The business began in the 1930’s and has been a prominent fixture in the community ever since. The company’s office is attached to a wooden grain elevator which houses various processing equipment used for the manufacturing of their product line.
The elevator was once standing in Colorado and is estimated to be over 100 years old. It was deconstructed from its location in Colorado and then transported and rebuilt in its present location at Z&W Mill.
Shane Viktorin’s parents, Terry and Mary purchased the business from Russell Zimmer, Mary’s father, after his retirement in 1992 and grew the company into the business the community has known since.
After the untimely passing of Terry in 2013, Chane decided to join his mother and help continue operating the business, becoming the fourth generation to operate the company in Torrington.
“My great-grandfather Frank Zimmer started it,” said Viktorin. “After World War II, my grandfather Russell returned home, and he took over managing the business. Expanding it from rolling grain, to the southside of the highway, most of the buildings [on the southside] were built for government storage of commodities. The government paid to store grain here for use across the country.”
When the government programs went away, Viktorin’s grandfather shifted their focus on the southside from grain storage to the production of feed pellets.
The feed pellets are a mixture of raw materials that are produced into various sizes for different livestock. The pellets can be used to deliver different nutrients to the animals and it’s an easier way to ensure the animals get the nutrients they need.
“Pellets are a more efficient way to deliver feed,” Viktorin said. “Animals tend to sort feed they don’t like, so if we can make a batch of feed and produce it into a more palatable delivery vehicle, animals are more apt to consume it. We make multiple different sizes.”
When it comes to feed production, Z&W Mill separates themselves from their competitors by the amount of customization they offer to their customers.
Z&W Mill’s specialty is creating custom feed blends for their customers. Their niche is premium show feed that is used for animals that are shown at the fair. The feed can be customized to enhance various different attributes of the animal based on the wants of the customer.
About 90% of the products sold at Z&W Mill utilize grains and other products that were all locally produced and purchased in Goshen County.
“We buy all our corn, oats, barley and wheat from local farmers,” Viktorin said. “We take those and through various methods, turn them into a value-added product, whether by flaking grain, cracking grain, grind and mix and turn those commodities into something that the consumer needs to feed their livestock.”
The other 10% is purchased from various locations outside the state of Wyoming. Some of the commodities they purchase are the ones that aren’t grown or produced locally in Goshen County. Those products consist of: soybean meal, sunflower meal, cottonseed hulls, cottonseed meal, molasses and dried distillers grain.
“We pride ourselves on buying local and selling local,” Viktorin said. “We also have many customers in Colorado, Nebraska, Montana and South Dakota.”
The company employs around a dozen employees, most of which is very labor-intensive work. They still sack and sew all of the feed by hand.
When filling the sacks with feed, the sack is latched onto a bagging spout where the feed will travel into the bags. The sacks are then sewn by hand and placed on pallets or stored in their warehouse for future use.
While some businesses suffered due to the pandemic, Z&W Mill has been a thriving business. More people started to raise livestock of their own after grocery stores across the country dealt with meat shortages due to closings of meat packaging facilities.
“From our vantage point [people] decided they wanted to raise their own meat,” Viktorin said. “We had an influx of customers, new customers, that bought their own beef, pork, chicken and fed them themselves to harvest later.”
A year later and Z&W Mill is still seeing an increased need from new customers who are trying to harvest their own animals.
When it comes to raising your own livestock, Viktorin says the most important thing is patience. A fat beef will take upwards of 150 days, pigs and chicken are easier to raise and don’t need much attention.
“The problem a lot of folks have in the area is a way to process their animals,” Viktorin said. “It’s coming back, but there’s not a huge outlet for people to take animals to be custom processed. While they can easily feed them, they can’t harvest them as quickly as they used to be.”
From day one, manufacturing has been the driving mission behind the business at Z&W Mill. They don’t just buy already made products and re-sell them. They manufacture their own product by turning commodities into something that the consumer needs.
“This business has been 100% family owned since the beginning,” Viktorin said. “We’ve been in the same location, and it’s always been our goal to serve the community. We’re big supporters of agriculture education and programs in the county.”
That goal to serve the community and to help support other local businesses in Goshen County is a big part of what has made Z&W Mill a fixture in the community for four generations.
“It’s a great community, it’s not always for everyone but it’s a very safe community and friendly community,” Viktorin said. “Everybody supports everybody. The farmer down the road, we buy their product. That same farmer comes in and buys something from me to feed his animals. It’s a very close community and one that’s worthy of living in.”