Warren & Baerg Manufacturing of Dinuba may not be the most visible business in the San Joaquin Valley. But in its niche, it really makes hay.
The 50-year-old company is internationally known for making equipment that can shred bales of hay and turn it into compressed cubes the size of a stick of butter. Nowadays it has customers in Europe, Asia, South America, Africa and Australia that use Warren & Baerg machines not only to make feed cubes, but also in a variety of applications, including biomass and industrial materials.
Warren & Baerg recently received an award from the U.S. Small Business Administration as the 2016 Exporter of the Year for the Fresno District Office.
Cubers shred raw material and then compress the grindings.
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Company officials say they were honored to receive the recognition, especially since they are somewhat of a secret in their own community.
For 35 years, Warren & Baerg has been exporting its heavy-duty cubing equipment to at least 25 countries. The 26-employee company operates in an unassuming factory in rural east Fresno County. The offices are across the street from a pasture and surrounded by blueberries and orchards of citrus and tree fruit.
“Yeah, we are not surprised that people don’t really know who we are,” says Randy Baerg, president of Warren & Baerg. “But that’s OK; we are really in a niche market.”
We are not surprised that people don’t really know who we are. But that’s OK; we are really in a niche market.
Randy Baerg, president of Warren & Baerg
Warren & Baerg’s creations take raw material and grind it into fine pieces – as short as one-eight of an inch. Another piece of equipment then compresses the grindings into small cubes.
Co-founder Robert Baerg, Randy’s father, says that in the early days, the company’s bread and butter was creating cubes to be used as animal feed. Livestock owners, feed lots and farmers were their customers.
2 tinkering farmers
Robert Baerg says he didn’t intend to become one of the world’s leading cubing equipment makers. He was just looking for a way to diversify his farming business. At the time, he was growing cotton, alfalfa, peaches, plums and nectarines.
Robert Baerg and business partner Cecil Warren bought a John Deere cubing machine in 1966 as a way to produce livestock feed. Soon, the two farmers began to tinker. Eventually, they came up with a new design using higher-quality material that performed better and lasted longer.
By the mid-1970s, the company was making its own replacement parts and had a successful repair business. One thing led to another, and Warren & Baerg was in the manufacturing business producing its own cubing equipment.
“And before you know it, things just took off,” says Robert Baerg. “We began selling machines to customers in Japan, Korea and other places overseas.”
Meeting a new need
Part of what helped drive Warren & Baerg’s growth overseas was the need for better waste management. Some foreign customers were using cubing machines to convert waste materials, including paper, cardboard and wood, into fuel for power plants or kilns used by cement makers.
Randy Baerg says that over the last three years, his company’s business has evolved to about an even split between agriculture and the waste industry.
$1.1 million high-end price for a complete Warren & Baerg cubing system
Inside the company’s Dinuba office are more than a dozen examples of cubes made from material ranging from rice straw to carpet. One Warren & Baerg cuber can produce six to eight tons of cubes an hour from a variety of forage materials.
Depending on the size, a complete cubing system can range in price from $550,000 to $1.1 million.
The company is trying to raise its local profile by marketing to cities, irrigation districts and farmers with a variety of equipment including orchard rakes and metal detection systems.
And it’s finding work with other manufacturers. For example, it sold a piece of equipment that shreds paper material into a pulp for use in making fruit packaging.
Recently, Warren & Baerg workers were welding a cubing system for an alfalfa and grass farmer. “This is our first cubing customer in Peru,” Randy Baerg says. “And hopefully it won’t be our last.”