Iuka Feeds has captured a niche in the game-bird feed industry.

Iuka Feeds has captured a niche market in the game-bird feed industry, producing an estimated 4,000 tons of a variety of specialized foods for pheasant, quail, chukar at its plant located at 100 Maple Street in Pratt.

Randall Dowling has headed the expanding niche market for the last seven years as manager of Iuka Feeds, which is under the umbrella of Kanza Cooperative Association with corporate offices in Iuka.

Dowling is assisted by Office Manager Lisa Petrowsky, Mill Manager Gene Messick and staff rounded out by Wayne Fidman and Arthur Oltmanns who are in charge of feed milling, Rance Lothman, warehouse assistant, and truck drivers Stan Killingsworth and Cecil Fellows.

Dowling gives credit to the prior manager, Lee Allen, for starting the game-bird division of Iuka Feeds.

It all started about 30 years ago, according to Dowling, when Allen was contacted on behalf of Beavers Game Bird Farm of Pierceville in western Kansas with a request for game-bird feed.

Allen stepped up to the plate and fulfilled the request to provide feed to Beavers Game Bird Farm.

“Beavers is still a customer to this day,” Dowling said.

The customer who started it all is now numbered among the scores of game-bird feed customers covering the four-state area of Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico to which Iuka Feeds provides tons of specialized feed, tailored to specific producer needs.

The number of game-birds raised in Iuka Feed’s market area is eye-opening. A client in New Mexico raises about 80,000 game birds a year, while Beavers in Pierceville raises about 70,000, matched by a producer in western Kansas who adds another 70,000 to the game-bird population, according to Dowling.

What makes Iuka Feeds a stand-out in the game-bird feed industry, Dowling said, is the precision with which they produce the feed to customers’ specifications.

“The health of the birds is top priority,” Dowling said.

Iuka Feeds’ goal in providing feed to the game-bird industry differs from providing feed to the poultry industry because the breeders in these differing markets are seeking different outcomes, according to Dowling.

“Our goal is to produce athletic birds with nice long tail feathers who are sleek in flight,” Dowling said. “The goal in the poultry industry is to produce fat birds.”

Ingredients in the game-bird feed include corn and milo, soybean meal, wheat middlings, vitamins and trace minerals. The secret to Iuka Feeds success, Dowling said, is the precision with which ingredients are mixed to specifications for desired outcomes.

Iuka Feeds also markets feed for birds wintering in rural Kansas communities, which is sold in carry-out size bags, available at its Pratt location and also at Kanza Co-op locations in Stafford, St. John, Iuka, Colwich and Furley.

Another staple for local markets is Iuka Feeds’ line of regular poultry food.

“It’s a really good seller,” Dowling said. “We can hardly keep layer foods on the floor.”

Customers visiting the Iuka Feeds retail center and offices in Pratt might also notice a wall of photos, dating from 1953, which depict the more than half-century history of growth of Iuka Feeds, whose annual gross sales now ring the cash register to the tune of six digits.