Most people have heard of Ethanol. However not everyone has heard of the feed ingredients left over when corn is utilized for the renewable fuels. Ethanol has been federally mandated to be added to fossil fuel based gasoline for use in domestic cars. The theory behind this is to lower our dependence on foreign oil and slowly develop cars that run on less gas. The debate on it’s usefulness is ongoing, but one of the interesting parts of the conversation that doesn’t get discussed is the byproducts from the corn used.
Distiller Grains are the main byproduct produced after the starch in corn is turned into ethanol. Some plants have also specialized to separate the corn germ and the bran off of the corn prior to processing, so it can add higher value to the feed markets. A high fat, high protein byproduct, Distiller Grains can replace both corn and soybean meal in cattle diets.
Distiller Grains have become a huge export for US agriculture. According to the US Grain Council, the US has the capacity to produce 14 billion gallons of ethanol and 39 million tons of Distiller Grains. That’s 1.5 Million Truckloads of feed. It can feed 7.8 million cows a day at a rate of 5 lbs a day!! WOWZA that’s a lot of feed! 11 Million tons of the Distiller Grains were exported to 45 countries in 2014. So not only are we feeding US livestock, we are helping to feed animals all over the world.
Part of the reason this is such a large export feed, is because of the density of nutrition for the price. It also allows for plants to have a variety of customers for their product, outside of their immediate geographical area. This makes them a more stable employer and a more stable buyer for local corn. This can help increase the profitability of local farmers selling their corn each year.
Many dairy and beef operations can feed Distiller Grains as both wet or dry feed. Being able to feed it as a wet feed saves energy, and adds some moisture into the diet. Why add moisture to a diet? Do you like dry roast beef? Do you dip your French fries in ketchup? If something is too dry, it’s just harder to eat, so a little moisture makes the diet more palatable and gives an animal what they want. Using the wet version of feed also saves some money for the farmer. A load of wet Distillers Grains may cost a farmer $1200-1500 and a dried product may cost $3000-5000. They will use the wet product faster than the dry.
Distiller Grains and Ethanol are a tandem pair that work together in sustainability, utilizing corn as both a fuel and a feed; helping keep our cars on the road and beef on our tables! To learn more, check out information from our friends at the Wisconsin Corn Growers. http://wicorn.org/ethanol/