Let’s be honest, we all love beer!! Especially in Wisconsin, we are known for our beer and our CHEESE! Wisconsin has more cheese plants than any other state, and as an exporter of cheese ranks by itself higher than most countries in pounds of cheese exported.
Not only does the cheese taste delicious with Beer, for many dairy farmers in Wisconsin, beer production is a source of some of their best feed ingredients. Three primary ingredients come from the brewing industry – Wet Brewers Grains, Brewers Yeast, and Malt Sprouts.
WET BREWERS GRAINS – let’s explore what they are and how they are fed to dairy cattle.
As most know, beer is made from Grain and Hops. The grain, primarily BARLEY, is malted prior to being utilized by the brewery. In Wisconsin, we not only have a lot of breweries, we also have several malting houses that bring in raw barley grains to sprout and malt it into finished ingredients that they supply to all breweries. A brewery can’t go out and buy barley straight from a farmer and make it into beer, they need the malting houses to prep it for them.
The brewery takes the malted barley and mix it with water and their other ingredients for each variety of beer. Each has its own recipe but they use the basic brewing process that has been used for hundreds of years. After the malt is cooked and they get the WORT (unfermented beer), the wet grain mixture is dumped out of the facilities brewing equipment and starts its Journey to the farm.
I will openly tell folks that I am a farm nerd. By this, I mean I LOVE touring different operations and learning about their production methods and how they care for their animals. The wonderful diversity of the US dairy industry allows for small 25-75 cow dairies up to large 5,000 cow operations. Each one has a unique way based on a basic formula, just like the breweries.
Farming in the US has changed over time, as most industries have. Though farms grow in size, 97% of US farms are still family farms. The family structure has just changed from one person and their children, to a mix of generations. A nephew may join as herdsman, or a niece is part of the management team, a brother-in-law is head mechanic. Each farm is unique in how they structure their team, but they are still family run. Much like your local hardware store or family owned business. With any well managed farm, input costs are always monitored to find the best options for a sustainable buisness. This is why ingredients like Brewers Grains are an amazing win/win opportunity.
WIN/WIN/WIN – Not only does the Brewery win in this scenario (they have an outlet for the part of the brewing process humans can’t use), the dairy farmer gets a well balanced feed to supplement their corn, soybean meal, alfalfa hay, and other ingredients that combine for a balanced diet for their cows. The third win in this equation is ALL OF US. This partnership keeps millions of tons a year of product from being land filled in local municipalities.
Take a brewery like Miller/Coors in Milwaukee. They are in the heart of dairy country, but if these farms couldn’t utilize their production, you would see up to 10 truckoads a day of product having to be disposed of. A typical 25 ton truck of wet brewers grains, can feed 100 cows for 20-25 days or a herd of 1000 cows for 2-3 days. Each cow can eat 20-30 lbs of Wet BG per day depending on what other items are included in their ration. So a Brewery producing 10 Truckloads a day can potentially feed 25,000 cows per year!!!!
WOW – your drinking a beer out with your friends can also make the cheese for your midnight grilled cheese sandwich!!! Sustainability in farming and Agriculture is not just defined by how we use fertilizer and how a farmer tills their soil, there is a million moving parts to this amazing industry – Recycling of food into animal feed is one of those parts. Keep reading my blog as I explore all the opportunities that exist in this little known world.