Use of ethanol byproducts as feed

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URBANA, Ill. – The rapid growth of the ethanol industry in the Midwest has had a spin-off benefit for the livestock industry – an increased quantity of potential feed, according to University of Illinois Extension specialists.

The product, distillers’ grains, are the byproducts of the fermentation of grain into alcohol. The grains are fed wet or dried and sold as a high protein or energy grain feed.

“Historically, this product has not been used in swine diets because of the low protein quality, low amino acid digestibility, high fiber content and the nutrient variability among the sources,” said Gilbert Hollis, swine specialist. “This left an image of an inferior ingredient for swine diets.”

Higher nutrients. However, recent University of Minnesota research indicates that new ethanol plants are producing byproducts with higher nutrient content and digestibility than that listed in the 1998 National Research Council publication on Nutrient Requirements of Swine.

“Distillers’ grain should be positioned as a protein supplement in the rations of dairy cows,” said Mike Hutjens, dairy specialist. “Five pounds of dried distillers’ grain or 10 pounds of wet distillers’ grain is a ‘conservative’ upper limit.

“These levels could provide one-half of the supplemental protein with the remaining half from soybean meal-based protein supplements.”

According to Dan Faulkner, beef specialist, dried distillers’ grain or wet distillers’ grain can be fed up to 30 percent of a beef cattle diet.

“Based on the energy content of distillers’ grain for beef cattle, [dried distillers’ grain’s] break-even price was reported at $94 a ton and [wet distillers’ grain] with 45 percent dry matter was $47,” he said.

Swine. For swine, Hollis said distillers’ grains have higher protein, fat, and fiber content than corn due to the fermentation process removing the starch component.

“Distillers’ byproducts do have several features that limit use in swine diets,” he said. “The high fiber content may cause diarrhea in young pigs. Distillers’ grains will have a lower metabolizable energy content due to less starch. The crude protein content is relatively high, but the amino acid profile is not well balanced.”

Hollis said swine diets containing distillers’ dried grain with solubles need to be formulated on a digestible lysine and energy basis.

Formulating the diet on a crude protein basis will result in a lysine deficiency and possibly a deficiency of other amino acids which will reduce growth performance.

Guidelines. The three specialists noted there are a number of guidelines livestock producers need to follow when using distillers’ grains in feed.

This information is available at http://il-traill.outreach.uiuc.edu/. Click on the PorkNet icon and then on the “DDGS Feeding” topic.

Information about dairy and beef cattle feeding guidelines can also be found by clicking on the DairyNet icon and then search the site for “distillers.”

This will take users to a January report, Distillers Grain Opportunities, by Hutjens.

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