The huge growth of ethanol production in Iowa means several things to cattle feeders and cow/calf operators. First, corn prices have doubled so feed costs are up. Second, ethanol byproducts are abundant and nearby and can offer a competitive advantage for cattle producers willing to try them as livestock feed. ISU Extension has been a prime source of information on one of those byproducts -- distillers grains. So far, ISU Extension beef specialists have been responding to a host of questions from 2,955 producers at 64 workshops, with more to come.
Ethanol or corn milling byproducts generally have been available to Iowa feeders for nearly 30 years. However, many producers have raised their own feed and have not looked to the byproduct market. And, only recently has the supply been huge and readily available across the state. ISU Extension researchers including Alan Trenkle, Dan Loy and John Lawrence took a lead role and developed research-based information long before the current surge of interest.
Typically, when a topic heats up, Extension has seen and sought opportunities to partner with private sector business to get information out. New ethanol plants were prime partners for several meetings, as they had an interest in establishing their local market. Feed companies and others stepped up to sponsor meetings as well.
The format of each meeting varied slightly depending on local needs. For instance, northern Iowa meetings emphasized feedlot needs. Southern Iowa meetings put more focus on cow/calf and stocker operations. Topics included the economics of feeding distillers grains, storage and delivery, how to use these byproducts in various ration scenarios and current research updates.
For more information check Extension’s Iowa Beef Center.