Supporting the Growing Ethanol Industry through Economic Use of Distillers Feeds in Beef Diets

Dan Loy, Faculty, Animal Science

The ethanol industry is currently in the midst of an unprecedented explosion of growth, centered in Iowa.  The California ethanol commission estimates that ethanol production capacity will grow from approximately 3.8 billion gallons production capacity at the end of 2004 to approximately 6 billion gallons at the end of 2006, for a 50% increase.  Currently the Renewable Fuels Association estimates that 689 million gallons of ethanol capacity are currently under construction.  Of that, 315 million gallons production capacity or 46% are Iowa projects.  The potential for cattle production is quite large.  For example, assuming 2.65 gallons of ethanol and 17 lb. of distillers grains per bushel of corn, a 6 billion gallon ethanol industry would produce over 19 million tons of dried distillers feeds annually.  At a current national feedlot inventory of 13.7 million cattle, this is enough production to feed every beef feedlot animal in the United States 7.67 lbs. of dried distillers feeds.
Dried distillers feeds are a global commodity, transported globally to meet protein demands of livestock, primarily ruminants.  The dairy industry uses significant quantities of dried distillers grains.  Many plants are marketing wet distillers feeds to reduce the energy costs associated with the drying process.  Wet distillers grains must be fed locally because of transportation costs.  Wet distillers grains and solubles represent perhaps the best opportunity to utilize the byproducts of the ethanol industry for the Iowa beef industry. 
Improve Producer awareness and knowledge of the value and potential of distillers feeds.  Support the growing ethanol industry in their effort to market their products locally. 

A series of three meeting were conducted in cooperation with new ethanol plants in North Central Iowa.  Presentations were conducted at the National Distillers Marketing Conference in West Des Moines and the Iowa Cattlemans Association on the economics of feeding distillers feeds to beef cattle and the use of distillers feeds in beef cow diets.  Two new publications were developed on distillers feeding and economics and placed on the Iowa Beef Center Ethanol coproduct page.  Also a FAQ was developed and placed on the web page.  Storage and feeding methods were demonstrated on farm with cooperators and results of these demonstrations were shared at a field day held at the ISU Beef Nutrition Farm. 

In the Spring of 2005 the Iowa Beef Center surveyed more than 1250 Iowa beef producers. Over 70% of the feedlots surveyed were feeding corn coproducts, but only 28% of the cowherds were.  Feedlots were most commonly feeding wet gluten feed or distillers grains while cowherds were more often feeding dry gluten feed or distillers grains.  Both groups hauled the product an average of nearly 70 miles.  The biggest disadvantage to these products was storage and the greatest advantage was price and performance.  Based on the results of this survey corn coproduct feeding will continue to be a major effort of the Iowa Beef Center.  Future efforts will emphasize economical storage and feeding methods for cow-calf and smaller sized beef operations.

107 -- Iowa Beef Center

Page last updated: July 4, 2006
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