High soybean meal prices and DDGS availability

I had an interesting inquiry this morning asking how producers are reacting to the lack of profit and higher feed ingredient costs. Specifically, are they lowering diet quality to conserve cash?


This is interesting because many of you have learned thru experience that healthy pigs respond to better diets than you’ve ever fed in the past. With the widespread adoption of circovirus vaccines, we are now getting more pigs and healthier pigs. The many performance improvements in daily gain that we are all hearing about or experiencing are due in no small part to the improvements we’ve made in our diets, especially in terms of amino acid amounts and balance.


Now that many of you are struggling to be ‘the last man standing’, decisions on cash expenses are front and center. One obvious way to conserve cash is to lower the money spent on feed ingredients. If you grow your own corn and have corn already in inventory, I’m sure you are considering what to do about soybean meal purchases for the remainder of this crop year, especially if you don’t have your meal already booked for pricing. Cash meal is now as high as $444 per ton so it is very tempting to lower the amount in your diets.


I haven’t worked the economics of lower quality diets that result in poorer feed conversions, lower daily gains and possibly fatter pigs at slaughter, but before you make the decision to do so I urge you to run these numbers. You may be robbing Peter to pay Paul. While your per ton cost of feed will be lower, will your margin over feed cost get worse?


At the World Pork Expo in Des Moines, I talked with many of you about availability of DDGS. With the financial struggles of the ethanol industry, output of this feed ingredient has shrunk and both suppliers and buyers told me of very tight supplies. This is the time of year to pay close attention to your DDGS for quality.


In Iowa beginning last fall there were reports of corn quality issues associated with last years crop in terms of keeping it in condition thru the storage season. In the next months, much of the corn entering the ethanol market will be the last corn from bins as farmers empty bins in preparation for the 2009 crop. The risk of moldy corn entering the market channels increases, and the ethanol process will condense any mold byproducts such as fumonosin, vomotixon, etc. by a factor of 3 in the DDGS. What is your DDGS supplier (or ethanol plant) doing to monitor this and/or doing to screen grain at arrival at the plant?


While they cost money, binding agents added to diets can reduce the impact of the byproducts on pig performance. If I was involved with a farrowing site, I would be asking my nutrition advisor about use of these binders if there is any DDGS usage in gestation or lactation diets.

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