This past week I attended the Midwest Section of the American Society of Animal Sciences annual meeting in Des Moines. This meeting is the largest gathering of swine nutritionists in the country. For 2.5 days we heard presentations from a variety of sources giving research abstracts and invited papers.
Following this meeting, Nutriquest, a nutrition company headquartered in Mason City, Iowa, sponsored a session dealing with the changing nutrient profile of our DDGS feed ingredient as an increasing number of ethanol plants being to remove corn oil from their product. Nutriquest, through their ILLUMINATE program, has one of the world’s largest data bases of DDGS nutrient assays.
Dr Rob Musser began the day with data on how DDGS is changing as ethanol plants alter their production practices. In March of 2011 he estimated that there were 132 ethanol plants in the US producing DDGS as a co-product. Of these plants, greater than 80% were not extracting any corn oil from the thin stillage flow following the fermentation process.
In contrast, this year he listed 143 ethanol plants with DDGS as a co-product. Almost 40% of the plants are now doing some form of corn oil extraction. The result of this growth is corn oil removal can be seen from their data. In March of 2011, DDGS samples averaged 10.0% crude fat. This year they are averaging 9.3% and he predicted that in 2013 the average will drop to 8.5%.
Dr Jerry Shurson from the University of Minnesota followed Rob on the agenda. Jerry walked the audience thru the economics of oil extraction. Crude corn oil currently is selling for approximately $0.45/lb. An ethanol plant that is producing 100 million gallons of ethanol has the potential to remove 10-20 million pounds of corn oil by relatively simple processes. He estimated it could be done with a $3-4 million dollar investment. The payback on this investment is months, not years making the decision really simple to understand.
For pork producers who purchase DDGS, the removal of some of the corn oil is a concern as corn oil is thought to be a major contributor to the energy pigs derive from this feed ingredient. The big question everyone in the large crowd in attendance was thinking about – what is the feeding value of these new lower oil co-products?
Dr Brian Kerr, a USDA swine nutritionist, tried to answer this question by reviewing the available data. As he stated in his presentation, he knows he disappointed many in the audience by stating that the value is not as closely related to fat content as many had hoped for. Many came to the meeting hoping Brian would give them an estimate of that associated the decrease in fat content with a decrease in energy – something that could be used in establishing a relative price for these new co-products versus the products they had considerable experience in formulating diets with.
Brian’s basic message was that fat content is not a good predictor of overall energy content in the new co-products. As a co-product of a fermentation process, the fiber has been changed by the fermentation process and the co-product now includes fermentation co-products that don’t necessarily look like the corn they came from. His conclusion – for now we only have limited information to work with in formulation of diets with the new co-products and it will take more research and production experiences to come up with estimates of the value of these co-products relative to other ingredients. The good news – he thinks the value will be higher than what you would predict if you only relied on the lower fat level as a predictor.