by Jon M. Casey
For the past several decades, distillers’ byproducts, also known as co-products, have been a regular addition to the ration programs of beef cattle feedlots throughout Western and Midwestern corn producing regions. This is due largely in part to the increased ethanol in the past 20 years. With this increased use of ethanol as fuel in the transportation industry, and the opening of new distilleries and ethanol plants closer to the corn-producing regions, a consistent source of feedstuffs has become available to nearby feedlots. More importantly, with the increase of corn being used to make ethanol in the U.S. (now over 35% of the annual crop) the increased cost of corn grain makes feeding ethanol co-products like wet distillers’ grains more attractive.
Breweries, distilleries and ethanol plants have been built in several eastern states where dairy producers can take advantage of the closer shipping costs and plentiful supply of distillers’ co-products. Such is the case in central New York, with the recent acquisition of the Sunoco LP 100-million-gallon per year corn ethanol plant and grain malting operation by Attis Industries Inc. of Milton, GA. According to information provided during their Aug. 5, 2019 re-opening ceremony, “[Attis’s] Fulton corn ethanol facility procures approximately 31 million bushels of corn annually for its operations, 50% of which is sourced within the state of New York.”
Greg Pilewicz, Attis Industries president, stated, “Our Fulton facility is the crown jewel in our renewable fuel production operations. We believe its location in upstate New York is primed to take advantage of existing and future mandates to meet New York’s ambitious carbon reduction goals. With the continued support of the local farmers and a strong market for state-manufactured fuels, Attis is poised to be the preeminent producer of sustainable fuels and products in the United States.”
Is it cost effective to feed distillers’ grains to dairy cattle?
Dr. Larry Chase, professor in the Department of Animal Science at Cornell University, said the quality and consistency of today’s ethanol co-products makes the feeding of distillers’ grains, either wet or dry, cost effective.
“We’ve been feeding wet brewers’ grains in New York for many years,” he said, noting that feed can be stored, and once bunked correctly, can provide a consistent farm feed supply.
In terms of economics, wet grains are priced below dried material, which makes them more attractive to dairy farms located closer to ethanol plants. In those instances, shipping costs would be lower. “The wet feeds can be fed [to dairy cattle] at the rated of about 10% of the total daily ration on a dry matter basis,” he said.
Feed values today
Newer ethanol plants have developed the ability to extract more oil from the finished grain, providing approximately 7-8% fat instead of the previous 10-11%. This lower fat level helps the cow’s digestibility. Distillers’ grains are also higher in protein than corn grain, running 27-32% versus corn’s 7-9%. This offers dairy producers an excellent option when additional feedstuffs are desired.
According to Daniel Loy, director of Iowa Beef Center, Iowa State University, typically, wet grains supply 130-140% the energy value of corn grain. Wet feeds are typically priced at a discount to corn grain. The increased feed value and lower cost will give producers an advantage when feeding wet feeds, provided hauling and storage are managed effectively. He noted the added fiber in distillers’ grains is an added benefit because of its digestibility in ruminants. “Ruminants use almost all of it,” he said.
Arvum Group and Attis in Upstate New York
With Attis Industries acquiring the Fulton, NY, ethanol plant, dairy producers will have additional opportunities to make use of the distillers’ feeds produced in the coming years. As a matter of fortuitous timing, a new nutritional consulting firm, Specialist Nutrition, a division of the Ireland-based Arvum Group of companies, opened a new U.S. branch in Syracuse, NY, on Nov. 11. With more than 20 years of technical expertise in working with beef and dairy cattle producers, this new arrival on the New York dairy scene will offer producers recommendations on how to store, transport and feed wet distillers’ feeds to the milking herd and heifer programs throughout the area.
“We are delighted to be working with such a professional company as Specialist Nutrition, who will manage the supply of our feed products to the farming community in New York,” said Pilewicz.
Managing Director Jim Buckley said his company has a working relationship with Alexandrion Group, a Romanian company that is planning to build a whiskey distillery near Carmel, NY. This new distillery is a $40 million project, and will be the first U.S. distillery of Alexandrion. Early in the planning process, Alexandrion Group approached Specialist Nutrition to work with them in helping to make profitable use of the distillers’ wet feeds to customers, once the distillery is up and running. Specialist Nutrition agreed.
“In the meantime, we made contact with Sunoco (now Attis) and they could see the merit in our working with them to help dairy producers [make efficient and profitable use] of their co-products,” said Buckley. “We negotiated a contract with them and will begin selling our products on Nov. 18. We will be offering a wet cake and a syrup product to start.”
Buckley said these products are high in protein and energy and make an excellent addition to a dairy ration, especially when grain might be in short supply. “Much of our success has come from developing effective logistics, including overseeing the direct delivery from the factory to the farm. That ensures freshness and feed quality. Timing is essential,” he noted.
“Our way of working with dairy producers is a streamlined process. We will be one of the first, organized and experienced organizations in New York State to work with both the farmers and the factory. In the state of New York, quality wet feeds are sought after and we will be there to help fill that need.”
For more information visit www.specialistnutrition.ie/about-us.