Extended Shelf Life, Expanded Market

The new ZeniPRO brand preservative has helped a Wisconsin ethanol plant get more mileage out of its distillers wet grains.
By Kindra Gordon | February 01, 2004
It's a common challenge for ethanol plants and livestock producers alike: How to utilize distillers wet grains (DWG) effectively before it starts to spoil?

George Drewry, the distillers marketing specialist for Badger State Ethanol near Monroe, Wis., was posed that very question when his plant started its 40-mmgy operation in October 2002.

Drewry knew producers liked wet distillers grains as an economical and palatable protein source for livestock. But the coproduct presented special storage and handling issues, because it often begins to mold in three to five days in warm weather. Thus, like most other ethanol plants, Badger State found that much of its market DWG was local, and producers had to feed the product quickly once delivered.

Based on those issues, from the time Badger State Ethanol began production, Drewry wanted to overcome the shelf-life concern associated DWG. "My expectation was to be able to apply a preservative that would extend the shelf life of wet distillers grains for three weeks or better in the summer," Drewry said.

He believed extending the shelf life would help the plant expand its coproduct marketing options—and give producers access to a fresh and consistent feedstuff.

Making DWG better
To find a preservative that met his needs, Drewry visited with several companies and shared his expectations of a three-week shelf life for DWG. He soon began working cooperatively with Kemin Americas to develop a product that met his goal. The result was ZeniPRO preservative, which Badger State Ethanol has been offering to customers since April 2003.

They've been the first ethanol plant in the nation to offer the ZeniPRO preservative from Kemin Americas to beef and dairy customers, and Drewry reports the response has been "phenomenal."

"It cooled the wet distillers grain coproduct down and preserved it, and that's what the customer wants," Drewry said. He added that wet distillers grain treated with ZeniPRO preservative can now have a shelf life up to 14 to 28 days, depending on the application rate of the preservative.

The liquid ZeniPRO preservative is a blend of organic acids and antioxidants that is applied to the distillers wet coproduct as it is transitioned to the wet pad. Kemin Americas has a patent pending on the product. The preservative does not change the odor or appearance of the coproduct. It is safe for use in livestock feed additives, and research has shown it does not have adverse effects on steer intake and performance.

Fred Clark, from Oregon, Wis., has fed distillers wet grains on his 130-head dairy operation since Badger State Ethanol began production. He now feeds a truckload about every 10 days and has found that the wet coproduct feedstuffs treated with the ZeniPRO preservative "cuts the spoilage out completely."

Clark has ZeniPRO applied to his batches of distillers wet grains during the summer months. At a cost of $4 per ton to have the preservative applied, he said, "It has been a good investment."

Waunakee, Wis., producer Tom Helt has also been pleased with the preservative. Helt likes to feed wet distillers grains in his 400-head dairy and 400- to 500-head finishing feedlot as a low-cost source of protein. But he added, "It was a challenge to feed when it began to spoil. For our dairy operation, we cannot have mold in the feed."

However, since using distillers wet grains treated with ZeniPRO, mold hasn't been a concern.

"Wet distillers grains would not work for us in the warm months if it wasn't treated with a preservative," Helt said. "We now get 22 tons delivered at a time, feed it in eight to 10 days and have no trouble with spoilage."

Drewry said those responses are typical of nearly all his customers who have fed wet distillers grains treated with ZeniPRO preservative. Customers like the product so much that some are having it applied year round—even though spoilage is primarily only a concern during the warmer months.

"I'm still selling 100 tons per week with the preservative right now in January," Drewry said. "Producers see it as cheap insurance in case we get warm days. They want to maintain the quality of their feed."

Marketing more DWG
At Badger State Ethanol, the positive response to distillers wet grains treated with ZeniPRO is helping the plant expand its marketing options-just as Drewry had initially hoped.

"This preservative gives us the flexibility to produce more wet product when there is demand for it versus selling it as dried distillers grain," Drewry said.

As a result, the plant can lower its drying costs, which often average $10 per ton, and the emissions produced from that process.

"The more wet product we can make, the harder we can work the plant," Drewry said.

Because the preservative helps lengthen the coproducts' shelf life, Drewry said they've also been able to expand their market to include new customers in a delivery area beyond 100 miles from the plant. Smaller operators are now able to utilize the preserved product as well, because they can feed it over a longer time period.

Drewry reports that they sell 500 to 1,500 tons per week of wet coproduct depending on demand and added, "The bottom line is that without the ZeniPRO preservative we wouldn't be able to sell as much wet distillers grain as we do."

While Badger State Ethanol has been the first to offer the ZeniPRO preservative from Kemin Americas, eight other ethanol facilities in the Midwest have shown interest in offering the product by this summer.

"There has been a lot of demand for ZeniPRO preservative," said Mark Martinez with Kemin Americas.

He explained that before they made the product fully available, they wanted to gain experience with it in several plants.

"We've worked closely with Badger State Ethanol and its customers and have tested it successfully in other plants," Martinez said.

He reported Kemin Americas has three years of research and field testing with the preservative and is now offering it in the marketplace to ethanol plants.

As more customers consider using the preservative, Martinez added, "It can offer a lot of value to both ethanol managers to market their coproducts and to producers to keep the quality of their feed consistent."

That said, it is likely that ZeniPRO will help boost demand for distillers wet grain in the near future. As one producer who has used the preservative said, "I hear a lot of producers who say they don't like feeding distillers wet grains until they find out that there's a preservative that can keep it from spoiling." EP

Kindra Gordan is a freelance writer for Hansen Communications in Kankakee, Ill.