IDGC: Distillers grains products markets grow

By Hope Deutscher | July 08, 2009
Approximately 130 industry representatives and researchers attended the fourth annual International Distillers Grains Conference and Trade Show in Denver on June 15. The day-long event was hosted by BBI International. Topics discussed during the conference included the future of exports, expectations from the feed industry, the role of antimicrobials, regulations, fractionation, improving quality control and available drying technologies.

Dr. Harold Tilstra, national coproducts technical support for Land O'Lakes Purina Feed LLC, said the attitudes of ethanol and livestock producers have evolved over time. In the beginning, ethanol producers wanted to "make the mash go away" and livestock producers said they would use it only because it was free. Today, ethanol producers see it as a viable and valuable coproduct and livestock producers are determining how to best utilize it in their ingredient feed mix. As the industry moves forward, Tilstra said ethanol producers will need to view distillers grains as a coproduct to feed humans through animal products. "That's the mindset that our biorefineries need to assume," Tilstra said.

Steve Markham, a merchandiser at CHS Inc., told the audience that the distillers grains market continues to grow, especially in the export sector. In 2008, total U.S. distillers grains production was approximately 22 million metric tons and more than 4.5 million metric tons of distillers dried grains with soluble (DDGS) were exported - a 91 percent increase over 2007 exports.

"I think worldwide we will see some more ethanol production in other countries, which will definitely affect what goes on here in the U.S.," Markham said. Currently, the majority of U.S. distillers grains are exported to Canada and Mexico, followed by Asia, North Africa and the Middle East.

Domestically, he said the fastest growing user of distillers grains is the swine industry, while the dairy consumption of distillers grains is nearly saturated. As for the poultry industry,

Markham said there was little increase in use last year as a result of corn prices. However, he said the laying industry is having issues regarding the use of antibiotics in distillers grains. Markham said if that issue is settled, distillers grains will become a staple to the industry.

However, in a later session, Amy Batal, a professor at the University of Georgia, said there hasn't been an issue with antibiotic residue in distillers grains in the past three years. In addition to crude protein, animal producers also use distillers grains because it provides amino acids, she said, adding that the digestibility of amino acids is very important to the feed industry. However, she said, in addition to the nutritional elements of distillers grains, the availability, price and consistency need to be addressed by the ethanol industry to meet the needs of the poultry industry.

In an effort to improve DDGS prices and provide a better amino acid profile, FWS Group Process Engineer Glen Foster said it's important to look at alternative co-substrates. Among the substrates being studied are field peas, oats, and barley. Foster said field peas could deliver 45 percent to 52 percent protein; while oats could deliver more ethanol per acre than wheat or barley; as well, barley could be grown outside of the U.S. Corn Belt.

However, Batal said because of the different nutritional aspects, corn, milo, wheat and barley, DDGS can't be used interchangeably in the poultry diet. Producers need to know exactly what product is available and that it is consistent, she added.

The fifth annual IDGC will be held in June 2010 in St. Louis, Mo., as a co-event with the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop and Expo.