Company develops new distillers grains products for range animals

By Holly Jessen | April 10, 2012

A Nebraska company is producing 100 percent distillers grains supplemental products for forage animals. “They love it out there if they can get it in a form that won’t fall apart, so it’s been a big hit,” said Samantha Western, president of Lexington-based Rayeman Elements Inc., adding that the condensed form keeps distillers grains from being dispersed by the elements, such as wind or precipitation.

Mike Thomas, Rayeman’s director of technology, explained the company has developed a process that uses three-dimensional pressure to manufacture a variety of products using no fillers or binders, although the company does have the ability to add minerals, vitamins or even medicines, typically on a scale of about 25 pounds per ton.

Rayeman’s first order of business was to create a more efficient process to avoid loss of “fines,” which happens when a compressed distillers grains product breaks down into its original form. “By the time they get from the manufacture to the customer they can have anywhere from 30 to 60 percent loss,” Western said, adding that today the company promises no more than 2 percent fines but the products actually only lose about 1 percent fines.

The company got its start a year ago when it purchased a building that was finished to suit their needs. Production began in August and by October they had enough to start selling it. Currently, they have a five-year contract to provide products to Furst-McCness Co. Right now, Rayeman is producing 24 tons of product daily and is continuing to ramp up production levels. The goal for full capacity is 100 tons a day.

The company produces a variety of products, including a 2.5 inch long, 3/4 inch diameter range cube; 200-pound supplement tubs; 12 by 3-inch logs; and recently developed calf cubes, which are smaller than range cubes. Five patents on the machinery and method used to create the products are in the application process and the company is still working on coming up with branded names for its products. In addition to distillers grains products the company also makes burnable energy cubes made out of materials such as corn stover or coal dust, she said.

Ultimately, the goal is to license its technology to ethanol producers, where it can be used to produce distillers grains products on site. “We don’t want to be a feed producer, that’s not what we want to do,” she said. “We want to take the machinery and put it into ethanol plants around the country.” The company’s Nebraska production location will remain in operation, however, to maintain a cash flow for further research and development. In addition, the location is a showcase for Rayeman’s production process and a number of interested businesses and ethanol producers have already toured the facility.

Rayeman’s technology also results in a second marketable product—corn oil. The company discovered that accidentally during the development process when corn oil came leaking out as the distillers grains was compressed. For now, Rayeman is simply collecting the corn oil and has not yet looked into selling it for biodiesel production. In the meantime they have applied for a corn oil patent and will include corn oil production as part of future the licensing agreements.

For now, Western said, the company is only producing its products with distillers grains that has not had corn oil removed. However, testing shows the company can put low corn oil distillers grains or any mixture through its process.