More pork producers are adding distillers’ dried grains with solubles to swine diets today, whether it’s by desire or necessity, as an attempt to reduce feed costs.

However, the quality consistency and nutritional values of DDGS products remain nagging concerns. Certainly DDGS’ quality is improving, but it is still unpredictable and often varies among batches or manufacturers.

DDGS products available today also vary in nutrients such as protein, fat, lysine and phosphorus. Because of this, you need to test nutrient levels before adding the product to any swine ration. You also need to test for mycotoxins that are sometimes present in corn and multiply three-fold in DDGS.

Clearly, livestock feeders would benefit from a uniform DDGS product. However, the National Grain and Feed Association has advised USDA that “current regulatory and industry frameworks are sufficient to facilitate the trading of distillers grains.”

NGFA officials have said that procedures are already in place that provide trading parameters for distillers’ grains and other biofuel byproducts.

“We do not believe that any additional Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration involvement is necessary to further enhance the marketing of grain inputs used for ethanol production or the resulting distillers grains products,” wrote NGFA biofuels committee chairman Michael Malecha.

NGFA goes further in stating that additional government standards could stifle innovation, reduce the amount and quality of products available in the marketplace, and limit opportunities for buyers or sellers to capture optimal value for these products.

NGFA submitted the statement in response to GIPSA’s request for comments on whether it should develop additional DDGS standards. Feed ingredient definitions for distillers’ dried solubles, distillers’ dried grains and DDGS were adopted in 1964.

Industry calls for standards

Many swine nutritionists have called for DDGS standards. “From a feed industry and pork producer viewpoint, the challenge has been in knowing what you’re going to get when you purchase DDGS, due to quality and nutrient content variability,” says Jerry Shurson, University of Minnesota swine nutritionist.

“I don’t understand how such regulations would stifle the rewards of innovation, reduce the number and quality of products available, or limit the opportunities for either the buyer or seller to capture optimal value,” Shurson says.

He questions NGFA’s contention that applying standards to DDGS is unnecessary or detrimental to the industry. “Improving the efficiency and reducing ethanol production costs is the ethanol industry’s primary driver for using fractionation processes to produce an increasing number of new ethanol byproducts,” Shurson adds.

He contends that as more new fractionated byproducts are produced, more education will be needed to help customers who are using distillers’ byproducts understand their value, feeding applications, benefits and limitations.

“Since this is a new arena in corn byproduct production, it’s difficult to believe that definitions and standards developed in 1964 adequately describe all of these,” Shurson says. “Finally, it is difficult to determine a product’s optimum value if you don’t know what you are going to get.”

NGFA points to state-based feed laws as establishing appropriate nutrient labeling requirements for distillers’ grain products. These include required analysis to determine the moisture, protein, fat, fiber, calcium, phosphorus and other nutrient components.

NGFA also took issue with GIPSA’s point that the industry lacks agreement on reference methods for analyzing the quality attributes of biofuels’ products and said there’s no need for the agency to develop standardized analysis methods.

Shurson questions whether U.S. DDGS products will be accepted in export markets. “It’s interesting that in Canada, a major export market for U.S. DDGS, the country’s food-inspection agency held a forum to discuss the regulation of distillers’ grains as a feed. It seems that these new regulations may be more rigid and not match the current U.S. standards.”

Some help is surfacing

The Renewable Fuels Association, the National Corn Growers Association and the American Feed Industry Association are working together for reliable DDGS evaluation methods. To help producers evaluate DDGS, the groups have published test methods for determining the moisture, crude protein, crude fat and crude fiber content of DDGS products. 

RFA believes the widespread voluntary adoption of recommended test methods will reduce market confusion and add more structure to the DDGS marketplace. 

According to RFA numbers, beef and dairy cattle consumed about 84 percent of DDGS produced in 2007, with the pork industry consuming 11 percent and poultry accounting for 5 percent of consumption.

If the livestock industries’ voices are heard in unison, perhaps more progress could be made in establishing DDGS standards. 

For now, you should work to secure a reliable DDGS supplier and obtain a reliable nutrient analysis so you know what to expect from your DDGS investment.