Pork producers are benefiting from the rapidly growing demand for ethanol to fuel the nation’s autos. There’s also the fact that new, improved ethanol plants continue to come online. As a result, the supply of a nutritious co-product is growing and becoming more widely available.

Advancements in corn milling technology and quality control are turning out dried distillers grain solubles far different from what the old plants produced. That product was primarily fed to ruminants, and the quality was highly variable.

In today’s modern ethanol plants, each bushel of corn that’s fermented produces about 18 pounds of DDGS. That product can replace part of the soybean meal, corn and dicalcium phosphorus in most swine diets. For example, in a ton of a swine grower diet (0.85 percent lysine), 200 pounds of DDGS and 3 pounds of limestone can replace approximately:

  • 177 pounds of corn
  • 20 pounds of 44 percent soybean meal
  • 6 pounds of dicalcium phosphate (18.5 percent phosphorus)

At current prices, this amounts to a feed-cost savings of about 60 cents per ton of complete feed at a 10 percent inclusion rate, or $1.20 per ton at a 20 percent rate.

At the forefront of DDGS use in swine rations is Jerry Shurson, University of Minnesota swine specialist. He has been conducting and coordinating DDGS research, and is working with “new-generation” ethanol plants in Minnesota, South Dakota and Missouri.

Shurson explains that DDGS produced by today’s ethanol plants is far superior to that produced in older, larger plants. One reason is that the new plants use improved drying technology and operate dryers at lower temperatures so that DDGS is not over-cooked. This is important for use in swine and poultry diets, but less important for cattle. That’s because over-heating reduces amino acid digestibility, especially lysine, in DDGS. 

One way to determine whether a DDGS product is of high quality and suitable for swine diets is that it has a tan-to-golden color – not dark brown. It also should have a pleasant, fermented-cereal aroma, notes Shurson.

However, color is not a perfect indicator of DDGS quality.   That’s because the color of the grain used to produce ethanol and DDGS, as well as the amount of liquid solubles added to the grains’ fraction before drying, also can affect the DDGS’ final color, he adds.

What are the Advantages?

Shurson offers these points as advantages to incorporating DDGS to your swine diets.

  • “New Generation DDGS” products contain higher levels of energy, digestible amino acids and available phosphorus than DDGS produced by older ethanol plants.
  • Because most of the starch in yellow corn is converted to ethanol during fermentation, the DDGS produced from today’s process contains two to three times as much protein, oil and minerals as found in corn.
  • DDGS contains about 20 times the available phosphorus in corn. This reduces the need to supplement phosphorus in the diet, and it substantially reduces the phosphorus excreted in manure.
  • It does not adversely affect air quality in confinement swine facilities.
  • Improved gut health has been reported in herds with recurring ileitis problems. University of Minnesota studies have shown some benefit in terms of reducing the prevalence and severity of intestinal lesions from ileitis, but the response has been inconsistent.

There are Limitations

There are pros and cons to most things, and Shurson points out that DDGS products do have some limitations.

  • DDGS should not be used in early weaning diets because of its high fiber content. However, it produces excellent performance in pigs from about 15 pounds to market weight, as well as for sows during gestation and lactation.
  • You can achieve excellent performance by using up to 20 percent DDGS in nursery, grow/finish and lactation diets. The same is true for levels up to 50 percent DDGS in gestation-sow diets when formulating on a digestible-amino-acid and available-phosphorus basis. 
        However, when feeding sows a diet containing high DDGS levels (greater than 20 percent), it is advisable to start by feeding a 10 percent DDGS diet before increasing to higher DDGS inclusion rates. This lets the sows adjust to the new ingredient and will prevent a possible drop in feed intake.
  • If the corn used in making the ethanol and DDGS was grown in an area with
    aflatoxin, vomitoxin, zearalenone or other mycotoxins, it is advisable to limit DDGS inclusion to 10 percent or less of the total diet to avoid the risk of reduced performance.

Today’s new-generation dried distillers grain solutions do offer additional feeding options for your herd. It may be worth looking into or running a partial-herd feed trial of your own.

DDGS: A Good Buy at $85 per Ton

So, when do dried distillers grain solubles offer a worthy option for inclusion in your herd’s diet? Jerry Shurson, University of Minnesota swine specialists offers this perspective.

  • With corn priced at $2 per bushel,
  • 44 percent soybean meal at $190 a ton,
  • dicalcium phosphate at $15 per hundredweight,
  • limestone at $1.75 per hundredweight and
  • L-lysine HCl at $1 a pound,
  • you can save about $1.20 per ton on finished hog feed by replacing part of the corn, soybean meal and dicalcium phosphate with 400 pounds of DDGS valued at $85 per ton.

Using 200 pounds of DDGS per ton of complete feed would save about 60 cents per ton of complete feed. Assuming that a grow/finish pig (60 pounds to 280 pounds) has a 3.0 feed conversion, it would consume 660 pounds (or one-third of a ton) of feed. That would equal a feed-cost savings of 20 cents to 40 cents per market hog sold, depending on the DDGS inclusion rate in the diet.

Editor’s note: For information, as well as current and future research, on dried distillers grain solubles visit this University of Minnesota Web site: www.ddgs.umn.edu