If given a choice, hogs prefer the taste of standard feed versus grains that contain nutritionally enhanced dried distillers grains with solubles, say Kansas State University researchers.

DDGS is made by fermenting cereal grains, such as corn or sorghum. It’s one of two main byproducts from ethanol production, and with the growing number of plants popping up in the United States, DDGS is becoming a more plentiful feed option for animal agriculture.

Distillers grains have higher fiber, fat and crude-protein levels than regular corn, says Chad Hastad, Kansas State graduate student. However, levels of those nutrients can vary by as much as 3 percent.

DDGS’ popularity as a swine feed has received mixed reviews because the product’s quality can change depending on what the plants use to make it. Although many grains can be used to make ethanol, Hastad’s research has dealt mainly with corn ethanol and its byproducts.

In one study, pigs were offered their regular feed as well as two different test feeds. The feeds were presented in different troughs each time, so the pigs couldn’t simply head for a specific trough for the food they liked.

As the study progressed, the pigs consumed less DDGS.

“There is some palatability factor in feeding distillers grains that we haven’t yet identified,” Hastad notes. “We’re still trying to figure it out.”

One thing the researchers do know is that the mineral amounts present in DDGS, including phosphorus and calcium do vary widely. They’re planning more research to further understand why the variations occur.

Some of the calcium variation could be from limestone that’s added to DDGS at the processing plant as a flow agent, says Halstad.

Despite some inconsistencies, DDGS use is on the rise. “Distillers grain use has increased greatly in the United States due to increased availability and increased cost of other dietary ingredients,” says Mike Tokach, a Kansas State research and Extension swine specialist. “Our goal is to help producers use DDGS in the most economical manner possible.”