As the use of distillers’ dried grains with solubles increases in swine diets, more producers and nutritionists are frustrated by its variation in nutrient quality. Variability not only exists between manufacturers but also from batch to batch within the same facility.

According to a report by Jacinto Fabiosa, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at IowaStateUniversity, each bushel of corn used to make ethanol produces about 17 pounds of DDGS.

Fabiosa examined DDGS production from 40 different ethanol plants located in 11 states. He found great variability in nutritional values and costs, often caused by methods and temperatures used in DDGS processing. More specifically, the drying process can affect the digestibility of amino acids and energy.

“One problem often raised by feed compounders is DDGS’ lack of consistency in the nutritional composition,” Fabiosa says in his report titled, “Not All DDGS Are Created Equal: Nutrient-Profile-Based Pricing to Incentivize Quality.” He adds that even though corn and soybean meal used for feed vary in their nutritional levels, they are more consistent than DDGS.

As for cost, Fabiosa says significant variation places livestock producers at a disadvantage in determining a DDGS product’s actual value.  “It is important that feed compounders properly account for the nutrient composition variability in their feed formulation,” he says. “If the nutrients are inadequate to the animal’s needs, then its performance will be compromised.”

Fabiosa believes it is time for a price mechanism to lead to better value. “Without a pricing mechanism that can reflect product quality differentials, above-average-quality DDGS products, in terms of nutrient profile, will not gain any premium, and below-average DDGS products will not be discounted. So, there is no incentive to improve quality,” he says. Fabiosa believes that plants will need an incentive to better manage DDGS quality.

In the meantime, producers should buy DDGS from one source to minimize, not necessarily eliminate, the variation potential.