Ethanol production's recent boost may be good news for corn growers, but not so for the pork industry.
"We have developed a pig and poultry industry in this country based on
feeding corn and soybean meal. In my opinion that is about to change
because of our current energy policy," says Gary Allee, University of Missouri swine nutritionist.
He believes that ethanol producers will out bid pork and poultry producers, driving
up corn prices. "People are talking about corn and soybeans being used as energy. This turns (livestock feeders') world upside down," says Allee.
Sure there is a byproduct-- distiller's dried grains with solubles-- that can offer some options. Allee and others are researching ways to use DDGS in swine diets. DDGS is a
fiber, protein and fat product left after the starch in corn is fermented into ethanol.
DDGS supplies are expected to exceed 7 million metric tons this year. About 80 percent of DDGS is used by the beef and dairy industries, because those animals can handle the high fiber levels. But for swine, too much fiber limits the animal's energy intake.
What's more, the byproduct's protein has severe amino acid deficiencies-- too little lysine. But because of the increased competition for raw corn, it's important that the pork industry find a way to tap into the DDGS supply.
Pre-treating corn to remove the germ and hull reduces the fat and fiber content. There are ethanol plants that can perform such de-hulling and de-germing, but many still distill the entire kernel.
Allee conducted a study on pigs weighing 25 to 55 pounds, feeding then corn and soybean meal diets, with added DDGS ranging from 5 percent to 40 percent.
"We found that we could feed up to 20 percent DDGS without detrimental effect on performance," he notes.
For pigs weighing 55 pounds to 280 pounds, only 10 percent DDGS could be
He adds there appears to be benefits in adding fat to the diet, but be careful to control unsaturated fat levels found in corn. Too much unsaturated fat can cause bacon processing problems.
Another challenge-- pigs don't seem to like the distiller's grain. Allee says that actually caused reduced feed intake for the first two to three weeks of pigs' exposure to DDGS diets. Allee urges ethanol producers planning to locate new plants to look where their byproduct may go.
And, so the challenges continue. There will surely be some growing pains as the corn and livestock sectors re-adjust to changes that lie ahead.