A new report from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that DDGS from ethanol plants is replacing even more corn and soybean meal in livestock and poultry feed rations than previously thought.
The report’s findings have important implications for discussions regarding ethanol’s impact on feed grains availability, feed prices, land use effects, and the greenhouse gas (GHG) impacts of producing corn ethanol.
According to the report by USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), “Findings demonstrate that, in aggregate (including major types of livestock/poultry), a metric ton of DDGS can replace, on average, 1.22 metric tons of feed consisting of corn and soybean meal in the United States.”
ERS also stated: “Feed market impacts of increased corn use for ethanol are smaller than that indicated by the total amount of corn used for ethanol production because of DDGS.”
In fact, ERS found the amount of feed (corn and soybean meal) replaced by the DDGS represents nearly 40% (on a weight basis) of the corn used in the associated ethanol production process for a given crop year.
DDGS value misunderstood
One of the reasons that one ton of DDGS can replace more than one ton of conventional feed is that its energy and protein content are concentrated.
Only the starch portion of the corn kernel is converted to ethanol, while the protein, fat, fibre and other components are concentrated and passed through the process to the distillers grains.
Grain ethanol feed product volumes approached 39 million metric tons in the 2010/11 marketing year. Nearly 25% of US ethanol feed output is exported to countries around the world to feed livestock and poultry.