The U.S. ethanol industry is likely to produce approximately 16 million metric tons of distillers grain (DDGS) in the 2007-08 marketing year, representing a three-fold increase over 2003-04. The demand for this value-added livestock feed is growing as quickly as the supply, says the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA).

“The marketplace’s adoption of distillers grains over the last several years has been remarkable,” says Bruce Noel, chairman of NCGA’s Ethanol Committee. “Many believed we’d be facing a surplus of distillers grains by now, but we certainly haven’t seen that materialize. Demand is very high. It’s become a mainstream ingredient in livestock rations and we’re seeing it used in all parts of the country.”

Significant research by universities, meat producers, feed companies, and trade groups is ongoing, particularly in the area of monogastric utilization, Noel says.

To help facilitate more efficient marketing of distillers grains, NCGA and other groups recently released a report containing guidelines for the analysis of DDGS. The report was the result of a yearlong study funded jointly by NCGA, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA). RFA and AFIA working groups oversaw the project, while Nancy Thiex, chair of the Association of American Feed Control Officials and laboratory manager of the Olson Biochemistry Laboratories at South Dakota State University, served as the primary consultant to the project.

Noel says both the ethanol and feed industries have shed the notion that distillers grains is little more than a byproduct of ethanol. “To the ethanol producer, it’s a valuable coproduct that increases the bottom line. And to the feeder, it’s a good source of protein and energy normally offered at a lower price relative to other ingredients” he says. “In many cases today, as soon as plans for an ethanol plant are announced, people start calling to ask about purchasing distillers grains. We’re happy to see distillers grains strengthening the bond between the corn and the livestock industries.”