When the USDA came out with corn production numbers that were revised upward to a bountiful 12.3 billion bushels, two areas of corn demand also saw an increase: the amount projected for ethanol use was increased by 150 million bushels to 4.1 billion bushels and the corn for livestock feed was boosted 100 million bushels to 5.3 billion.
Although the USDA estimates that more corn will go into livestock feed than any other use, these figures leave out another important statistic, according the National Corn Growers Association: the amount of livestock feed that will be produced from the same corn that goes into ethanol.
In fact, if the USDA projection holds true, then there will be an additional equivalent of 1 billion bushels of livestock feed derived from the corn for ethanol, in the form of distiller grains (25.3 million metric tons), corn gluten feed (2.6 million metric tons) and corn gluten meal (500,000 metric tons).
“Critics lament how much corn goes into ethanol but often ignore the coproducts and calculate too high a figure,” says NCGA President Ron Litterer. “Distillers grains offer a high-protein feed for livestock and help us meet all needs.”
While the industry is evolving and becoming more efficient, each bushel of corn, Litterer notes, can produce approximately 2.8 gal. of ethanol, in one of two different ways.
* In the dry milling process, each bushel of corn produces 17.5 lbs. of dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) in addition to the ethanol. A high-protein livestock feed, corn distillers grains contain all the nutrients from the incoming corn minus the starch.
* In the wet milling process, 13.5 lbs. of gluten feed are produced from each bushel of corn used. Corn gluten feed is rich in highly digestible fiber and is processed as either dry pellets or wet feed. These feeds are widely used for dairy and beef cattle, poultry, swine and pets. This process also results in 2.6 lbs. of gluten meal, a high-protein concentrate that is excellent cattle feed providing a high level of rumen bypass protein. Finally, this process also results in 1.5 lbs. of corn oil from each bushel used.
“When you take into account the use of coproducts, and shift a billion bushels of corn from the ethanol to the feed category, you get a better sense of where the corn is really going,” Litterer adds. “Actual ethanol production – as projected by the USDA for 2008 – will consume approximately 22% of the total 2008-2009 corn supply of 13.9 billion bushels.”