Pellet Made from Distillers Grain Packs Protein, Not Fat

  • Tuesday, 27 December 2016 13:04

Tri State Neighbor

December 27, 2016

By Janelle Atyeo

A new company in South Dakota is looking to optimize the nutrition cattle get from dried distillers grain.

Novita Nutrition will open a $95 million processing plant east of Brookings, S.D., early next year.

The plant will use distillers grain – a byproduct created when processing corn into ethanol. It will remove indigestible oil from the grain and create a pelletized feed called NovaMeal.

Making a better quality feed from distillers grain is something that Novita Nutrition CEO and President Don Endres came up with when working in the ethanol industry. Endres founded VeraSun Energy, an ethanol producer that grew rapidly in the 2000s but quickly went bankrupt when corn prices fell and the company was left with contracts it bought high.

Endres has seen other business ventures of his be successful. While the ethanol industry didn’t work out for him, it gave Endres the idea for his next big venture.

VeraSun, like other ethanol plants, sold distillers grain to cattle producers for use in the feed mix. Endres noticed, though, that after a few years, dairy farmers stopped buying their products.

He learned that oil in the grain – unsaturated fat – was an issue for the dairy cow diet. The cows already were getting unsaturated fat from silage and other grains in their diets. The amount of fat in the distillers grain varied depending on the ethanol production process, so it was difficult for dairy nutritionists to keep tabs on how much their cows were getting.

“If you put any amount of unsaturated fat in the diet, you can really throw them off,” Enders said.

Too much can cause milk fat levels to go down, he said, and milk fat is what dairies get paid for.

Distillers grain still packs nutritious protein and fiber, and Novita Nutrition has found a way to deliver those nutrients with less fat. NovaMeal is made by removing oil from distillers grain in the same way oil is extracted from soybeans, sunflowers and canola.

“It improves the digestibility of the protein,” Endres said.

Dairy nutritionists are concerned with the amount of protein that cows get after feed passes through the rumen. The amount that’s left is known as rumen undegradable protein, or RUP. In NovaMeal, the amount of protein left for the cows to absorb in the small intestine, where they can use it most, is 63 percent – more than soybean meal or canola, according to studies done by South Dakota State University.

NovaMeal also has more digestible fiber than common distillers grain, cottonseed, canola or soybean meal. Higher nutrient values means cows are getting more out of their feed.

“They’re able to absorb more of those nutrients rather than having it go out the tail end,” Endres said.

Novita Nutrition is preparing to process distillers grain on a large scale. The site near Aurora, S.D., was busy with construction crews on a cold November morning. The plant – located just west of the former VeraSun ethanol plant, now owned by Valero Energy – has been under construction since the summer of 2015.

Come next year, the plant will employ 40 people, and another 10 will continue working at the Novita Nutrition offices in nearby Brookings. Distillers grain will come in by truck and rail from ethanol plants in South Dakota, Minnesota and northwestern Iowa.

The raw material will wait for processing in a flat storage building that’s able to hold 5,100 tons.

The plant will be capable of processing 13 rail cars’ worth of distillers grain in a day, or 1,300 tons. That will mike 1,200 tons of NovaMeal pelletized feed and 100 tons of separated oil for used in biofuel or poultry feed.

A massive round bin will store the finished pellets, up to 6,000 tons.

Endres envisions selling 5 percent to 10 percent of their product to local customers along the Interstate 29 corridor. Much of it will go to dairy markets in central California, Washington, southern Idaho, western Texas and New Mexico.

Novita recently partnered with the Omaha, Neb.-based feed supplier Gavilon to deliver NovaMeal to western states.

Dairy markets are the primary focus for Novita Nutrition for now. Dairies are very focused on nutrition and often work closely with nutritionists, Endres said, but he added that it would be a nutritious meal in any kind of cattle feeding.

“It’s a very high-quality protein and fiber,” he said.

Endres grew up around Herefords on a farm east of Watertown, S.D., the son of Jim Endres and Teresa Endres. He wanted to raise Herefords like his parents, he said, and he went to South Dakota State University in Brookings to get a degree in animal science.

His career path led him in other directions, though, and he relied more on his minors in computer science and economics.

The first companies he helped start dealt with online payment platforms and electronic equipment. He helped build up both companies and saw them through successful mergers. He entered the ethanol industry in 2001 and soon afterward started brainstorming the idea that would become NovaMeal.

Nearing the opening of the plant in Aurora, Endres already is looking forward to building a second plant soon. He said he’s open as to where to build: “Anywhere with ethanol production and a base of livestock.”

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