DDGS 101: The Basics

One bushel of corn (remember one bushel is the equivalent of a laundry basket) produces 2.8 gallons of ethanol as well as 17-18 pounds of distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) In fact, only a 1/3 of a bushel is processed for ethanol. The other 2/3 are processed for dried distillers grains (DDGS), corn oil and CO2.

Picture caption: Students get a closer look at DDG storage during recent ethanol plant tours organized by MBA.

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DDGS are a co-product of ethanol production and are used as a high-protein animal feed. It is an efficient alternative to corn and soybean-based animal feed. According to the U.S. Grains Council:

"Most ethanol plants are dry-grind facilities that extract starch from corn to produce ethanol. The remainder of the corn kernel, after ethanol production is complete, is used to produce wet distiller grains (WDG) or dried distillers grains (DDG)."

DDGS have a longer shelf life (almost indefinite) than normal corn and soybean meal, making it a valuable food source to livestock and poultry producers. Furthermore, the longer shelf life ensures DDGS can be shipped anywhere.

As the U.S. Grains Council notes, DDGS' high energy, mid-protein and high digestible phosphorus content make it an attractive partial replacement for some of the more expensive and traditional energy (corn), protein (soybean) and phosphorus (mono-or dicalcium phosphate) used in animals feeds.

That's not all.

One ton of DDGS, according to the USDA, is the equivalent of 1.22 tons of feed consisting of corn and soybean meal.

In fact, a report by ABF Economics earlier this year concluded that the 3.3 million tons of DDGS produced by the ethanol industry in Minnesota in 2014 was sufficient to meet the annual feed requirements of nearly 2.5 million beef and dairy cattle, or the entire inventory of cattle and calves in the state.

"Thus, given the availability of DDGS from ethanol production, the livestock and poultry industry require less grain corn and soybean meal to feed the same number of animals and produce the same amount of meat and dairy products," it said.

And according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Minnesota currently has the potential for DDGS to comprise 100% of livestock feed.

Now, that's a win-win-win situation.

By Mackenzie Zimmerman