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Dealing with DDGs

Posted on October 17, 2013 at 8:55 AM by Iowa Corn

By Jeff DeYoung, Iowa Farmer Today

Rick Chipman has been using dry distillers grains (DDGs) in his hog ration since the product first became available.

Rick Chipman, left, and his son Adam use varying amounts of
dry distillers grains in their hog rations. The producers farm near
Harlan in Shelby County and operate their own feed mill. They say as
ethanol plants squeeze out more corn oil, they are forced to recalculate
diets to make sure hogs are getting enough energy
~ IFT photo by Jeff DeYoung
“I guess it’s been seven years probably,” says Chipman, who farms near here in Shelby County. “We used 10 to 15 percent in our rations, because there was very little analysis done at that time. You didn’t have the plant-to-plant comparison that you have now, and there was a real consistency issue between loads.”

Since then, Chipman has at times gone as high as 40 percent DDGs in his finishing ration. Chipman and his family have 900 sows in their farrow-to-finish operation. They also buy feeder pigs and finish them in contracted facilities and grow corn and soybeans on their Southwest Iowa farm. Chipman uses DDGs through all phases of his operation, in varying amounts. Nearly 75 tons are delivered to the farm each week.

“We deal with two feed groups. We’ve been using the one supplier for many years with our farrow-to-finish operation and some of our purchased pigs, and the other is through a contractual agreement,” Chipman says.

Almost every load of DDGs is sampled and sent to a lab for testing. Chipman says the sampling, combined with submitted samples from other producers, helps establish relative feed value.

“It really helps with diet formulation, how we price in all the ingredients,” he says. Chipman says as ethanol plants squeeze out more corn oil, formulating rations can change significantly.

“We had purchased DDGs from a plant for nine months, and when they started de-oiling, the value of the feed was 25 to 30 dollars less than it was before,” he says.“We are adding more fat than ever before. This is especially true through the summer.”

The move by ethanol plants to process more corn oil makes ration planning more challenging, says Joel DeRouchey, Extension swine specialist at Kansas State University. He says finding a plant where more oil is not being removed is difficult.

“Over the last 18 months, the vast majority of plants have been removing more fat,” DeRouchey says. “Most plants used to produce a product that was 7 to 9 percent fat, and now it’s closer to 4 to 5. As they take out fat, they take out calories, so you have to value it accordingly.” He says producers used to be able to feed 20 to 30 percent DDGs or more and not lose performance. With the product change, producers must make major adjustments to their rations. DeRouchey says producers can do two things to deal with the changed product.

“One, they have to come up with some energy, and that’s usually done by adding fat to the diet. You have to price DDGs based on the lost performance,” he says. “Or, you can accept the reduced performance, and hope the slower gain is offset by the cost savings.”

DeRouchey says feeding DDGs has been linked to soft bellies in pork carcasses, adding several packers have limits on how soft the fat can be.

“Now that some of the corn oil has been removed, the belly fat should not be as soft as it was with the old product,” he says. He adds for most producers, it ultimately comes down to economics.

“I think most producers would prefer the traditional corn-soybean meal diet, but it’s still all about economics,” DeRouchey says. “Producers still need to work with their supplier to make sure they know what they are feeding, and so they can price it accordingly.”

Chipman says while the corn-soybean meal diet would be preferable, he still favors a minimum of 10 percent distillers in the ration for enteric health. The cost savings with DDGs, along with their fiber content, dictate their use.

He says with less oil in the DDGs now, the cost has to come down to make it worth the price of added fat. “There is a lot more management involved than you have with the corn-soybean meal diet. That’s the case any time you use alternative feedstuffs,” Chipman says.

The family has always mixed its own feed but has since moved to a new feed milling facility constructed in 2007. Chipman says he has recently reduced his DDGs percentage to 25 to 30 percent usage this summer

“We are pushing some pigs in the finisher to hit these better price markets, before prices generally drop in September,” he says. “With the summer heat, they perform better at the lower percentage. But, we will likely stay in that 25- to 40-percent range this fall and beyond that, depending on ingredient relative prices.” Chipman adds working with DDGs is always a learning process.

“We started with 10 to 15 percent, and as we became more confident in the product and the consistency, we were able to push it to 25 to 40 percent,” he says. “With the changes in the product, we have continued to adjust. We like working with the product, as long as it’s priced right relative to its feed value.”

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