Future ethanol production and demand for distiller's grains will lead to lower cattle prices and higher consumer meat prices, David Anderson, a Texas Cooperative Extension economist, told attendees of the 2007 Texas Ag Forum in Austin recently.

Providing an overview of the interaction between renewable energy production and the livestock industry, Anderson says livestock producers should keep these possibilities in mind as ethanol production grows across the country:

  • Higher feed costs.
  • Reduced production in terms of cattle weights and profitability.
  • A livestock industry that is less competitive in the world market and regionally.
  • Higher food prices for consumers.
For each 56-lb. bushel of corn used to make ethanol, about 17 lbs. of distiller's grains -- the byproduct used primarily as livestock feed -- is produced, Anderson says. With the boom in ethanol plants, centered primarily in the Corn belt, the supply of distiller's grains is expected to increase to well more than 30 million tons/year, he says.

"At that rate of growth, supplies will exceed demand, leading to lower distiller's grains relative to corn."

The starch is removed from the corn to make ethanol, but the remaining nutrients are concentrated in the distiller's grains, leaving more protein and energy per pound of byproduct than corn. The energy comes from the fat that was in the corn. Portions of phosphorus, potassium and sulfur are increased as well, Anderson says, noting that if the corn used to make ethanol has aflatoxin, "it, too, is concentrated three times in the resulting distiller's grains."

Distiller's grains "present a number of management issues related to handling and storing. It's a highly variable product," he says.

Other tidbits:
  • In wet corn milling, 1 bu. of corn can produce up to 31.5 lbs. of starch, which can be further processed into 33 lbs. of sweetener or 2.5 gals. of ethanol, 13.5 lbs. of gluten feed, 2.5 lbs. of gluten meal, and 1.6 lbs. of corn meal.
  • Corn gluten can be wet or dry with moderate crude protein between 16% and 23%; it looks like oatmeal.
  • In dry corn milling, 1 bu. of corn yields 2.75 gals. of ethanol, and 17-18 lbs. of distiller's grains and solubles. Distiller's grains are one-third the weight of the corn but the starch is concentrated into this one-third.
-- Southwest Farm Press