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Farming for energy ethanol coproducts

Minnesota’s corn ethanol plants may be feeding your gas tank, but they’d like to feed more hogs and turkeys, too. That’s the job of Midwestern DDGs Association, a nonprofit task force of ethanol producers that AURI helped organize.

Midwestern DDGs conducts a check-off program for research into the benefits of feeding dried distiller’s grains (DDGs) to hogs and poultry. “We’re also looking at other programs that would enhance the value of distiller’s grains and grow the entire industry,” says Richard Eichstadt, task force member and general manager of Pro-Corn, an ethanol plant in Preston, Minn.

Midwestern DDGs counts most ethanol plants in Minnesota and South Dakota among its members, “and we will bring in other plants as they start up in other states,” Eichstadt says. Most of its research is being conducted at the University of Minnesota, with additional research at South Dakota State University. Researchers are looking at the quality of pork loins and turkey breasts from animals fed on DDGs, which can compete with soybean meal feed.

“The results look encouraging,” Eichstadt says. “We need to continue and ensure that the results get to the appropriate people.”

“We also need a spokesman for DDGs,” says Max Norris, AURI scientist in Marshall. He says a nutritionist to answer questions from the livestock industry about DDGs is vital to expanding markets. Another key component is “consistency between the 13 dry-mill plants (in Minnesota). … The product has to be consistent.”

The task force is looking at other ways to improve ethanol plants’ profitability, Norris says, including reducing plant energy use, de-germing corn and marketing the oil, and exploring markets for diesel fuel.