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Increased ethanol production may affect swine industry

Agriculture.com Staff 02/08/2016 @ 9:22pm

While the increase in ethanol production is good news for corn producers, that may not be so true for the swine industry, according to a University of Missouri animal scientist.

Thanks to government incentives on ethanol and high gas prices, ethanol producers are distilling more corn, which also is a mainstay of hog diets, said Gary Allee.

"We have developed a pig and poultry industry in this country based on feeding corn and soybean meal. In my opinion that is about to change because of our current energy policy," he said.

"They may outbid us," Allee said, referring to ethanol producers driving up the price of a bushel of corn. "We have entered into an era that changes the situation because people are talking about corn and soybeans being used as energy. This turns (livestock feeders') world upside down."

Allee is researching ways to use an ethanol byproduct called DDGS (distiller's dried grains with solubles) in swine diets. DDGS is a fiber, protein and fat product left after the starch in corn is fermented into ethanol.

DDGS supplies are expected to exceed 7 million metric tons this year. About 80 percent of DDGS is used by the beef and dairy industries, but very little in the swine industry.

Fiber is no problem for the beef and dairy animals. These ruminants with four stomachs can digest the high amount of fiber in DDGS. Pigs have a single stomach, like humans, so too much fiber limits the animal's energy intake.

The protein left in the byproduct also has severe amino acid deficiencies, such as too little lysine. Allee said the potential of increased competition for raw corn makes it important that a DDGS be developed that is more swine friendly.

Pre-treating corn to remove the germ and hull reduces the fat and fiber content. There are ethanol plants that can perform such de-hulling and de-germing, but all Missouri plants distill the entire kernel.

In his research, Allee fed pigs weighing 25 to 55 pounds diets of corn and soy meal. DDGS was added in amounts ranging from 5 to 40 percent.

"We found that we could feed up to 20 percent of the DDGS and not have detrimental effect on performance," he said.

For pigs weighing 55 pounds to 280 pounds, only 10 percent DDGS could be fed in the diet.

While it's beneficial to add fat to a pig's diet, care must be taken to control the amount of unsaturated fat such as that found in corn, he said. Too much unsaturated fat prevents producers from harvesting thin slices of bacon.

In addition, pigs, unlike ruminants, don't seem to like the distiller's grain, which accounts for reduced feed intake for the first two or three weeks after the pigs are exposed to the diet containing DDGS.

Allee said he urges ethanol producers planning to locate new plants to look where their byproduct may go.

While the increase in ethanol production is good news for corn producers, that may not be so true for the swine industry, according to a University of Missouri animal scientist.

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