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Cheaper pig feed

Four-dollar corn thrills many farmers. None of them are in the pig business.

There aren't many alternatives to expensive corn for pigs, but one of them is the ethanol by-product distillers' dried grains (DDG).

For every bushel of corn processed, you get 17 pounds of DDG out the back end. A 100-million-gallon ethanol plant cranks out 300,000 tons of DDG a year.

Harold Tilstra, the leader of co-products technical support for Land O'Lakes Purina Feed, says DDG can be fed at 10% to 25% levels to grower/finisher pigs. He offers these five tips.

  1. Know what you're getting
    Not all DDG are created equal. Some ethanol plants remove the oil from the corn, lowering energy content of the DDG. Others use different drying processes, impacting the protein quality.

    DDG are a good protein source, at 25% to 30% crude protein, and can replace some soybean meal. But hog feed is really about the individual amino acids that make up protein. "Like corn, DDG are deficient in lysine," says Tilstra. "Know the levels and supplement accordingly."

Start conservatively
If you're new to feeding DDG, start in your grow/finish rations at five to 10%, says Tilstra. You'll learn its handling characteristics, and you can bump up levels as you get comfortable with it.

"Pigs are taste-sensitive," he continues. "When you change ingredients, you can lose a day or two as they adjust. That's a big deal. You don't want to feed DDG for a while, then stop, then start up again."

Be careful with sows
Mycotoxins are a mold that can grow in grains. At their worst, they can cause pregnant sows to abort. When you make ethanol, you take the mycotoxins that were in 56 pounds of corn and concentrate them into 17 pounds of DDG -- a threefold concentration of risk.

Avoid early nursery feeds
"Small pigs need a special diet," says Tilstra. "I don't recommend DDG in the early nursery diets, but we are seeing levels from 10% to 25% in the later nursery diets. The pigs then transition smoothly to grower diets that contain DDG."

Account for phosphorus
DDG are high in available phosphorus, meaning you can reduce that mineral when you feed DDG. Tilstra says about half the cost savings of feeding DDG comes from the phosphorus savings. This is one advantage of DDG for pigs compared to cattle. Cattle don't usually need the extra phosphorus because it leads to problems with manure disposal.

Kansas State University has a calculator on its Web site that will compare rations with DDG at various prices for ingredients. Click here to compare rations.

On a recent day, Tilstra plugged in these values: $3.90 per bushel for corn; $285 per ton for soy meal; $430 per ton for monocalcium phosphate; $1 per pound for lysine; $160 per ton for DDG. At 20% DDG in a finishing feed, it determined a savings of $4.47 per ton of feed, or $1.34 per pig, compared to a standard corn diet.

"It's all driven by your location and the price relationships between ingredients," Tilstra concludes.

Four-dollar corn thrills many farmers. None of them are in the pig business.

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