DDGs: Grains from New Fermentation Process Safe for Cattle – DTN

Distillers grains from a newly patented secondary fermentation process have proven to cause no significant loss in performance in beef steers, according to a recent Iowa State University feeding trial.

The new cellulosic ethanol technology was developed by Syngenta in an agreement with Cellulosic Ethanol Technologies, LLC and is being produced by Quad County Corn Processors (QCCP) bio-refinery in Galva, Iowa, Rick Heaton, co-product merchandiser for QQCP, told DTN. The QCCP bio-refinery is a farmer-owned, 35 million gallon ethanol that was the second plant to open in Iowa in 2003.

The licensed technology, called “Adding Cellulosic Ethanol” (ACE), involves a secondary fermentation process that allows the fiber, as well as the starch, in a corn kernel to be converted into ethanol. Pre-treatment with a combination of cellulosic enzymes, yeast and heat is used to break down starch and fiber, Heaton said.

The ACE technology increases ethanol production and corn oil production, as well as the protein content in the DDG. The process also reduces natural gas usage and improves the carbon footprint of ethanol plants, as the DDG is only exposed to additional heat for a few seconds.

The process leaves the resulting DDG 20%-25% higher in protein than regular DDG and about 20%-25% lower in oil. Heaton said the company is still fine-tuning the process and the exact fiber level is not known yet. Heaton added that the quantity of DDG mass will be reduced approximately 15% because of the fiber fermentation and oil removal.

The QCCP plant is the first ever to begin using the patented technology. The company has entered into an agreement with Syngenta to market the technology to other ethanol plants under licensing agreements in the future.

Heaton said the ACE DDG will be sold by the ton, but said that no pricing has been finalized. He added that the AVE DDG should have a higher value, especially to those looking for high-protein DDG, such as dairies and the export market.

While the initial ACE DDG will be sold in wet form, the company will eventually also produce a high protein, dry product as well.

The company will soon begin the start-up/transition phase and will likely have the final product formulated by the end of the summer.


A recent feeding trial was conducted at ISU examining the effect of the new ACE DDG on animal performance, according to Erika Lundy, ruminant nutrition graduate research assistant at Iowa State University working with Dr. Dan Loy and Dr. Stephanie Hansen.

Lundy was selected by the Distillers Grains Technology Council as one of the 2014 graduate student research scholarship winners for her feeding trial/research in May at the Council’s annual symposium in Dallas in May.

Lundy said she grew up on a farm that included a cow-calf and feedlot operation and was always interested in the beef industry and feeding co-products. When Quad County Corn Processors in Galva, Iowa, approached ISU about possible research on their new process and DDG, it captured her interest.

“It was something new and on the leading edge of technology, and it really interested me,” she said.

Lundy’s feeding trial that compared performance and carcass characteristics of cattle fed traditional wet distillers grains (T-WDG) with Quad County’s ACE wet distillers grains (A-WDG)

The trial involved 168 steers that were assigned to one of four treatments for 94 days:

  1. Corn-based control with 13% T-WDG on a dry matter basis.
  2. 30% T-WDG.
  3. 30% A-WDG.
  4. 30% A-WDG plus solubles (A-WDGS).

At the end of the 94 days, Lundy found that feed conversion was the same between the steers fed the A-WDG diet and the A-WDGS diet. However, there was a decreased dry matter intake and average daily gain with steers fed the A-WDGS diet, likely because of the increased sulfur in the solubles.

“Adding back solubles may be a limiting factor,” she said. “At the rate of solubles added to WDG in this trial, the sulfur level may have limited performance of steers fed A-WDGS.”

Lundy also found that there were no differences in quality grade between all four dietary treatments.

It was no surprise, however, that the study confirmed that wet distillers grains were higher in feeding value and energy content than corn.

“During the ethanol process, the starch is removed from the corn kernel and the remaining nutrients are concentrated in wet distillers grains. Thus, distillers grains are higher in energy and protein than corn,” Lundy said.

The steers finished on the T-WDG had improved average daily gain, feed conversion, heavier final body weights, hot carcass weights and larger rib-eye areas compared to the steers fed the corn-based control diet.

The feeding trial showed that the significant feeding value of co-products made from the secondary fermentation process can be maintained. Whether the steers were fed the A-WDG or the T-WDG, the animals had similar ADG, final body weights, hot carcass weights, rib-eye areas and marbling scores.

But even though the animals fed the A-WDG had similar body weights and ADG than the T-WDG, the steers fed the A-WDG had to eat more to maintain their performance, therefore the feed conversion was slightly less efficient. Those fed the A-WDG also had decreased back fat thickness.

The most important thing learned from the feeding trial was that the distillers grains from the secondary ethanol process can be used with no significant loss in performance, Lundy said.

“We’ve had a lot of producers ask about how the distillers made from cellulosic ethanol production will affect cattle,” she said. “Many were afraid that using distillers grains from cellulosic ethanol would hurt performance. We didn’t see that.

“Based on this study, we are not expecting to see any major differences,” she said.

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