Homepage \ Technical Articles \ Co-Products of the Corn Milling Industry

Co-Products of the Corn Milling Industry

Many of the ingredients available as supplemental feedstuffs for ranchers originate from milling facilities that process whole grains or other crops. These milling facilities extract their desired product from the whole grains or other crops, and the remaining material, termed as “byproducts” or “co-products” can be formulated in to manufactured nutritional products, and when this process is done correctly, the nutritional product can be used to provide nutrients that efficiently fill nutritional limitations on ranches. Examples of byproducts or co-products include cottonseed meal, cottonseed hulls, soybean meal, sunflower meal, linseed meal, wheat middlings, soybeans hulls, gluten feed, and distillers grains. Gluten feed and distillers grains originate primarily from the milling of corn grain.

Types of Corn Milling
There are two classifications of corn milling which are in pursuit of different final products and therefore create different co-products. The first is termed as the Wet Milling Industry. This milling process involved soaking or steeping whole corn, softening the kernels, and using further processing to create dried corn starch, corn syrup, sweetener, corn oil, and some dextrose and ethanol. Most of these products are destined for human consumption. The principle co-product from the Wet Milling Industry is dry corn gluten feed. The Wet Milling Industry is, for all practical purposes, mature and not growing. The second classification is the Dry Milling Industry. Corn grain is dry-ground and fermented to convert starch in to ethanol, creating two co-products, termed as distillers grains and distillers solubles. The product meaningful to ranches is dried distillers grains plus solubles, where ethanol facilities add solubles to the grain co-product and dry the final product to ~10% moisture. Contrary to the Wet Milling Industry, the Dry Milling Industry (Ethanol Industry) is experiencing rapid growth. To paint the picture, in 2004, the industry produced 3.41 billion gallons of ethanol constituting nearly two and a half times the 1.47 billion gallons produced in 1999. The result of the 3.41 billion gallons in 2004 was the production of approximately 7.3 million tons of distillers grains. Assuming that the majority of future ethanol growth will be in dry grind production, it is estimated that plants will be generating approximately 16 million tons of distillers grains in 2012, or more than twice the amount produced in 2004. Accordingly, more distillers grains will be entering the market with each passing year hunting for an animal’s mouth to feed. It is up for debate concerning the stability and longevity of this industry, but in the mean time, ranchers and feedyards have an opportunity to realize value from the increasing supply.

Corn Gluten Feed
When components (primarily starch) are removed from corn, the remaining nutrients in the co-products concentrate. Nutrients that are noteworthy to ranchers in the case of gluten feed are higher protein, phosphorus, and fiber levels versus corn grain. Corn bran, the fibrous portion of corn, is one of the most digestible fiber sources for ruminants ever discovered. Therefore, when gluten feed is fed on range, it will yield similar or higher energy relative to that of corn, without starch causing negative effects on forage digestion (Please reference Dr. Bill Smith’s article “Choosing The Right “Energy-Feed” For Grazing Cattle“). Protein in corn gluten feed averages 19% on a dry matter basis, compared to corn grain at around 9%. The form of this protein is mainly “rumen degradable”, so it is primarily used in the rumen as a source of protein for microbes. Phosphorus, a needed supplemental nutrient for range animals, usually is about .8% on a dry basis (2.5 times corn level). Since corn oil is harvested in the wet milling process, corn gluten feed is relatively low fat content (2.5%). The impact of corn gluten feed on physical quality in the manufacturing of finished feed is average; it does not destroy physical integrity of a cube, but does not have much for positive impact.

Corn Distillers Grains Plus Solubles
Since only starch is removed to produce ethanol, and corn is about 2/3’s starch, most other nutrients remaining in distillers grains are three times the nutrients in corn. Dried distillers grains in ranch trials have shown energy values 115% to as high as 127% of corn, due primarily to highly digestible corn bran and oil content of 10+%. Protein is 28 to 30% and is partially digested in the rumen (microbes), while a fair amount escapes rumen digestion and is available directly to the animal (escape or bypass protein). Phosphorus is .6%+, which is double that of corn. The challenge with distillers grains for our company is that the effect on physical integrity of finished product is negative due to high oil levels; cube length and hardness is reduced as levels of distillers grains increase in a product.

Corn co-products are of high value as sources of nutrients for range animals. AC Nutrition is committed to provide a means and level of expertise to assist ranchers in realizing this value. There are good supplies of gluten feed and dried distillers grains in the U.S. Range ruminants and feedyard cattle capture the most value from use of corn co-products when compared to hogs, chickens and dairy cattle, which is a niche. Distillers grains bring us challenges in manufacturing by reducing physical quality of finished product. In my past, I have seen several ranches that have changed expectations of cube hardness and length to gain the exceptional feeding value intrinsic to distillers grains. AC Nutrition built our current Hi Fat 33 Cube base partially on distillers grains, and feedback from ranches has been positive. We will continue in the future to try and maximize the use of distillers grains where applicable in order for our customers to capitalize on the increasing supplies and unrivaled nutritional value. It will take a shift in perception by our customer of what a finished cube or pellet should look like, and more focus will need placed on what the nutritional formulation does, rather than on what it looks like.

> Back to Technical Articles