Distillers Grains Facts

  • Distillers grains are a co-product obtained after the starch portion of the corn kernel is fermented into ethanol. In fact, two-thirds of a bushel of corn is used to process ethanol and the remaining one-third goes into distillers grains, a high-protein livestock feed.
  • One bushel of corn produces approximately 2.8 gallons of ethanol and 18 pounds of distillers grains.
  • One acre of corn produces 475 gallons of ethanol and 1.5 tons of distillers grains.
  • Distillers grains have three times the nutrient value of corn. It is an excellent source of protein, energy and fiber. DDGs-feeding cattle
  • The energy value of distillers grains equals or exceeds corn.
  • Distillers grains are typically sold in wet, modified and dry form.
  • Distillers grains values are typically between 75 and 90 percent the price of corn. This relative price difference makes distillers grains a good value for livestock and poultry feeders using the co-product as an energy feed.
  • Distillers grains typically replace corn and/or soybean meal in livestock and poultry rations, providing a measure of price relief on the replaced products and extending feed supplies.
  • Distillers grains can also lower feed costs by reducing the need for some commercial feed additives, such as phosphorus.
  • Incorporating distillers grains into rations improves feed efficiency while maintaining carcass quality and grade.
  • Know your distillers grains. Ethanol plants provide a nutrient analysis of their co-products so diets can be formulated to optimize the value of distillers grains. Please click here for nutrient profiles and to find a supplier near you.
  • Distillers grains can provide some health benefits to certain species. DDGS reduces acidosis in feedlot cattle fed high grain diets. In addition, DDGS may benefit young, growing pigs in resisting moderate ileitis.
  • Contracts for distillers grains are available and many feeders prefer to lock in their needs for six months or more.
  • One-third of every acre “dedicated” to ethanol production is returned to the market in the form of livestock feed, thereby increasing the availability of corn for other uses.

    Distillers Grains

    Pile of Distillers Grains at the Golden Grain Energy ethanol production facility in Mason City, Iowa.

  • As new ethanol process technologies are commercialized, a new range of co-products will emerge. Technologies are under development that could reduce the presence of certain minerals in distillers grains and improve the availability of amino acids in the feed. In the future, livestock will have a menu of co-products to choose from to meet the dietary needs of specific species.
  • In the 2013-14 marketing year, the U.S. ethanol industry produced 39.2 million metric tons of high quality feed, making the renewable fuels sector one of the largest feed processing segments in the U.S. This amount of feed exceeds the total amount of grain consumed by all of the beef cattle in the nation’s feedlots.
  • Beef and dairy cattle account for about 79% of domestic distillers grains consumption, while swine consumes approximately 12%  and poultry 8%. Other species, such as fish and sheep, account for the remaining approximately 1%.
  • Research indicates distillers grains can account for the of daily feed rations as follows:
    • Beef cattle: 10-40%
    • Dairy cows: 10-30%
    • Swine: (Depends on growth stage)
    • Poultry: 10-15%
  • According to the University of Nebraska, the energy value of distillers grains is consistently higher than corn, providing approximately 130% – 150% of the energy equivalent of corn when fed to beef cattle.