There’s no reason the cattle-feeding industry in Texas cannot remain
strong and viable if it incorporates distillers grains into rations,
said a Texas Agricultural Experiment Station researcher.
“Our concern has been, ‘Will there be enough feed?’” said Dr. Jim
MacDonald, Experiment Station beef cattle nutritionist. “Assuming all
the distillers grains are available for livestock feed, clearly there
will be.” But, MacDonald said, the ratio of corn being fed vs.
distillers grains could go from 11-to-1 today, to 3-to-1 nationally in
the next 10 years.
“So we’d better figure out how to feed distillers grains,” he said.
Relatively few distillers grains are fed in the southern Plains states
now, MacDonald said. Some beef producers are reluctant because there’s
no incentive and no ready supply.
However, with the opening of two ethanol
plants scheduled later this year in the Texas Panhandle, a steady supply
of distillers grains should be available, making the alternative
feedstock more attractive, he said.
“In the future, as long as it is priced relative to corn, I think there
will be a necessity to use this new large pool of feed,” MacDonald said.
The proportion of corn used from 2002 to 2006 hasn’t changed much in the
areas of human consumption, high fructose production or exports, he
said. The biggest change has been corn moving from the livestock-feed
sector to the fuel-ethanol sector, MacDonald said. Livestock feed has
decreased from 60 percent to 55 percent in that time period, while the
ethanol fuel sector increased from 8 percent to 14 percent.
However, National Corn Growers Association forecasts show that while the
percentage has decreased, the actual bushels of corn produced will
continue to increase due to higher yields and acres planted, he said.
The acres of corn harvest is expected to rise from the current 71
million to 80-85 million over the next five years, MacDonald said.
Yields are projected to rise to almost 180 bushels per acre in the next
“We’re not sure how big the ethanol industry is going to get, but if
every plant being proposed as of now gets built, the Renewable Fuels
Association says we’ll be producing 12.5 billion gallons of ethanol a
year from starch,” he said.
In estimating feed availability for livestock, MacDonald assumed as much
as 15 billion gallons of ethanol being produced annually. At that rate,
35.5 percent of all corn would be needed for ethanol. This would bring
the amount of corn available for feed down from the current 60 percent
to 33.5 percent, assuming the other categories remain steady. Because
yields are expected to increase, he said the decrease of actual corn fed
will not be as dramatic, going from 6.1 billion bushels in 2006 to 5
billion bushels by 2017.
The beef and dairy industries are in the best position of any of the
livestock industry to use distillers grains, MacDonald said. Based on
the number of plants proposed in the Texas High Plains, he estimated
feed yards will need to include 15 percent to 20 percent of distillers
grains in the diet (moisture-free basis) to use all the available
The two Hereford, TX, plants, with a combined 200 million gallons of
ethanol production per year, will produce 665,000 tons of distillers
grains, he said. This quantity alone would be enough to include 6
percent to 7 percent distillers grains in the diets of the 5.75 million
head of cattle fed in the Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma region. If a
proportion higher than 20 percent were included into area feed yard and
dairy rations, distillers grains will need to be railed in from the
Midwest, he said.
Growth of the ethanol industry in the Corn Belt has created a greater
demand for corn in that area, MacDonald said. However, they now have a
large surplus of distillers grains. That could make them cheaper to rail
into Texas than whole corn.
In the tri-state area, distillers grains would be mixed with
steam-flaked corn. This is different from in the Midwest, where
dry-rolled corn is fed, he said.
Several studies are under way to see how to maximize the use of
distillers grains in the feed yard situation, MacDonald said. Those
results should be available later this summer.