In early 2020, the U.S. bioethanol industry encountered a storm. Fuel ethanol demand was decimated due to a combination of severely depressed oil prices and reduced automobile use by consumers because of COVID-19 quarantines.
Diversified product portfolios including biofuels, plastics, fertilizers, carbon dioxide, disinfectants and animal feeds add to the income stream of most ethanol distillers. These portfolios are growing due to research investments yielding new, innovative products. For example, some distillers are placing more emphasis on livestock feeds as they move to offering a range of new products, in addition to continued production of dried distillers grain with solubles.
A new corn fermentation protein, which has been on the market in limited amounts for 10 years, is now available in significantly greater quantities. The protein is a golden-colored dry material manufactured via a new process, Still Pro 50. Patented by Fluid Quip Technologies, the process is now used by five U.S. ethanol distillers:
- Badger State Ethanol, Monroe, Wis.
- United Wisconsin Grain Producers, Friesland, Wis.
- Flint Hills Resources, Fairmont, Neb., and Shell Rock, Iowa (under construction)
- Green Plains Inc., Shenandoah, Iowa, and Wood River, Neb.
- Little Sioux Corn Processors, Marcus, Iowa (under construction)
"These new technologies allow more precise isolation of corn components through additional mechanical separation steps," says Sarah McKay, director of market development, National Corn Growers Association. "The additional steps provide more control points, which can produce more consistent products and optimize animal feed quality. In addition, it is possible to recover side streams for specific nutritional purposes. Reduced dryer loading in the new processes improves nutritional value of DDGS and decreases plant carbon usage."
"Compared to DDGS, Still Pro 50 produced product is very different and has a much higher nutritional value [Table 1]," says Peter Williams, a senior nutritionist for Fluid Quip Technologies. "The new protein can add nutrition to beef and dairy cattle diets, poultry and swine feeds, pet food and aquaculture diets. Still Pro 50 is a combination of spent yeast and grain-derived corn gluten protein, which are recovered after the ethanol fermentation process."
Maximized Stillage Coproducts is the registered trade name for the FQT process used to make the new protein by distillers, who assign their trade names to their products.
Fish meal replacement
Hans Stein, University of Illinois, conducted trials to determine the impact on growth of weanling pigs by substituting the corn fermentation protein product for fish meal. The trial was conducted over a three-week period with Phase 1 covering the first week and Phase 2 consisting of weeks 2 and 3. Four different diets were fed during each phase (Table 2). The control diet was based on corn and soybean meal, and the other three diets contained 5%, 10% or 15% Still Pro 50 product replacing fish meal. All Phase 1 diets contained 3% blood plasma and 20% whey powder. Plasma and whey replace nutrients and antibodies the young piglets were receiving in their mothers' milk. Phase 2 diets did not contain plasma, and whey powder content was reduced to 10%. All diets in both phases were formulated to meet current (2012) estimates for nutrient requirements of weanling pigs issued by the National Research Council.
A total of 160 pigs were used in this experiment, with eight replicate pens per treatment and five pigs per pen. Pigs were weighed at the beginning of the experiment and at the conclusion of each phase. Daily feed intake was recorded and average daily gain, average daily feed intake and gain-to-feed ratio were calculated for each treatment group. The gain-to-feed ratio is a key efficiency measurement and is also known as the feed conversion ratio.
"During both phases of the study, average daily gain of the weanling pigs decreased as the concentrations of Still Pro 50 protein were increased. There was no effect on G:F ratio, however, and this indicates that utilization of Still Pro 50 was no different than fish meal. Conclusions of the study are that Still Pro 50 product can partially replace fish meal in weanling pig diets," Stein says.
"In this trial, the pelleted feed containing Still Pro 50 was very dusty, which probably explains the reduced feed intake. In subsequent trials, where dust-free pellets were fed, Still Pro 50 protein increased feed intake," Williams says.
Why would a hog farmer want to replace fish meal with this product? "Fish meal is included in swine and poultry diets because of its excellent nutritional benefits," says Neil Auchterlonie, technical director, International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organization. "It contains 62% to 70% protein plus a wide range of micronutrients, including the amino acid profile and vitamin and mineral composition. Fish meal normally comprises 5% to 6% or less of terrestrial livestock diets."
Research has shown fish meal to improve both growth and health of weaned pigs. It is known to have comparatively high digestibility, often resulting in improved feed conversion ratios. The disadvantage of fish meal is that it is very expensive compared to other feedstuffs. Replacing some of the fish meal with the corn fermentation protein in Phase 1 and Phase 2 pig starter diets can significantly reduce feed costs.
Fermented soybean meal replacement
F.B. Sandberg, S.J. England and M.R. Bible, with Furst-McNess Co., conducted a feeding study in a commercial environment to determine the effect on weanling pig performance when replacing fermented soybean meal (NF8 brand) with Gold Pro. The MSC process is used to manufacture the modified fermented corn protein used in Gold Pro, a modified grain product.
Rations fed in the study are listed in Table 3. The three treatments studied were:
- No Gold Pro, 10% NF8 (none)
- 5% Gold Pro, 5% NF8 (partial)
- 10% Gold Pro, (complete)
The experiment involved 472 weaned pigs that were 21 days of age and weighed approximately 15 pounds. There were 29 pigs per pen, and four to six pens per treatment. To test the immediate postweaning effect of the protein replacement, pigs were fed the treatment diets upon arrival. They were weighed, and feed consumption was recorded on days 0, 7 and 21 of the test. ADG, ADFI and FCR were calculated. To replicate commercial production as closely as possible, pigs that did not respond to injectable antibiotic treatment were tagged and moved to sick pens.
Results showed improved feed intake with increasing levels of Gold Pro in the diet. Pigs fed increasing levels of the product were also found to have lower mortality, which suggests the product may improve piglet health.
Animal proteins such as spray dried plasma and red blood cells have traditionally provided large amounts of branched-chain amino acids to pig starter diets. Due to biosecurity concerns, however, animal protein-free feeds are becoming more popular with hog farmers. New protein products made by certain ethanol distillers using the corn fermentation protein process have high contents of branched-chain amino acids.
Research results demonstrate significant potential for replacement of animal proteins with corn-based proteins in weanling pig diets.