DDGS variability data reveals key to sourcing for quality [Video]

POET's Kevin Herrick urges communication with DDGS suppliers to ensure consistent nutrient variability.

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Animal producers and nutritionists encounter variability in the nutrient content of all feed ingredients to some degree. To provide more insights on how widely ingredients can vary, Dr. Kevin Herrick, technical service director of nutrition, POET, delved into third party commercial laboratory data on the average and standard deviation of protein, neutral detergent fiber (NDF) and crude fat content in several common feedstuffs. His analysis showed notable variability in byproducts like Dried Distillers Grains (DDGS), wet brewers grains, corn gluten feed, soyhulls, and even in ingredients typically considered consistent, like soybean meal. 

Herrick said the variability found in DDGS can often be attributed to differences in bioethanol production processes. Homing in on the effects of processing methods on DDGS variability, he then collected third party lab data on DDGS samples from POET biorefineries across their footprint in the Midwest between Jan. 1, 2023, and Nov. 15, 2023. Table 1 shows the variability found in all sample groups. Table 1: Average and standard deviation of crude protein, NDF, and fat for several ingredients (% of dry matter).Table 1: Average and standard deviation of crude protein, NDF, and fat for several ingredients (% of dry matter).POET

To examine the significance a single source of DDGS can have on nutrient variability, Herrick analyzed sample data from one  bioprocessing location. This demonstrated that sourcing DDGS from a single supplier with consistent bioprocessing methods can reduce the risk of variability. For example, the protein variability found across all DDGS was almost three times more than the variability from the single bioprocessor. 

In this Feed & Grain Chat, Herrick discusses how nutrient variability impacts diet formulation, animal performance and the economic considerations. Gain insights on the sources of DDGS variability as Herrick highlights the importance of knowing your DDGS supplier.

Transcription of Feed & Grain Chat interview with Kevin Herrick, technical service director of nutrition, POET

Elise Schafer, editor, Feed & Grain: Hi, everyone, and welcome to Feed & Grain Chat. I'm your host Elise Schafer, editor of Feed & Grain. This edition of Feed & Grain Chat is brought to you by WATT Global Media and FeedandGrain.com. FeedandGrain.com is your source for the latest news, product and equipment information for the grain handling and feed manufacturing industries.

Today, I'm joined on Zoom by Kevin Herrick, technical service director of nutrition for POET. He's here to discuss how to reduce variability in feed ingredients and why it's important to know your ingredients suppliers. Hi, Kevin, thanks for joining me today.

Kevin Herrick, technical service director of nutrition for POET: Hello, thanks for the opportunity. Looking forward to our conversation.

Schafer: Of course, me too! Now, can you share the significance of variability in feed ingredients and its impact on animal nutrition and performance?

Herrick: Yep, sure thing. When we talk about variability, especially with livestock diets or formulations, it seems like everybody knows it's there, but maybe we underestimate the significance sometimes. So, from an animal perspective — animals love consistency. They want that same diet, the same time, the same everything. So the closer we can get to providing that same type of diet all the time, the better the animal performance. And it's kind of interesting that a lot of nutritionists, when they formulate diets, they recognize that ingredients will have some type of variability and they'll often formulate weight with a safety margin, but maybe they'll over-formulate for certain nutrients if they feel that a certain ingredient has more or less variability.

In the end, that costs the producer money because they're paying for nutrients that the animal doesn't need. And then in some cases, if we don't provide enough nutrients, then the animal performance can suffer. So, if we don't provide enough protein or energy or amino acids, then we aren't providing the necessary nutrients to meet the optimal performance of biological potential for the animals. So, there are multiple ways that it can that can affect both from an economic and also an animal performance standpoint.

Schafer: Now, tell us about the ingredient sample data you've collected and analyzed to learn how variability impacts nutritional quality.

Herrick: There’s a bunch of data out there and one of the approaches that I took was, a lot of the third party labs have their feed analysis available for and you can do a search for different regions, different ingredients over certain time points. So when I looked for the data for this project, I selected over about a year from a third party lab for distillers grains. That provided an estimate of distillers grains across different types of ethanol producers, different regions, different states, the whole large picture.

I then looked at specifically just POET data. As part of POET’s quality assurance program, each of our biorefineries submits samples of distillers grains to a third party lab on a monthly basis for nutrient composition and we store all that data. So, for just the distillers grains for across the POET network, I looked at all the biorefineries within POET and along that same timeframe, and then selected the same nutrients. And then finally, out of all those POET samples, I selected just one biorefinery and looked at those results for the same time period. In essence, I was able to look at the big picture for distillers grains, just [from the] ethanol producer standpoint, and then a single biorefinery, as well.

Schafer: And what did your findings tell us about the importance of knowing your DDGS supplier, and also, what's your advice for feed manufacturers when sourcing DDGS?

Herrick: As we would expect, the larger sample, or looking at the overall samples for distillers grains from other third party labs, we saw much more variability for the different nutrients that we looked at or that I analyzed. And we would probably expect that if we're thinking about corn coming from different regions, different ethanol producers, we probably would have a little bit more variability with some of the nutrients, even if we think about that extraction and how different ethanol producers extract that.

Then looking at samples from across POET’s footprint, or POET’s biorefineries, we’re spread over several states, so here too, we have a little bit more variability with corn supply. At the same time, since POET uses the same process, we saw less variability than we did when looking at distillers grains from multiple processors.

And then finally, looking at the single processor, as we would expect, we're getting corn from a from a much smaller region, same process and consistency over the entire year, so that variability was much less. My advice to a lot of the suppliers that are looking for ingredients is, don't just assume that distillers is going to have a lot of variability. So, knowing your source, talking with your provider, seeing some of this quality data that all these ethanol producers really generate and collect will definitely help give you more confidence as far as the consistency of the product that you get.

Schafer: How do practices that minimize ingredient variability fit into broader industry topics like precision nutrition and sustainability?

Herrick: Yes, sustainability is the buzzword now — everybody's looking at sustainability and how you define it. But one way that we define it from the nutrition standpoint is, matching up the nutrient requirements of the animal with what we're providing them in the diet. As I mentioned earlier, if we over-provide it, well, then we meet the animal’s requirements, but a lot of the nutrients are just wasted in the in the feces or in the environment. So, the closer that we can get to matching the animal’s requirements, the less that we're going to excrete, lose to the environment, and the better from a sustainability option, as well.

And that leads into another advent for the distillers industry — the production of corn fermented protein or higher protein ingredients. These are definitely more of a designer product because we're trying to meet a certain specification. And here, too, that works really well from a sustainability option because now we can go into these diets with higher crude protein requirements and better match up with the animal requirements.

Schafer: Excellent. Kevin, thank you so much for your insights today.

Herrick: You're welcome.

Schafer: That's all for today's Feed & Grain Chat. If you'd like to see more videos like this, subscribe to our YouTube channel, sign up for the Industry Watch Daily eNewsletter or go to feedandgrain.com and search for videos. Thanks for watching and we hope to see you next time!