DDGS — Good Feed, But Know What You’re Buying

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DDGS can fit well in feed rations, but obtaining the right quality and arranging delivery are not as easy as with other feeds, says a broker who handles the product. Ryan Slozka, of Rycom Trading in Kelowna, advises understanding the industry and its logistics before you start using it in your rations.

DDGS – distillers dried grain with solubles – is a byproduct of ethanol production. The grain and yeast are centrifuged out of the fermentation liquor, and the soluble nutrients left in the liquor are added. The nutrient profile depends on the grain used and the engineering and management of the plant where it’s produced.

Corn-based DDGS averages 89 per cent dry matter with 27 to 33 per cent crude protein, 8.8 to 12.4 per cent fat, three to 10 per cent ash and 0.4 to one per cent phosphorus. You can’t judge the quality of DDGS by looking at it, although smell can give away material that’s burned in the drying process.

Most of the DDGS available in Alberta is corn-based from about 20 plants in the Dakotas and Minnesota and shipped by rail via CPR, CNR or Burlington Northern lines. Trucking DDGS long distances is usually uneconomic because of its low density.

You can purchase DDGS through a broker, a reseller or a marketer, each offering different services.

Sourcing DDGS

Slozka says a broker can finds prices for you, but generally doesn’t have a lot of knowledge about the product and you have to look after transloading from railcar to trucks.

“There is no standard for this commodity. Its composition varies from plant to plant and month to month. That leaves you to deal with product variability,” says Slozka.

Marketers sell for a single plant or group of plants. They are knowledgeable about the product of their own plants and, because they deal directly with the plants, they may offer the best spot prices for full railcar loads. But, they are generally American and you deal with exchange and transloading. The plants pay marketers a percentage of the value of each trade.

Slozka, who acts as a broker for Asian and Mexican buyers, but as a reseller for Canadian buyers, says resellers can take on large positions with contracts that allow feeders to lock in margins.

“We handle all the details, currency exchange, customs and logistics and take on the risk of delivering under contract.”

However, Slozka also notes that traders don’t work for free, their margins are built into the trade. He suggests looking for independent verification of product nutrient profiles and traceability to demonstrate their commitment to meeting a feeder’s needs.

Logistics challenging

The logistics of shipping DDGS can be challenging. Earlier this year heavy snowfalls and floods prevented some plants from loading or shipping cars. To avoid delays, you may have to take DGGS from a different plant, possibly on a different rail line. There’s always the risk of derailments or washouts delaying delivery.

To avoid running out of DDGS, Slozka advises keeping a cushion of at least two weeks, preferably three weeks supply and staying in touch with your sales agent. CPR’s commercial transloading sites are at Dunmore, Coaldale, Wilson Siding, Monarch, Brent, Ponoka and Innisfail. CNR has a facility at Bashaw and BNSF uses Sunburst and Sweetgrass, Montana. Cars are also unloaded at private spots at Brooks, Barnwell and Broxburn.

DDGS can settle and compact inside rail cars due to humidity or the product not being left long enough to temper before being loaded. The product is not damaged and is safe to feed, but it can mean considerable delays for truckers. Most transloaders have special equipment to unload these “hard cars.” Livebottom trucks or hopper trailers with vibrators make unloading them easier.

Storing DDGS outside is not ideal, says Slozka, If you put it in a bin be sure to turn it promptly. The ideal storage, he says, is to pile it in a warehouse where you can use a payloader to move it to your feed mixer. Some people use mini-bulk grain bags.

Good storage can allow you to take advantage of lower prices during summer when prices are lower because there are fewer cattle on feed.

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Itscompositionvaries fromplanttoplantand monthtomonth.That leavesyoutodealwith productvariability.”

Ryan Slozka Rycom Trading

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