Producers Try to Manage Weights Amid Ethanol Problems, Plant Closures

Demand for DDGs 042720

The combination of ethanol plants and dried distiller grains (DDG) facilities closing is another blow for the livestock industry. This is as some producers begin to switch feed rations based on price, availability and in an effort to keep weights from getting too high.  

Ethanol plants and DDG facilities continue to sit idle or slow down production. 

“When we first heard the rumblings our local ethanol plant would close, there was a huge rush for the DDGs,” says Jason Angus, a farmer from Piper City, Ill. “[Livestock producers had questions as to] how much of a supply of DDGs do they have? What will [the facility] continue to produce?” 

That change for a major feed source is alarming for many livestock producers also dealing with the uncertainty of packers either slowing down or closing.  

“One day of missed marketings for us would pretty much put [our hog operation] back one week,” says Brady Reicks of Reicks View Farms in Lawler, Iowa.  

Some hog producers are taking DDGs out of their herd’s diet if it was a part of the feed ration before—to slow down weight gain.  

“We’ve actually had to pull DDGs out of [the hogs’] diet because they became too expensive and hard to get,” says Emington, Ill., hog producer Mike Haag.  

“We are moving to diets that use more corn or almost all corn later in the ration, which just slows down intake,” says Reicks 

They are also watching weights because hogs getting too big can add to the financial hit.  

“If you have pigs that are going to market at 300 pounds and you get them in that 350-pound average, you get pretty much a junk price for them,” says Audrey Angus, a swine specialist with Furst McNess. 

Angus says she’s helping her clients adjust their feed rations.  

“We’ve spent some time putting together diets that are not there to promote rapid growth like normal,” says Angus. “We’ve lowered the amount of protein and lowered the amount of energy so the pigs don’t gain as much weight as possible.” 

Cattle producers are making adjustments, too.  

Bruce Mershon, a livestock producer from Buckner, Mo., says, “There’s really new dynamics being played into our marketplace every day on the consumption side.” 

Livestock producers work to adjust to the coronavirus challenges, which now reshape the industry.  

Many hog producers may not have the storage to hoard rations in advance if they don’t use corn.