Livestock Producers: Storing Wet and Modified Distillers Grains

One opportunity that might help cattle feeders proactively secure feed supplies would be storing wet or modified distiller’s grains now to be fed at a later date. ( Wyatt Bechtel )

One of the primary challenges for livestock producers in the coming months could very well be feedstuff cost and availability due to the fact that the corn planted acreage and crop progress are both well behind normal benchmarks.

One opportunity that might help cattle feeders proactively secure feed supplies would be storing wet or modified distiller’s grains now to be fed at a later date. The following table shows the USDA reported average prices in South Dakota for corn as well as modified and wet distillers for the last week in June in 2019 compared to 2018. Corn prices in 2019 are more than $1 per bushel greater than a year ago. However, reported prices for both modified and wet distillers are nearly identical for both time periods.

  Last week of June 2019 Last week of June 2018
Corn, $/bushel 4.21 3.08
Modified DGS, $/ton 62.88 64.55
Wet DGS, $/ton 42.00 41.00
Source: USDA Ag Marketing Service, July 1, 2019.

Securing and storing a supply of distillers now for feeding later would be one way to take advantage of what could be relatively less expensive distillers compared to waiting until fall. Of course, predicting commodity markets is an inexact science at best, but one could easily make the case for much higher feed costs next fall. If nothing else, purchasing distillers now takes advantage of a more favorable corn:DGS price ratio and locks in at least a portion of feed costs for the upcoming year.

Storage Options

South Dakota State University has been one of the leaders in distiller’s grains utilization. A portion of that work has identified several different storage options available that have been successfully utilized to store wet and modified distiller’s grains in either bunkers for bags.

Storing WDGS can be challenging because the product by itself does not readily stack or pack in a bunker or pile. One approach to solve that problem has been to mix about 70 to 80% WDGS and 20 to 30% roughage on an as-fed basis. That mixture can then be stored in either a bunker silo or pile and covered with plastic. Another possibility is storing WDGS in a silage bag; in this case care needs to be taken to avoid excess pressure on the bag to prevent rupture.

Because MDGS contain less moisture, they lend themselves better to being stored in a bunker or pile without being mixed with other roughage compared to WDGS. In some cases mixing 10% roughage would make packing a bunker silo easier. Using either a silage bag or covering a pile or bunker with plastic will help prevent spoilage and dry matter losses until the start of the feeding period.

The Bottom Line

When considering whether or not to store distiller’s grains, producers do need to consider labor costs, costs of cover or bags, and in the case of WDGS the availability of low-quality roughage for mixing. Availability of modified or wet distillers could be an issue, depending upon local plant production schedules and product demand. There is also the impact on cash position and working capital to consider when pre-paying for a large quantity of feedstuff.