FEATURED FALL 2018 ISSUE
New Product Can Help Livestock Producers Feed Cattle, Bison More Efficiently
For South Dakota rancher Dustin McIntosh, cost ultimately will determine the best future feed for his cattle. Dakota Gold ProPellet — a promising new product from POET — is among his options.
McIntosh’s test with ProPellet resulted in reduced feed losses, and he found the quality of the durable product to be highly consistent. In addition, livestock performance with ProPellet was similar to the cattle’s performance with a previous feed ration.
“It’s definitely encouraging,” McIntosh said.
ProPellet is the latest example of how POET continuously strives to create or improve products that serve domestic and global needs. It’s a highly nutritious form of distillers dried grain that can help livestock producers more efficiently feed cattle and bison.
“We’re always looking to find new uses or new markets for our products, whether it is with different species, shipping product to different geographic regions or finding new ways to use a product,” said Greg Breukelman, President of POET Nutrition, POET’s animal feed division. “We’re always trying to meet the needs of the market and find better solutions for our customers.”
With a network of 29 production facilities, POET is widely known as the world’s largest producer of biofuels. POET bioprocessing plants also produce valuable coproducts, such as Dakota Gold DDGS (distillers dried grain with solubles), a popular animal feed.
Dakota Gold is a loose feed for swine, poultry and dairy cows as well as beef cattle. Company research indicates that compressing Dakota Gold DDGS into a sturdy, portable pellet can help beef, dairy and cowcalf producers lower feed costs, largely by reducing product loss.
The innovative, cold-cooking method that POET uses to make Dakota Gold — known as the BPX® process — results in hard, durable pellets that are made without binding materials and are consistent in quality. Converting starch from corn to sugar and then fermenting it into ethanol without heat preserves nutrients and produces a feed rich in protein and phosphorus.
Although converting loose DDGS to pellets adds processing costs, the reductions in product loss, or shrink, make pellets a more cost-effective and convenient way for ranchers to feed livestock, according to Gregg Koerner, Merchandising Manager for POET Nutrition.
Producers who have tried the pellets are excited about the product, Koerner said. “Quite a few people feel it’s going to give them a different feeding option and one that, in the long run, will save them a little bit of money,” he said.
Mixing pelleted Dakota Gold with forage results in a highly digestible feed mix, said Kevin Herrick, Ph.D., Technical Services Director in POET Nutrition. The durability of the pellets makes transporting the feed easier, with reduced risk of crumbling and potential loss. That durability increases flexibility for feeding operations, Herrick said.
Pellets can be moved around easier to be placed on feeding bunks or on the ground. To add to the versatility, POET makes ProPellet in two diameters: one-fourth of an inch and three-fourths of an inch.
“You get something a little bigger, a little harder. There’s much less loss to the environment,” Herrick said.
Feeding loose forms of any brand of DDGS to livestock outside can be less efficient because lighter feed can blow away or more easily be stomped into the ground by animals. POET’s experiences indicate that using ProPellet can reduce feed losses by as much as 38 percent.
POET Biorefining – Mitchell, S.D., is making ProPellet. Mitchell was a logical place to begin production because of the large and potentially growing inventory of cattle in nearby ranches, POET executives said. National agricultural data from 2017 indicated that South Dakota ranked fifth among states in beef cow population and eighth in cattle sales.
Cattle numbers in western South Dakota and in parts of neighboring states are likely to increase as the livestock economy improves or as production challenges in other parts of the nation get tougher. Initial marketing efforts have focused on serving cattle and bison producers in western South Dakota and parts of Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana.
POET has been contacting prospective customers and holding regional meetings in the targeted marketing region, said Isaac Crawford, Vice President of Trading and Merchandising in POET Nutrition. He is part of a four-member team that has helped launch the new product. Team goals include providing topnotch customer service.
“We’ve had a really good response with everything we’ve done,” Crawford said. “There are a lot of opportunities for producers to save and be more efficient in their operations.”
McIntosh — the cattle feeder who has tested ProPellet — also works as a loan officer in Kennebec, S.D. He ranches with his father, Marvin, in the Gregory, S.D. area.
The McIntoshes buy cattle at about 400 or 450 pounds, feed them up to about 900 pounds, and resell them. Marvin cares for the cattle on a day-today basis. Dustin handles the financial end of the business, including figuring out the best feed rations.
ProPellet sells at a premium, but less feed is lost to the environment and, in wet conditions, to mold, Dustin McIntosh said. In addition, the smaller-sized pellets appear to be highly palatable for calves.
ProPellet offers advantages to bison ranchers, too.
“We’ve discovered that there is pretty good demand in the buffalo industry as well. That one has kind of been a surprise to us,” said Koerner. “There are some very big buffalo feedlots out there.”
John and Melanie Cammack are buffalo producers in western South Dakota who have tried ProPellet. John ranches buffalo with his uncle, Lane Cammack, and with his father, Mike Cammack, in Stoneville, S.D. In addition, John works with his grandfather, Floyd Cammack, who raises beef cattle.
John Cammack and his partners feed about 400 buffalo cows. They fed buffalo ProPellet mixed with a soybean product during a drought last year and continued the ration through the winter. ProPellet had the same amount of protein and more fat than a wheat product they previously had been using, he said.
Despite their similarly large size, buffalo cows eat less than beef cows and seem to like cold weather more. However, feeding bison can present special challenges, John Cammack said. For example, buffalo have a strong pecking order in which animals eat first. So special effort is required to make sure all animals get adequately fed.
When ProPellet is stacked in small piles around a pasture, buffalo will eat it down to the dirt, Cammack said, so they obviously like it. “They don’t waste anything. That kind of surprised me. I thought there would be more waste,” he said. “I thought it would be dustier, too.”
POET has been selling ProPellets on a small scale for more than a year, and sales efforts are ramping up. With the new, $5 million pellet-producing system operating in Mitchell, production is expected to increase to about 70,000 to 100,000 tons of pellets per year.
POET Biorefining – Mitchell will continue to produce wet and dry Dakota Gold DDGS, too. Pellet-making capacity could expand beyond Mitchell in the future.
“If it goes as we expect it to go, we foresee adding some mills down the road,” Koerner said.