There’s no doubt that corn is one of the world’s most a-maize-ing crops! It has so many uses that benefit people all around the world. Over the next few weeks, we will feature a new blog series called, “For the Love of Corn”, where we will look at the six different high-value corn product categories and how they are used.
This week, we will take a look at the high-value corn product category, Feed Products or Co-Products. Corn is a very versatile grain – and when processed in ethanol plants, “wet” mills or “dry” mills, its components can be made into many kinds of feed ingredients for livestock, which the corn and livestock industry call “co-products.” These refined corn feed products provide protein, fiber, minerals and vitamins to feed the cattle, fish, hogs, and poultry that enrich our diets.
Ethanol plants are located across Nebraska, creating a good local market for corn. The plants take that corn and pull out the starch, which is distilled into ethanol for fuel. Some ethanol plants also remove the feed-grade corn oil from the kernel, selling it separately to be used as livestock feed, while others pull out the corn germ, creating corn germ meal. The remainder of the kernel, plus the leftovers from the distilling process, are then mixed together into what is known as distiller’s grains.
Distillers grains are an excellent feed ingredient for livestock – especially cattle – and can be sold dried or “wet” (a mash-like consistency). Dried distillers grains can be stored and shipped around the world, while wet distillers grains are typically used within a short period of time.
In the milling industry, starch is separated from the rest of the kernel (the protein and fiber). The starch component can be left as corn starch, distilled or converted to several kinds of sweeteners, but the other components are used for livestock feed.
The protein portion of starch is typically a golden-colored feed ingredient known as corn gluten meal. Corn gluten meal supplies vitamins, minerals, and energy in poultry feeds; pet food processors value it for its high digestibility and low residue.
The remaining fiber can be combined with with condensed distillery solubles (what’s left over after distilling the starch) to produce corn gluten feed. Corn gluten feed can be dried, made into pellets or sold “wet” (mash-like) for livestock feed—providing a high quality protein and fiber source.
In some cases, the condensed fermented corn extractives, known as steepwater, are marketed for use in liquid feeds. Steepwater is a liquid protein supplement for cattle and is also used as a binder in feed pellets.