Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Update on the Ethanol Cafo Connection

Herb Bucholtz, a Michigan State University professor, spoke at a regional meeting of the Purdue Dairy Extension Team and the Indiana Professional Dairy Producers held for dairy farmers in Decatur yesterday. The Fort Wayne Journal picked up the story (link):
Distillers’ grain contains less starch and a higher concentration of fat than corn. Ethanol production removes much of the starch from corn, but that nutrient helps cows make glucose, which increases their milk production, Bucholtz said. Farmers who want to increase their milk production may be better off feeding more corn to their herd, he said.

“It’s not just a simple substitution” of replacing corn with distillers’ grain, Bucholtz said. The two feeds contain different amounts of nutrients, he said.
What is his recommendation?
Bucholtz advised area farmers to use distillers’ grain for about 10 percent of a cow’s dry feed. Some farmers may be able to gradually increase that amount to as much as 20 percent, depending on what else the cow eats. Distillers’ grain tends to work best when farmers combine it with a diet containing lots of alfalfa, he said.
In an earlier post on the subject, I neglected to include a reference to the USDA website on the subject of adding distillers grain (aka CDG) to livestock feed. The USDA site indicated:
"Our research has shown that distiller's grains can be used for as much as 60 percent of the diet in beef cattle," said Berger. "We've achieved smaller levels with dairy cattle. It is clear, however, that we can greatly expand the use of distiller's grains in growing and finishing rations for beef cattle."
Now I'm left with a question in my mind... Is this the reason the Jasper County BZA (or at least 4 out of 5 members of the BZA) are so eager to see the Poultry-to-Veal Calf operation go through?

The new IBEC ethanol plant is no secret. They even state on their website, "...the wet cake by-product of fermentation, will be marketed to livestock producers."

Since beef cattle seems to be the only livestock where you can "beef up" the volume of distiller grains used in feed (pun intended), then I'm guessing there just might be a few more veal operations coming to Indiana.

As I've mentioned before, I'm all for finding alternative fuels and energy sources. The recent U.S. Treasury statistics are scary enough to convince most anyone:
The U.S. imports two-thirds of its oil, and the strategic oil reserves have declined from 120 days in 1985 (i.e., we had enough oil to go 120 days without imports then). It is now down to 60 days. A hike or embargo could pinch the U.S. economy hard.
But corn based ethanol? I'm still skeptical. A lot of people indicated it would not impact the price of corn much. Well, that prediction appears to have been blown out of the water very early this year. (link)
The price of corn rose steadily throughout 2006. Corn prices have averaged around $2.50 a bushel for the past decade, but increased to than $3.00 a bushel in 2006, and then in January 2007, the benchmark price of corn reached an exchange-imposed limit of $3.96 a bushel shortly after trading began Friday, January 11 at the Chicago Board of Trade.
Another problem many ethanol plants may be facing is where will they be getting all that corn?
Nationwide in the U.S. , supplies of corn are expected to drop to 752 million bushels this year, a drop from last month's forecast of 935 million bushels and a steep decline from last year's supply of 1.967 billion.
As food processors and biofuel producers increasingly compete in the same commodity markets, I'm wondering how many of them will still be in operation in the next 3 to 5 years.

Back to the calf operation planned next to those subdivisions. I've heard the proposed calf operation has changed it's IDEM application, dropping from 10,000-head to 3,500-head CAFO. In my humble opinion, it's the wrong spot to have ANY CAFO, regardless if it's an illegitimate poultry operation or a calving operation. And if the ethanol-plant-distilled-grains-by-product problem factored into the BZA's decision, based on the news coming out... I'm wondering how many of their recent CAFO approvals will survive the next 3 to 5 years. (You heard about the bottom dropping out of pork again?)

Oh... did I tell you? In Europe another interesting prediction has been made. "The days of industrial farming and food production are coming to an end..." (link) Now, I do like the sound of that!


Anonymous said...

its not a veal calf operation... check the minutes of the meetings

kmyers said...

Actually... the application is for a Dairy calf operation... but on further questioning at the meeting, it was learned it would be used for the "male" calves which would be raised for veal. This news was learned at the meeting. Even the Purdue University expert commented on this revelation in several parts of his presentation, indicating his figures regarding manure were based on the assumption this would be a Dairy calf operation, and stating his figures would be higher since now we learn it would be used predominently for veal calves - not female calves (aka heifers). You can call it a Dairy calf operation all you like, but when the majority of the "product" is male calves for veal, then in fact -- it is a veal calf operation.

Anonymous said...

again it is not a veal calf operation and no by products of ethanol can be used here.

kmyers said...

Interesting... so, in other words, they are planning to use this facility for mainly dairy calves? (ie heifers) ...and NOT for the male calves that were to be trucked in from the various Dairy operations as indicated in the meetings?

It appears Don Shelman, the litigator at the meetings for the CAFO owners may have been misinformed when he made his presentation?

It's good to hear they do not intend to use ethanol by-products, but I would feel better if I knew the information was coming from the owners and/or managers of the proposed CAFO. Are you?