Distiller's grains may be getting all the attention, but this 21,000-sow, farrow-to-finish operation has found many useful by-product feeds.

Jimmy Tosh, owner of Tosh Farms, Henry, TN, wasn't worried when he spotted employees nibbling muffin mix bought from a nearby ADM plant and intended for his swine rations.

“It was very good; I was eating it myself,” Tosh quips of the tasty blueberry and strawberry crumbles in the mix. Tosh says at $50/ton, the mix was a good buy, available because it was an overrun or out-of-date batch. The mix went into Tosh' s finishing rations as a corn substitute.

Tosh built the 21,000-sow business from a small feeder pig finishing enterprise he started while a student at the University of Tennessee. After expanding several times, he constructed a commercial-sized feedmill in 1996. That's when he started looking for alternatives to lower diet costs.

His first departure from a traditional corn-soy diet came with the addition of wheat middlings, or “midds,” in gestation rations, where energy requirements are relatively low. Midds are the screenings, bran, germ and flour remnants from a nearby flour mill. Tosh originally used the midds in gestation rations, where energy requirements are relatively low.

Today the farm uses wheat midds in most rations, including up to 12% in finishing rations.

Over the years, 30-40% of Tosh's diets have included alternative feeds. Hominy feed, a by-product from a Jackson, TN, plant that processes corn meal and grits, is a mainstay. Rich in energy, hominy feed consists of the endosperm and hulls from white corn.

“It will almost always price into a ration,” says Tosh, who uses a weekly spreadsheet to compare costs for various diets and ingredients.

Economics

In early January 2007, Tosh was in good shape regarding feed costs — $120.96/ton for his primary finishing ration. Ingredients were contracted in 2006 with corn priced at $98.20/ton, soybean meal at $181.86/ton, hominy feeds for $62/ton and wheat midds at $71/ton.

But Tosh was bracing himself for an inevitable feed cost hike. He figured he'd pay more than $100/ton for hominy feeds in his next contract, but says it would still price into the ration. (See Tables 1 and 2 for a cost comparison of Tosh's standard finishing ration with and without hominy. Costs are based on market prices the last week of January.) “By-products seem to become much more attractive when you've got high grain prices,” Tosh says. “When you've got cheap corn, the savings are not anywhere near as great as when you've got high corn prices.”

Tosh's goal is to feed a least-cost ration that takes advantage of inventories already purchased. “We set a minimum and maximum for feeds we have on hand; you can only feed so much of certain items. In a true least-cost ration, you wouldn't set a minimum,” he says.

Pet Food and Other Options

Tosh and his ingredient buyer, Robby Hamilton, consult with nutritionist Matt Steidinger, Swine Nutrition Services, Anchor, IL, to balance diets and evaluate new ingredients. “We are not afraid to change the rations if something comes along,” Tosh says.

A few years back, Steidinger suggested incorporating pet food by-products.

“I thought it was a great idea and started putting costs in — it saved quite a bit of money,” Tosh says. He secured a contract with a Missouri plant, purchasing mostly dog food overruns or products that didn't meet manufacturing specifications. Occasionally, cat food is also used.

Tosh describes the dog food, delivered as a ground, brown meal, as “very good, very high protein and high fat.” Finishing rations contain 6% of the meal. “The thing that makes dog food attractive is price, and the fact that it contains ruminant meat and bone meal, which can't be fed to cattle,” he says.

That gives pork producers good buying power — when it's available, he says. “It runs in cycles and availability has been a problem.”

Tosh and Hamilton are planning to replace the dog food with dried distiller's grains with solubles (DDGS), which Tosh has used in the past. They are working on a contract with an ethanol plant about 100 miles from the mill.

Tosh Farms already has feed trucks headed to the area, so the back haul will minimize trucking costs.

Currently, overhead storage at the farm's mill is being expanded. Until that's complete, they only have room to store three by-product feeds — midds, hominy feeds and one other option, such as dog food or DDGS. Any other alternatives are purchased in smaller quantities and used immediately, he explains.

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All By-Products Not Equal

When a new alternative or supplier is identified, Hamilton requests a sample from a recent shipment the supplier has sold. Nutrient analyses are conducted in an independent laboratory to get a clear picture of nutrient content. This is important, because not all by-products are created equal. It is important to understand what you are buying, he stresses.

“Bakery is the most variable by-product. It could be bread or it could be cookies or cakes — so you've got to know the source and how they blend it,” Tosh says. “One source might be worth significantly more just because of the protein and energy levels.

“With bakery products, you've also got to check for salt. You might not need to add any salt to the ration,” Tosh says.

As every ingredient truck is unloaded, a sample is pulled and filed for a week. The weekly samples are blended together and sent for nutrient analysis once a month. “If you don't know the nutrient profile, you don't know what the value is,” Tosh says.

By-Product Challenges

“The only downside of by-products is flowability,” Tosh says. Because of the high fat content, dog and cat food doesn't always flow off delivery trucks smoothly. “Some loads will unload fine, and some are really a pain to get off,” Tosh says. “Wheat midds and hominy feeds are somewhat bulky and can restrict flow.”

All corn goes through a roller, which creates more uniform particle size and improves flowability through feeders.

Tosh says using by-product feeds can help save in feed processing costs. “There are some energy savings from not having to grind the by-products,” he says.

As an aside, Tosh's feedmill currently pellets about half of the finishing rations. The other half is ground, which can contribute to lower feed efficiency.

Before Tosh buys additional pelleting equipment, he will continue to track finishing performance differences between the two processing methods. To date, he's not convinced it is worth the extra investment.

Not Every Bargain is a Good Deal

Late last year, Hamilton got wind of a large load of bakery by-products sitting on four barges at a dock in New Orleans. The load was valued at about $100,000. Before the farm seriously considered buying, Hamilton flew down to check it out.

“The barges were wet, which causes spontaneous combustion. By the time we got it, we could have had four loads of ash,” explains Hamilton. “We didn't buy it.”

In an era of high grain prices, it pays to consider feedstuff alternatives — so long as you take steps to know what you are buying.

By-Product Buying Tips

Independent nutritionist Matt Steidinger of Swine Nutrition Services, Anchor, IL, provides consulting services to Tosh Farms and about 70 other swine producers. He gives this advice for purchasing by-product feed:

  1. Look for by-product sources within about 50 miles of the farm to minimize trucking expense.

  2. Ask for a delivered price or be sure to figure trucking expenses into the price.

  3. Make sure your mill is set up to handle by-products that may be delivered in bags or totes. Also, make sure your system can handle the product if it is bulky (fluffy) or has flowability issues caused by high fat content or other reasons.

  4. Obtain and test a typical sample of the selected ingredient.

  5. Seek a nutritionist's advice to compare the value of the by-product formulated in your ration compared to a corn-soy diet.

  6. Collect and test samples of by-products as they are delivered.

  7. Keep detailed records of sources, ingredients and test results.

  8. Consider testing rations with and without by-products in side-by-side feeding comparisons.

  9. Set up a protocol for ongoing testing of finished feeds, and keep records (noting ingredient sources) so you can compare feed performance.

For more information, contact Steidinger at (815) 848-3526.

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To demonstrate the value of by-product feeds in lowering his ration costs, Jimmy Tosh compared costs (based on market costs for all ingredients on Jan. 31, 2007) for his finishing diet with and without hominy feeds. In Table 2, with hominy feeds as 20% protein, the diet costs $176.10/ton. The $4.54/ton savings is significant, according to Tosh, who has a 21,000-sow, farrow-to-finish operation in Henry, TN.

View these tables in a new window

Table 1. Standard Least-Cost Finishing Ration
(Batch size - 6,000 lb.; - Date 1/31/2007 - Formula cost: $180.64/ton)
Least-cost formula
Ingredient name Formula, lb. % Min., lb. Max., lb. $/Ton
Soybean meal 1,724.67 28.75 225
Ground corn 2,910.34 48.50 142
Dical 18.5 26.34 0.44 320
Wheat middlings 720.00 12.00 720.0 720.0 110
Sodium selenite 3.00 0.05 3.0 235
Mineral premix 4.50 0.08 4.5 6.0 802
Basic vitamin 2.70 0.05 2.7 2.7 2,710
Salt 15.57 0.26 13.5 30.0 95
Lysine 9.80 0.16 24.0 1,820
Copper sulfate 3.00 0.05 3.0 3.0 2,421
Calcium carbonate 51.31 0.86 35
Dog food 28% 225.00 3.75 225.0 132
Fat, animal & veg. 180.00 3.00 180.0 395
Fat-downstream* 123.48 2.06 395
Phytase-10000 0.30 0.01 0.4 17,760
Table 1. Standard Least-Cost Finishing Ration
Unused ingredient options
Ingredient name     Min., lb. Max., lb. $/Ton
Cookie meal 700.0 132
Meat bone ML 50 400.0 238
DL-methionine 2,538
Threonine 2,900
Hominy feed 1,200.0 110
Nutrient solution
Nutrient name Amount Minimum Maximum
Protein, crude, % 20.47
Fat, crude, % 7.78
Fiber, crude, % 3.31
Calcium, % 0.68 0.68 0.90
Phos., total % 0.62 0.45 0.70
Phos. available, % 0.29 0.29
M. E. swine Kcal/lb. 1,535 1,535
Salt, % 0.30 0.30 0.60
TID lysine**, % 1.10 1.10
TID Meth+Cystine, % 0.60 0.60
TID threonine, % 0.66 0.66
TID tryptophan, % 0.22 0.19
Phytase, FYT/kg 500 500
NDF,** % 11.60
Lysine, % 1.22 1.15
Lysine-available, % 1.08 0.95
Methionine, % 0.34 0.30
Tryptophan, % 0.25 0.18
Threonine, % 0.78 0.60
Meth. + Cystine, % 0.70 0.50

*Fat (downstream) is fat that goes in after the coater.

** TID = True Ideal Digestibility; NDF = Neutral Detergent Fiber

Table 2. Least-Cost Ration with Hominy
(Batch size - 6,000 lb.; - Date 1/31/2007 - Formula cost: $176.10/ton)
Least-cost formula Ingredient name Formula, lb. % Min., lb. Max., lb. $/Ton
Soybean meal 1,706.35 28.44 225
Ground corn 1,677.53 27.96 142
Dical 18.5 24.93 0.42 320
Wheat middlings 720.00 12.00 720.0 720.0 110
Sodium selenite 3.00 0.05 3.0 235
Mineral premix 4.50 0.08 4.5 6.0 802
Basic vitamin 2.70 0.05 2.7 2.7 2,710
Salt 15.57 0.26 13.5 30.0 95
Lysine 9.46 0.16 24.0 1,820
Copper sulfate 3.00 0.05 3.0 3.0 2,421
Calcium carbonate 51.00 0.85 35
Hominy feed 1,200.00 20.00 1,200.0 110
Dog food 28% 225.00 3.75 225.0 132
Fat, animal & veg. 180.00 3.00 180.0 395
Fat-downstream* 176.66 2.94 395
Phytase-10000 0.30 0.01 0.4 17,760
Unused ingredient options
Ingredient name     Min., lb. Max., lb. $/Ton
Cookie meal     700.0 132
Meat bone ML 50     400.0 238
DL-methionine     2,538
Threonine     2,900
Nutrient solution
Nutrient name Amount Minimum Maximum
Protein, crude % 20.66
Fat, crude % 8.74
Fiber, crude % 3.78
Calcium, % 0.68 0.68 0.90
Phos., total % 0.65 0.45 0.70
Phos. available, % 0.29 0.29
M. E. swine Kcal/lb. 1,535 1,535
Salt, % 0.30 0.30 0.60
TID lysine,** % 1.10 1.10
TID Meth.+Cystine, % 0.64 0.60
TID threonine, % 0.66 0.66
TID tryptophan, % 0.22 0.19
Phytase FYT/kg 500 500
NDF,** % 15.20
Lysine, % 1.22 1.15
Lysine-available, % 1.07 0.95
Methionine, % 0.35 0.30
Tryptophan, % 0.26 0.18
Threonine, % 0.78 0.60
Meth. + Cystine, % 0.70 0.50

*Fat (downstream) is fat that goes in after the coater.

** TID = True Ideal Digestibility; NDF = Neutral Detergent Fiber