Morris, Minn. – A farmer-owned ethanol cooperative is lickin’ up markets for livestock feed supplements.

Since its start-up in 2002, Golden Lyk, a subsidiary of Diversified Energy Company (DENCO), has tripled its production of protein lick blocks made from corn distiller’s grains – a byproduct of ethanol production.

Last year, Golden Lyk added 12 new products, including supplements for elk, horses and dry cows. Now sold in all major cow-calf regions of the country, Golden Lyk is benefiting from the strong demand for corn distiller’s grains.

The company blends distiller’s grains and solubles from its Morris ethanol plant with vitamins and minerals. The mixture, which looks and smells like corn grits, is pressed into 250-pound recyclable plastic tubs.

The lick tubs augment low- and moderate-quality forage diets by providing extra protein, fat and essential nutrients. The result: healthier, better-nourished animals, says Dan Anderson, Golden Lyk manager.

No animal byproducts

Two years ago, Golden Lyk entered the $150-million lick-block market with three cattle supplements developed with AURI’s help. Now the company is making 15 different lick blocks, each geared to specific livestock nutrition requirements. Unlike most competing lick blocks, Anderson says, Golden Lyk tubs contain no feather meal, animal fat or other animal byproducts.

Just introduced: Remuda Lyk for horses, which provides 12 percent protein plus a complete equine vitamin and mineral package, and Elk Lyk – 18 percent protein for elk and other game animals.

Golden Lyk also makes custom-blended tubs to complement specific environments and forages. “Different regions of the country have differing needs,” says Duane Rixe, Golden Lyk marketing manager, “and we have responded accordingly.”

The company’s standard line now includes 30- and 40-percent protein supplements for cattle, in addition to its 12-, 16- and 20-percent protein formulas. Another supplement offers protein and fat, without added vitamins and minerals, for cattle ranchers who prefer to feed minerals separately.

Improved manufacturing

Besides developing a dozen new products, Golden Lyk has refined its manufacturing. Switching from batch to continuous flow production has boosted processing capacity from 40 tons a day to 120 tons, Anderson says. Turnaround time is now less than a week.

New computer software is better at controlling processing and monitoring product consistency. And lick-block palatability, firmness and appearance were tweaked.

“We’ve been in the growing stage,” Anderson says. These improvements “are helping us to be more competitive. We have the capability now of being very flexible in our manufacturing.” Eventually, Golden Lyk hopes to license its patent-pending process to other ethanol plants.

A lickin’ good value

Golden Lyk tubs are marketed through a national network of feed salesmen. Ted Gramm, a third-generation cattleman and Land O’ Lakes Feed beef specialist, markets Golden Lyk in western Minnesota. He took on the product line after feeding Golden Lyk to his herd during fall cornstalk grazing.

Gramm, 44, and his brother run a nationally-recognized, 550-cow pure-bred Simmental herd near Hancock, Minn., in Stevens County.

Gramm says many cattle producers like the labor-saving convenience of tubs, especially “farmers who don’t want to start up the tractor every day” to haul feed. The tubs are recyclable, another convenience farmers appreciate, he says.

Golden Lyk tubs promote optimum nutrition, milk production and calf growth at a good value, Anderson says. “We offer an all-natural protein source as economically as anybody in the industry.” Feeding expense ranges from 18 to 30 cents per cow per day, depending on forage quality, he says.

Beyond economics, farmers like feeding a value-added product made from a crop they grow, Gramm says. “Why wouldn’t a farmer who grows corn himself like this? It’s derived from his own agricultural products.”

Boost in ethanol profits

Fast-growing acceptance of distiller’s grains as a high-quality yet inexpensive feed is boosting Golden Lyk sales. Gramm says his sales jumped from two dozen tubs in 2002 to 700 tubs last year. “More and more feedlot operators are becoming comfortable with using wet cake and dried distiller’s grains,” he says.

With ethanol’s rising production, feared surpluses of distiller’s grains have not materialized, Anderson says. “The more familiar farmers are with distiller’s grains, the more they accept the tub products,” Rixe adds.

Golden Lyk expects to move about 100,000 tubs this year. Anderson says he hopes to eventually market at least 20 percent of DENCO’s annual production of distiller’s grains, adding up to $200 per ton to the raw coproduct’s value.

“This is a tremendous product,” Gramm says. “It even looks nice.” And the market, he predicts, “is just starting to open up.”