North Mankato, Minn. — Minnesota raises plenty of pigs — about 14 million annually — and ranks third in U.S. pork production.

The state also distills an abundance of ethanol — about 550 million gallons per year produced by 16 plants. The industry generates another 70 million bushels of the ethanol byproduct DDGS or distiller’s dried grains with solubles. Between 8 and 9 million metric tons of DDGS are produced in the United States each year.

With Minnesota’s leadership in both pork and ethanol production, there is interest in feeding ethanol coproducts to Minnesota hogs.

Currently, most swine diets contain a maximum 10 percent DDGS. “It’s been used primarily as a fiber and energy source,” says Alan Doering, AURI scientist, who is experienced in animal nutrition.

AURI has several projects with the Minnesota Pork Board and University of Minnesota evaluating DDGS in swine diets and its affect on pork quality. University researchers will be analyzing 37 different DDGS samples to determine amino-acid profiles and digestibility. There will also be ration variations among grower hogs, finishing hogs and sows to determine animal performance.

“With the tremendous expansion of the ethanol industry, (DDGS) is a byproduct that is available in mass quantities,” says David Preisler, Minnesota Pork Board executive director. The industry is also interested in the byproduct because “it could help avoid competition for corn … there could be some issues with that down the road.”

While the DDGS’s availability is a plus, it will only be increased in swine diets if it doesn’t adversely impact pork quality, Doering says. AURI’s meat lab in Marshall will be assessing pork quality and fatty acid profiles of animals fed the test diets.

“Ruminants can break down the DDGS to pull the protein out of it,” Doering says. “Monogastric animals, such as pigs, can’t use the protein as readily. Since the energy comes from the oil still in the DDGS, there is concern with how higher rates would impact pork quality, particularly the pork fat.”

“We’re looking to identify the development processes that would have to take place to allow for higher inclusion of DDGS,” says Dennis Timmerman, AURI project development manager. “Economics and the rapid growth of the ethanol industry are really causing us to take a closer look to see what we can do to increase consumption of DDGS. It makes sense that the pork industry would be very interested.”

After all, Minnesota has 14 million hungry pigs to feed.