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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


What Are Distillers Grains Worth? Software Tool Calculates Value

October 4, 2007

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- An Ohio State University computer software program, developed to aid livestock producers in making more informed commodity feed purchases, can now be used to calculate the nutritional and economic worth of distillers grains.

SESAME, a Windows-based program created by OSU animal scientists, estimates the break-even prices of up to 140 types of feedstuffs based on their nutrient content -- metabolizable energy (ME), rumen degradable protein (RDP), neutral detergent fiber (NDF), etc. -- according to current market prices.

As ethanol production increases, so do it byproducts, such as distillers grains, as well as the interest from producers in using distillers grains as ruminant feed. Using SESAME is an efficient, accurate approach to determining the value of various types of distillers grains, said software developer Normand St-Pierre, an OSU Extension dairy specialist.

"There are several different types of distillers grains producers can choose from, all created based on the ethanol production process and the equipment used, and they all have different nutritional characteristics," said St-Pierre, who also holds an Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center appointment. "Animals do not require specific feeds, they require nutrients. The SESAME software determines the nutritional values of those distillers grains quite effectively, and compares them to the other commodities available in a given feed market."

St-Pierre said that there are at least 10 different types of distillers grains available to producers in the Midwest, including dry distillers grains, wet distillers grains, partially de-watered (modified) distillers grains, distillers grains from de-germed corn to reduce the fat content of the distillers, or a combination of one or more types. SESAME enables producers to pick the right distillers grains for their livestock.

"An example of a dilemma producers face in making the right feed choices is the misconception that removing fat from distillers grains creates a greater value for ruminants. It's true that it allows you to feed more, but the value per ton is less because the fat content contributes a significant amount of dietary energy to the distillers grains," said St-Pierre. "The purpose of the software is to offer producers buying opportunities and reduced feed costs."

St-Pierre said that as alternative feedstuffs become more available and popular, SESAME becomes an invaluable tool in choosing the proper distillers grains to feed.

"Producers think that ruminants need corn and soybeans, and they don't, as long as the proper nutritional requirements are met. Beef and dairy cattle have a tremendous ability to use a large diversity of feed," said St-Pierre. "Ethanol production may increase grain costs, but with that comes increased opportunities to use the byproducts. With a quarter of the nation's corn crop going into ethanol production next year, the key to controlling feed costs will be to look at other alternatives."

The latest version of SESAME can be downloaded at Users can try the software for free for seven days, after which the cost to register the program is $99.95. There is a version for users in the United States, Canada and Mexico, and another version for other international users.

Other researchers who helped develop the program include Branislav Cobanov, from Ohio State's Department of Animal Sciences, and Dragan Glamocic, a professor with the University of Novi Sad in Yugoslavia.

For more information about SESAME, go to the Web site, or contact St-Pierre at (614) 292-6507 or e-mail

Candace Pollock
Normand St-Pierre