Corn is a very versatile grain – and when processed in ethanol plants, “wet” mills or “dry” mills, its components can be made into many kinds of feed ingredients for livestock, with the corn and livestock industry calls “co-products.”
Ethanol plants are located across Nebraska, creating a good local market for corn. The plants take that corn and pull out the starch, which is distilled into ethanol for fuel. Some ethanol plant also remove the feed-grade corn oil from the kernel, selling it separately to be used as livestock feed. The remainder of the kernel, plus the leftovers from the distilling process, are then mixed together into what is known as distillers grains.
Distillers grains are an excellent feed ingredient for livestock – especially cattle – and can be sold dried or “wet” (a mash-like consistency). Dried distillers grains can be stored and shipped around the world, while wet distillers grains are typically used within a short period of time.
In the milling industry, starch is separated from the rest of the kernel (the protein and fiber). The starch component can be left as corn starch, distilled or converted to several kinds of sweeteners, but the other components are used for livestock feed.
The protein portion is typically a golden-colored feed ingredient known as corn gluten meal. The remaining fiber can be combined with with condensed distillery solubles (what’s left over after distilling the starch) to produce corn gluten feed. Corn gluten feed can be dried, made into pellets or sold “wet” (mash-like) for livestock feed.
In some cases the corn condensed distillery solubles are marketed for use in liquid feeds.
Some mills also pull out the corn oil, which can be purified for human use or used in feed, while others pull out the corn germ, creating corn germ meal.