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Could dairy see a disruption to byproduct availability?

Theo Scholze for Progressive Dairyman Published on 27 December 2018

In December 2018, I attended the DTN conference in Chicago. I had the opportunity to be part of a conversation regarding the future and how it affects agriculture in general and specifically dairy, as the group I was there with either have a dairy or provide feed to dairies. We had an interesting conversation regarding the byproducts we feed to our cows and what they may or may not be in five to 10 years.

The conversation started as we were talking about the future of autonomous and electric vehicles (EVs) and the general realization that we are approaching a point in time where electric vehicles will become mainstream. This quickly led to a conversation about what this will do for the demand of ethanol, which in turn will affect corn price as well as distillers grain.

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As a group, we are pretty confident that the primary vehicle of choice for most homeowners will be electric shortly, as the cost of batteries goes down, the cost of EVs continues to fall and traditional car companies jump into the fray. This will decrease demand for gasoline by a significant amount and thus decrease the demand for ethanol. While we ourselves don’t feed distillers grain, others who were in the conversation do. Obviously reduced ethanol production is going to reduce the availability of distillers, thus affecting the price, and then the question turns to the economics of distillers as a feedstock.

The other thread that came from this conversation was about the legalization of hemp and what opportunities may arise from the growth of this crop. While it will take some time for the infrastructure to be in place, we can imagine a day when the byproduct from crushing hemp seed would be available for feedstock, similar to how canola meal is today. We have seen some early lab results on the feed value of this product, and it would make a great feed. But the question is: Will there ever be enough for it to be a viable product for feeding?

There are also interesting possibilities here. Could a hybrid be developed that would be a replacement for corn silage, or is there going to be a straw market for the fodder left after harvesting the seed head?

Like seemingly every other part of our business, it would seem that our feeding may be ripe for some disruption, and it is possible that we will be looking at very different rations 10 years from now than what we have today.  end mark

Theo Scholze
  • Theo Scholze

  • Dairy Producer
  • Humbird, Wisconsin
  • Email Theo Scholze

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