Written by Jonathan Eisenthal
It takes a lot of feed to grow a pig to 300 pounds, and that feed can be the biggest cost for the producer. So when principals in Mexico’s second largest pork production company, Grupo Kowi, realized they could replace a significant amount of soybean meal feed for a high quality substitute at half the cost, they became interested enough to come to Minnesota to check it out.
The alternative feed is distillers grains, the high protein fraction left from the corn used to make ethanol.
U.S. Grains Council worked with the Minnesota Corn Growers Association to make the trip happen. U.S. Grains Council Marketing Specialist Javier Chavez shepherded the group on a tour to give them the whole picture.
“Now is the perfect time to introduce them to distillers grains,” said Chavez. “It’s a buyers market. Mexican pork and poultry producers don’t know about it as much, and now is a great time for them to find out.”
After a classroom presentation at University of Minnesota on the science of feeding distillers grains, the half-dozen Mexican pork producers headed south and visited Drager Farms in Minnesota Lake to learn from Minnesota farmers who use distillers grains in their hog operation.
Bill, Bob and Rhoda Drager hosted the delegation and walked them through how they finish pigs, growing them from 40 pounds to nearly 300, using a 25-percent ration of distillers grains for a good part of that time, and then tapering down to a 12-15 percent inclusion rate, to get the quality of pork, ham and bacon consumers are looking for.
Grupo Kowi (“Kowi” is a native Mexican word for pig) is making moves to capture bigger market share in Mexico, including looking at using distillers grains. Based in the southwest state of Sonora, Kowi operates more than a dozen retail locations, and are now positioning themselves to break into the market in central Mexico—the most populous part of the country.
Kowi imports as much as 30 percent of its feed needs, which is a big expense, combining either wheat or corn with soybean meal, according to Prospero Peral, a member of the Kowi group. While they grow as much as 50 percent of the soybeans they need, the dry weather means the crop is variable, and sometimes it isn’t enough.
“Distillers grains could be a good support for us, filling in the gaps when the soybean meal is either too expensive or too scarce,” said Peral.