The byproduct of biodiesel, glycerin, is of high demand according to an agriculture scientist at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
In a study that began in May, Monty Kerley, professor of ruminant nutrition
at the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, is examining the
effectiveness of glycerin as cattle feed. Through November, the MU researcher
will monitor the growth habits of 60 calves from various breeds to determine if
bio-leftovers provide a healthy main course to cattle.
The study has two main priorities: First, to determine if
glycerin has a positive or negative effect on calves’ growth performance, and
second, to assess its impact, if any, on meat quality.
The cows have
been separated into groups of three, each consuming differing amounts of
glycerin during their daily diet. The amounts are 0, 5, 10 and 20%. In addition
to monitoring feeding limits and growth patterns, Kerley also is analyzing how
cattle metabolize the varying amounts of glycerin. Unlike the dry feeds they are
accustomed to eating, Kerley said the glycerin is liquid based and comes mostly
from the processing of soybean oil. He also said it meets stringent FDA
Difference with corn
looking at the energy value and how it compares to corn,” Kerley said. “When the
animal consumes glycerin, it’s absorbed, and the glycerin is used to make
glucose. Actually, it’s like feeding sugar to a cow. Because it’s liquid, there
are two things we worry about–one, how much can be used in the diet before it
changes the form of the diet; and two, is there a limit to how much glycerin can
be processed by the animal? We’ll feed it to them for a period of 160 to 180
“We probably have a three-to
five-year window to use this for animal feed at a reduced cost,” Kerley said.
“This glycerin is a wonderful starting compound for building other compounds
that can be applied to numerous industrial purposes. After three to five years,
you’ll see industrial applications utilizing this glycerin, and that may price
it out of the animal feed industry.” He said economics are another factor
because glycerin is currently less expensive than corn, which is most commonly
used as cattle feed. Glycerin is about 4 cents per pound; corn costs around 8
cents a pound.
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