Yep, you read that right, we’re getting the pigs all liquored up!
Well, not really liquored up, but they are getting some tasty new feed courtesy of one of Minnesota’s newest distilleries!
I took a quick trip up to St.Paul last week to meet Bob McManus of 11 Wells distillery and pick up a load of the spent grains.
Historically, breweries, distilleries and farmers have had a very productive relationship. Breweries and distilleries all make a lot of so-called “spent-grains” in the production of their delicious libations, and we farmers are more than happy to dispose of those grains for them. This saves the distillery money because they don’t have to pay to dispose of their “waste” product, and it saves us farmers money on feed for our livestock.
I’m particularly excited that 11 wells is primarily using a heritage variety of corn called Minnesota 13. This particular variety of corn has a long and storied history of use in making moonshine in Minnesota and it makes a wonderful feed for our pigs. The distilling process takes almost all of the starch out of the corn (and wheat, oats, rye, etc.), leaving a high-protein, high-fiber liquid feed supplement.
The biggest problem for us as farmers is learning how to handle this new form of feed.
For starters we got our hands on a big 325 gallon IBC tote to hold the mash (grain & water mix).
I was thrilled to find out that IBC totes have standard 2″ threads on the big ball valve at the bottom of the tank. That means that most standard 2″ pump fittings will spin right on, like this quick-release hose fitting.
Feeding the new stuff is a bit different than feeding a dry feed. The wet distillers grains need to be mixed with a starch (corn) to be a well-rounded feed for the pigs. I’ve experimented with ground, cracked and whole corn and I prefer mixing the cracked corn.
The pigs don’t care what form the corn is in. They absolutely inhale the stuff in any form.
So far it’s a bit more work and a bit less expensive than using a dry feed. I’m sure that with more experience we’ll iron out the kinks and get a fairly streamlined system for handling the wet distillers grains.