U.S. Grains Council discussing the benefits of DDGS supplementation to cattle producers in southeastern Mexico.
Photo courtesy of USGC.
Photo courtesy of USGC.
DDGS is a frequently-used feed source in northern Mexico but does not benefit from the same recognition in the southeastern region of the country. Instead, both cattle and dairy operations rely on grazing pasture to feed the region’s estimated 7 million cattle, the USGC said.
Chávez explained this substantial market is largely undeveloped due a lack of knowledge of superior feeding practices and inefficient distribution of feed ingredients. There, available forage provides inadequate nutrition, resulting in poor body condition scores, insufficient daily weight increases, late pregnancies and very large calving intervals.
USGC identified the need in this area for higher-quality feed and an opportunity to create demand for U.S. DDGS. The council started conducting DDGS feeding trials in 2015, in coordination with consultants, for calves, heifers and dairy cattle in the Mexican state of Chiapas. According to the USGC, the combination of the good taste, superior nutritional value and high digestibility of U.S.
DDGS resulted in increased milk production, better body condition scores and improved fertility. For example, heifers fed U.S. DDGS could be bred to give birth at around two years of age, compared to the regional norm of three or four years.
“The improved fertility means one more calf and one more lactation in the life of a cow, which means a lot of extra money for the producer,” Chávez said. “Supplementing with DDGS means a tremendous savings of time and an increase in the profitability of the ranch.”
The council presented the DDGS feeding trial results in a series of on-farm presentations. However, Chávez said he realized the USGC needed to expand its work to suppliers because DDGS were not used in the region previously, and producers did not have existing relationships to make purchases following positive trial results.
“The main problem we had was that we presented the result, and producers were happy and convinced that they can be more efficient through supplementation with DDGS,” Chávez said. “Now, we are developing both ends of the market – end-users and suppliers.”
As a result, this year’s presentations now include a DDGS distributor. Doing so at the most recent presentation in Chiapas resulted in 50 tonnes of sales on the day of and following the presentation. That small success is one the council believes will continue to expand following additional DDGS feeding trials underway in Yucatan, Tabasco and Veracruz.
This win-win scenario for U.S. farmers and Mexican producers is built on a strong trading relationship that benefits from advantageous trade policy and robust market development, the USGC said. The trading preferences in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have incentivized the integration of logistics on both sides of the border, and the council's work in Mexico over the past 30 years has helped expand the use of U.S. grain products throughout the country.
“NAFTA helped us have U.S. DDGS available and accessible in this area,” Chávez said. “Without the trade agreement, it would be harder, and more expensive, to get U.S. DDGS to this market with fewer suppliers willing to sell it.”