Spent Grain for Livestock Feed

Turn brewers' spent grains into filling and nutritious livestock feed.


| September/October 2016



Cleaning grains from gleaning tanks

Research local breweries and offer to haul some of their spent grains away.

Photo by iStockphoto.com/ClarkandCompany

Back in the mid 1990s, during a visit to my hometown, I stopped by the Sioux Falls Brewery to try their beers. As a home brewer, I was keen to glean any information about their beers and brewing process that I could. However, something else on their menu caught my eye – the burgers.

The brewery’s burgers were made of beef from a local farm, and the cattle were fed spent grains donated to the farm from the brewery. What a great idea, I thought. The brewery doesn’t have to pay to send their spent grains to a landfill, and the farmer gets free food for his livestock.

The Sioux Falls Brewery is gone now, but with the increase in the number of brewpubs and small breweries in the United States, the practice of farmers supplementing their feed with brewery spent grains (BSG) is growing.

Locating a source

Spent grains are the major waste product of the brewing process, about 85 percent of total brewery waste. Most breweries brew several times a week – if not daily – year-round, and spent grains are continuously generated. If the brewer has no way to get rid of them, he must pay for their disposal. On the other hand, if a local farmer is willing to pick them up, many brewers are happy to donate the spent grains, which can be used as animal feed. In areas of high demand for animal feed, breweries may charge a small fee.

Spent grains can often be obtained for the cost of hauling them away from the brewery. A University of Florida publication estimated that using spent grain for a portion of a farm’s animal feed made sense economically if the brewery was within 200 miles. The Brewers Association website has a feature that lets you search for breweries in any state in the U.S. or in any country.

Barley is the most abundant grain in all major styles of beer, although many beers have substantial amounts of maize, rice, wheat, or other grains. American-style Pilsners, for example, are brewed with 30 to 40 percent corn, rice, or a mixture of the two grains.





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