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New ethanol plant expands South Dakota cattle feeding opportunitiesNew ethanol plant expands South Dakota cattle feeding opportunities

West River cattle feeders will cut trucking costs by buying distillers grains from the new Ringneck Energy ethanol plant at Onida.

May 31, 2018

3 Min Read
CATTLE FEEDER: Pierre-area rancher Shane Cowan is cutting his backgrounding ration costs by sourcing distillers grains from the new Ringneck Energy ethanol plant at Onida.Lance Nixon

By Lance Nixon

For central South Dakota rancher Shane Cowan, the business of backgrounding several hundred cattle is about to get a bit less complicated and perhaps less expensive.

Cowan’s Peoria Flats Cattle Co., on the east side of the Missouri a few miles north of the Oahe Dam, uses modified distillers grains, a co-product of ethanol plants that is 50% moisture, in all its livestock rations. Cowan feeds modified distillers grains with hay, corn stover and other roughage as he backgrounds steers and heifers to a weight of about 750 pounds.

"That gives me moisture in my ration and makes the ration more palatable," Cowan says. "At peak time, I’m feeding about a load a week."

The complicating factor is that the closest ethanol plant from which Cowan can buy distillers grains is at Redfield, 116 miles from Pierre. He pays roughly $50 to $75 a ton for the modified distillers grains — a cost driven partly by the price the ethanol plant pays farmers for their corn — and he also pays a trucker, currently $24 to $25 a ton, to haul it by the semi load from Redfield to his ranch.

But by the end of this year, the math could work out a little better. A new start-up company, Ringneck Energy, expects to have its ethanol plant just south of Onida up and running by about the end of 2018. Onida is only 31 miles from Pierre.

Cowan is confident he’ll save some money on the transportation. And a new source of distillers grains at Onida may get more ranchers to try feeding it.

"It’s a great product for ranchers. I’m sure a lot of guys would use it if it were closer," Cowan says. "As far as the people across the river, it’ll be a big benefit for them."

Ringneck Energy CEO Walt Wendland says Onida’s location about midway between two Missouri River bridges — the U.S. Highway 14 bridge at Pierre, southwest of Onida, and the U.S. Highway 212 bridge to the northwest — was one more factor in choosing to build just outside Onida.

The Onida plant will process about 28 million bushels of grain to make 80 million gallons of production and, as a co-product, about 224,000 dry tons of distillers grains annually.

Wendland not only expects to sell modified distillers grains — the 50% moisture product — but some that’s even wetter than that.

"We’d like to sell some product at 65%," Wendland says. "They call that ‘wet cake’ because it hasn’t been partially dried."

Wendland says Ringneck Energy also will dry some product down to 10% moisture to make dried distillers grains — better for shipping long distances because there’s less moisture to add to freight costs.

"If you’re going to go all the way to Belle Fourche, that’s probably what you’d buy," Wendland says. "They ship that product all the way to Canada, Idaho or other places for the dairy farms. We’re sitting in a pretty good location."

Nixon is a Pierre, SD, writer.

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