Science Daily — Biodiesel is in high demand. The byproduct of this
alternative source of energy, glycerin, is next, according to an
agriculture scientist at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
In a study that began this month, Monty Kerley, professor of ruminant
nutrition in 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 percent. 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
"We're really 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 days."
Kerley said developing usages for glycerin necessitates this type of
research. In recent years, academic scientists and private-sector
companies have been racing to find solutions and applications for the
byproduct. An alternative food source for cattle is but one
possibility. However, it's likely only a short-term option for the
"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
"Originally, the biodiesel plants were concerned with just getting rid
of this material, but data shows that glycerin has energy feed value
equal to corn," Kerley said. "If you can get glycerin for less than
corn, that's obviously a sizeable savings."
Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by
University of Missouri-Columbia.