LIVESTOCK producers will have to factor in demand from the biogas industry which has pushed up the price of distillery by-products traditionally used in animal feed.
NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick said the recent construction of a number of anaerobic digestion (AD) plants, some owned by the distillers themselves, had created a new market which payed well and could take product 12 months a year compared to the seasonal demand from farms.
Some AD plants run on distillery products alone and others also use crops as partner feedstocks.
This meant the distillery industry was able to satisfy Government climate change targets by being ’greener’, Mr McCornick said.
Investment also meant plants were able to produce heat and biogas.
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Mr McCornick said: “Like agriculture, the energy industry is in receipt of taxpayers’ support which makes it more viable and able to pay a competitive price for products which have, for generations, been a mainstay of livestock diets."
He warned livestock farmers could be hit as the supply and demand position changed.
He also questioned the displacement of environmental and climate change benefits from Scotland to other countries by its need to now bring in alternative feeds.
Draff and pot ale syrup are both useful sources of protein in a country where pulse crops are difficult to grow.
Mr McCornick added: “I believe the Scottish Government is committed to research which will deliver a better understanding of the relative merits of using distillery co-products as animal feed or as feedstock for bioenergy plants.
"That will help establish an overall understanding of what the climate change impacts are and what that means for the market place for these products.
“The hard bit, which is the reality of this change, will be the price for draff and pot ale.
"Since the market has moved from an oversupply to a demand-led position, the economics of our livestock industry will have to factor this into their businesses.”
He said in the meantime other options had to be explored such as encouraging forward buying, the creation of buying groups and the availability of on-farm storage.