By JOHN O'CONNELL
Sugar beet growers should reap a slight benefit from high cattle feed prices, according to officials with Amalgamated Sugar.
Amalgamated sells the byproduct of sugar production for feed -- either as a pressed, wet pulp for local use or a dried product that's shipped as far away as the Pacific Rim.
Rupert, Idaho, grower Duane Grant, Amalgamated's chairman of the board, estimates high prices of competing feeds could add up to $25 per acre to growers' bottom lines this season. For dairy operators, Grant said, pulp prices are stable relative to other feed sources.
"The wet pulp has to move away from the factory every day, so that price is set by contract before the season starts," Grant said. "The dry pulp can fluctuate more because it's storable."
On average, Grant said, Amalgamated generates $1 in pulp sales for every $15 it makes in sugar sales.
Phyllis Beard, product manager for Amalgamated's feed products division, said pulp demand has been strong for the past five years. Prices are set using a spreadsheet factoring costs of about 40 different feeds, but the greatest weight is placed on corn, which was trading at $7.48 per bushel on Oct. 8.
Beard said pulp is a good source of fiber and sugar.
"It's highly palatable and highly digestible. There's not a dairy around that doesn't want to (use it). We just don't have enough product for them," Beard said. "The cattle seem to really crave it."
Beard said Amalgamated sends wet pulp to 400 local customers, moving 2,800 tons per day. Every 180 days, she said the company produces 360 tons of dried pulp at its Twin Falls, Idaho, facility and 470 per day in Paul, Idaho, the two facilities under her jurisdiction.
Pulp affects Jed Wayment, of Antelope Hills in Burley, Idaho, both as a sugar beet grower and dairy operator.
"When pulp prices have virtually doubled, (pulp sales have) got to affect the bottom line to Amalgamated," Wayment said. "It takes a very small gross margin incremental increase to increase you're profit hugely."
Jeff Ackerman, operations manager with Bettencourt Dairy in Wendell, Idaho, said pulp provides an excellent source of highly digestible fibers, which have been among the most volatile components of feed rations. He feeds his animals both wet and dry pulp as a replacement for corn silage.
"It's acres you're not having to compete for (with corn), whether you're farming yourself or buying silage," Ackerman said. "It prices very favorably to corn silage."
Early sugar beet harvest has concluded, with Idaho's general harvest commencing Oct. 6. Officials anticipate record yields. Amalgamated field representative Brandon Bowen said sugar levels were about average for early harvest, ranging from 15.5 to 16 percent. Tonnage per acre has been in the mid to upper 30s, he said.
By Oct. 15, the company anticipates all of its receiving stations will be running at full capacity.