Household food vacuum-storage systems are designed to remove air, so your food stays fresh longer.

Using that principle, IllinoisStateUniversity researchers have come up with a way to preserve wet distillers, or other byproduct feeds, like corn gluten feed. The concept also has been used by other researchers to preserve silage.

 
Use a generous amount of sand, gravel or limestone to seal the base of the vacuum-packed bag.

“It’s a low-cost method of preserving wet distillers for someone who can’t feed a semi-load a week,” says Paul Walker, professor of animal science at IllinoisStateUniversity.

In fact, in about two hours, you can create a vacuum-packed “bag” of wet distillers. Here’s how:

Gather the supplies
Here’s what you will need to create one vacuum-packed bag. If you plan to make more than one bag, adjust the amount of wet distillers and supplies accordingly.

  • Wet distillers grains — as much as you’d feed in 30 days or less.
  • Skid-steer loader.
  • 0.24-millimeter-thick plastic bunker-silo cover. Available in rolls of varying dimensions.
  • 2-inch diameter perforated flexible, plastic tube. Available in 50-foot rolls.
  • 5-horsepower, 12-gallon, 120-volt shop vacuum.
  • Ground limestone, sand or gravel.

Do the math
Before you begin, pencil out the amount of plastic cover that you will need to cover 30-days worth of wet distillers.

For example, let’s say you feed a 20-ton semi-load (40,000 pounds) of wet distillers per month, or about 1,333 pounds per day. In that case, the plastic would need to be 25 feet wide by 80 feet long. This will hold a 60-foot-long by 10-foot-wide by 5-foot-high windrow of wet distillers. Here’s the math:

  • 1 ton or 2,000 pounds of wet distillers (60-percent moisture) occupies 5.6 cubic yards.
  • That’s equivalent to a 3-foot-long by 10-foot-wide by 5-foot-high windrow.
  • So, to store 40,000 pounds, you need 60 feet of row that’s 10 feet wide by 5 feet high. (60 feet divided by 3 feet = 20 feet x 2,000 pounds = 40,000 pounds.)

Lay the plastic cover on the ground in a smooth, level, well-drained area. Consider a gravel base if the ground is prone to becoming muddy.

Next, using a pocket knife, cut the plastic tube to match the length of the windrow. (In our example, the windrow is 60 feet long.) This will serve as the suction tube. Set the tube aside for now.

Now, follow these steps to create the vacuum-packed bag.

Step 1. Create a pyramid-shaped windrow.

Using the skid steer, dump the wet distillers in a row down the length of the plastic. Use only half of the sheet of plastic. You will pull the other half of the plastic over the pile later.

As you dump the wet distillers on the plastic, try to create a pyramid-shaped windrow. In our example, which uses 20 tons of wet distillers, the windrow’s dimensions would be 10 feet wide at the base, 5 feet high at the peak and 60 feet long.

Remember, use only as much distillers as you’d feed in one month or less to create the windrow. Spoilage and mold growth can be a problem during feedout if you make the windrow too large, especially during the warmer months of April through October. For that reason, Walker suggests that you create a series of small, individually preserved windrows during those months. It’s OK to make one large pile between November and March, if you live where it freezes during the winter.

Step 2. Lay the plastic tube on one side of the windrow.

Step 3. Connect the plastic tube to a shop vacuum placed at one end of the windrow.

One shop vacuum will suction the air out of three to four piles. If you make more than one windrow at a time, put a “T” joint into the hose line so that you can attach more than one plastic tube to the vacuum.

Step 4. Pull the remaining plastic over the tube and over the top of the windrow.

Step 5. Seal the base.

Roll up the edges of the plastic cover toward the feed. Seal the plastic at the base with ground limestone, sand or gravel. Pile it about 8 inches high to ensure good closure.

Step 6. Turn on the vacuum.

Once you seal the bag, turn on the vacuum. Do this one to three times per day, such as at , and , for as many days as necessary to keep the plastic cover tight to the distillers grains. Run the vacuum for about 5 minutes each time. The vacuum draws the air out between the distillers and the plastic cover, which sucks the plastic cover tight against the distillers grains.

On windy days, it may be necessary to turn on the vacuum twice daily. On still days, it may not be necessary to turn the vacuum on at all. It’s a good idea to install a shut-off valve in the vacuum line between the vacuum and the pile. This will keep the vacuum level constant, which decreases the number of times that you’ll need to turn on the vacuum, Walker says.

Vacuum storage preserves wet distillers for several months. However, once you open the bag, air starts to penetrate the distillers, which can lead to spoilage. To minimize this problem, feed the distillers daily until it’s gone. Try not to start and stop feeding for long intervals.