FARGO-If animals could talk, some cows at North Dakota State University might toast a pair of Fargo beer and spirit makers.
Drekker Brewing Company and Proof Artisan Distillers have been sending their spent grains to the animal sciences program to feed heifers.
"We're using grains designed by NDSU, and donate those grains back to the university. It's fun when you come full circle," said Mark Bjornstad, co-founder and president of Drekker, adding that most of the grain Drekker uses is from the region.
The pairing of a brewery and agricultural program is mutually beneficial, Bjornstad said. Drekker brews about four times a week and the spent grains-barley, wheat, rye and different malts-left behind after the process can create an odor if not disposed of quickly.
One man's trash is a cow's treat, however. The spent grains serve as nutritional feed for farm animals, high in protein and fiber with a bit of sugar and highly digestible. And no, the animals don't get drunk from it.
"The cows like the grains and it's a great outlet for us," said Joel Kath, owner of Proof. "It's kind of funny when we bring it out there. The cows come running when they see the truck."
Proof sends NDSU the grains left while making vodka and gin, as well as the corn from its bourbon. In all, Kath says Proof donates as much as 4 cubic yards of material a week.
Drekker has as much as 800 pounds of spent grains left to give NDSU after each brewing.
With Drekker making mash about four times a week, that can be over 3,000 pounds in free feed.
"The savings is certainly significant over the course of a year," said Todd Molden, research specialist in the dairy teaching and research unit. "To get the grains that have this kind of nutritional value for free is pretty cool."
Molden says what Drekker alone donates adds up to about 10 percent of the feed for the heifers.
Bjornstad said nationally other breweries will offer spent grains to ag outfits as either food or compost. He pitched the idea to NDSU, presenting the school with material that showed the nutritional benefits for the animals and the cost-effectiveness for the school.
Molden had heard of breweries offering the spent grains, but admits he's learned a lot more about the brewing process due to this partnership.
"It's been a terrific relationship between us," said Molden, who added that his favorite Drekker Beer is the Broken Rudder Irish red ale.
Kath said his ideal scenario would be to find a dairy farm in the area where he could swap spent grains for milk he could turn into cheese and to do the same at a hog farm where he could get pork back in return to use in Proof's kitchen.
For now, just finding a place to take the spent grains off his hands is rewarding enough.
"The cows like the grains, and it's a great outlet for us," Kath said.
Bjornstad also appreciates the arrangement.
"We love feeding the herd. The football team has been doing great since we started doing this," he joked.