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Using Distillers Grains In Cattle Diets

Replacement of up to 50% of the dry-rolled (DRC) or high-moisture corn (HMC) in finishing rations with wet distillers grains plus solubles (WDGS) resulted in superior feedlot performance compared to cattle not fed WDGS

Replacement of up to 50% of the dry-rolled (DRC) or high-moisture corn (HMC) in finishing rations with wet distillers grains plus solubles (WDGS) resulted in superior feedlot performance compared to cattle not fed WDGS.

University of Nebraska beef feedlot researchers analyzed the results of 14 finishing trials comparing the replacement of DRC, HMC or a 50:50 blend of DRC and HMC with up to 50% WDGS. Pound for pound, the feeding value of WDGS was consistently higher than that of DRC, HMC or the combination of both. WDGS’ feeding value was greater at lower levels of inclusion (10-30% of ration dry matter) and decreased as inclusion level increased.

The increased feeding value of WDGS was due to increased average daily gain. Compared to DRC and HMC, WDGS has a feeding value of 148, 142, 136, 129 and 123% when replacing 10, 20, 30, 40 or 50% of the corn in the diet, respectively.

A related analysis determined that WDGS has the same feeding value when fed from season to season and in varying types of cattle. This includes calves going into the feedlot following weaning or yearlings going into the feedlot off summer grazing.

Replacing steam-flaked corn in finishing rations with WDGS does not result in similar improvement in feeding value as observed with DRC or HMC. Presumably, this is due to the rate and site of digestion of the corn portion of the ration.

Additionally, researchers at Texas Tech University and Elanco Animal Health teamed up to answer the potential effect of Rumensin to potentiate polioencephalomalacia (PEM) in cattle fed WDGS. Two studies were conducted that evaluated three levels of dietary sulfur and three levels of Rumensin in steam-flaked finishing rations with and without WDGS.

In both studies, Rumensin didn’t increase the level of hydrogen sulfide, the causative agent of PEM, produced in the rumen. But as the level of sulfur in the ration increased, so did hydrogen sulfide levels.
To reduce the incidence of PEM, feeders should monitor incoming WDGS for sulfur content.

Plan your grazing implant strategy

Implanting suckling steer and heifer calves and stocker cattle is one of the most cost-effective production technologies available to beef producers.

University Extension summaries consistently report a 15- to 20-lb. increase in weaning weight and about a $15/head net return for implanting calves. But, fewer than 12% of all U.S. cow-calf producers utilize implants prior to or at weaning, according to the USDA National Animal Health Monitoring System’s 2007-08 Beef Cow-calf Survey. The survey found large cow-calf producers (more than 200 cows) utilize implant technology more frequently than small producers (31% vs. 7%).

Stocker operators utilize implants at a higher rate than cow-calf producers, according to a 2008 Oklahoma State University (OSU) stocker survey. But, fewer than 40% of small stocker operators implant, while upwards of 75% of large stocker operators do so. Extension summaries report a 20-lb. increase in grazing gain and $25 net return for implanting stocker cattle.

Meanwhile, OSU scientists compared the grazing performance of steers implanted with either Ralgro® or Component® TE-G with Tylan to non-implanted control steers. In a two-year study, crossbred steers averaging 464 lbs. grazed introduced Bluestem or native range pastures for 126 days. The implanted steers outperformed non-implanted steers by 11 lbs. and 24 lbs. of total grazing gain for the two implant treatments, respectively.

Read the full reports at:

  1. – page 67
  2. – page 44
  5. – page 103