Cattle ranchers are taking advantage of the increasing availability of corn by-products in their rations. The ethanol industry alone used 4.5 billion bushels of corn and sorghum this past year, yielding about 15 million tons of distillers grains, a high-protein, high-fat feedstuff.
Galen Erickson, associate professor and beef feedlot Extension specialist at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, led a study on storage of wet corn co-products that’s being redistributed by the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association and the Missouri Corn Merchandising Council. He told Ozarks Farm & Neighbor the applicability of distillers grain storage tips is greater for a cow/calf operator than for a feedlot; unlike a feeder who would be bringing in supplies on a weekly basis, a rancher would be more likely to buy in bulk at one time and needs information on how to store distillers grain bought in the summer, when it’s most economical, for use when the feedstuff would be needed in the winter.
Ethanol processors offer four different types of products. Erickson said dry distiller’s grains plus solubles (DDGS) works well for cow/calf producers and can be stored fairly easily; however, it’s not the most economical of the blends, and producers should experiment with it first to see if it’s right for them.  Wet distiller’s grains plus solubles (WDGS) is about 65 percent water. “That’s the one that you’ve got to either feed up quickly or get into some type of storage with the air removed,” he said. In between the two is modified WDGS, which is about 50 percent water, although that can vary 5 percent either way. “It’s still wet,” he said, “so you’ve got to figure out some way to store it and get the air removed.” Distiller’s solubles, also called corn syrup or condensed corn distiller’s solubles, is also about 65 percent water, but has to be stored in a tank and pumped.
When deciding whether to use WDGS, Erickson said the first question to answer is mode of storage. “Are you going to put it in a bag, or are you going to try to put it in a bunker-type storage?  You can store it in a bag, but with no pressure, and it just takes a lot more space and is a little riskier.” Because distillers is such a high quality feed, Erickson recommends it be blended with low-quality forages for feeding to cows, which are being maintained instead of fed out. “Generally speaking, you only need a little bit, 10-15 percent of low quality forage, mixed in with 85-90 percent wet distillers grains,” he said.
Storage in a bunker requires a higher blend of forage, but Erickson added, “It isn’t rocket science. Many producers have found their own mix; we’ve given some general guidelines to start with, and then they take it from there.” If the mix is spongy, there’s too much forage and the rancher won’t be able to exclude all the air, a crucial step to prevent spoilage. But, said Erickson, “If you keep getting stuck, meaning you can’t climb the hill to pack it in, then you’ve got too much distiller’s and not enough forage.”
To get the feed to pack well, Erickson said the optimum mixture is roughly 25 percent forage, perhaps as high as 30 percent, to 70-75 percent distillers.
Even though his research was done in the relatively cool climate of Nebraska, he said the higher temperatures of the Ozarks will not increase spoilage if the air has all been taken out. But it’s important to match the size of the herd to the storage device. “If you’re putting it in a bunker or in a bag and it’s really hot out,” Erickson said, “then you have to feed up enough to take 2-4 inches of material off the entire face every day. If you’re going to feed 2,000 lbs a day, you have to make sure your bunker is not 200 feet wide.”
WDGS is not always economical to the cattle producer. There are extra costs in storing it, and Erickson says there is invariably some shrink and spoilage. It’s also important to convert the cost to a dry matter basis; for instance, since WDGS is just 35 percent dry matter, if it’s $40/ton, the dry price is $40/0.35, or about $114/ton. “But,” he adds, “it is often economical, especially in the summer months.” That wasn’t the case this past year; WDGS was most favorably priced in September and October.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here