The rapid growth of the ethanol industry has meant the availability of ever-increasing quantities of dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS). Left over from the ethanol production process, DDGS is low in carbohydrates but high in protein, fat and fiber. In many areas, it’s revolutionized livestock production; rather than compete with ethanol plants for corn, feeders and cattle producers are adding DDGS to their rations.
Even though Arkansas has no ethanol plants, “We are finding the availability of distillers grains to northwest Arkansas, and even central Arkansas, has increased over the past three years,” Shane Gadberry, associate professor in animal science with the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, told Ozarks Farm & Neighbor. “We’ve even seen modified wet distillers grains (a moderately wet product) shipped economically into the state. We generally can’t afford to pay the shipping cost of high moisture feeds; however, it also costs energy to make dried distillers grains, so sometimes an abundant supply of the wet product can make the price more competitive than dried distillers.”
Gadberry warned that the difficulty in storing and handling modified grains, and the need to use the feedstuff rapidly, can make it less practical for many producers, who would need to store it in bunkers and may have to add some coarse material. DDGS, on the other hand, is easy to store and feed, provided daily rations are used as a supplement and kept below 1 percent of body weight. “Cattle producers that are backgrounding cattle, or trying to substitute grains for forage during drought, should keep distillers grains below 40 percent of the diet dry matter content to reduce chances for health problems caused by excessive sulfur in the diet,” Gadberry said.
The price of DDGS is based more on its energy than protein content, and its abundance has made it a very competitive ingredient compared to corn gluten feed or soybean hulls. In addition, the cattle prefer it, and cattle buyers have seen some benefit from getting cattle to eat receiving diets quickly. Another option for producers is distillers solubles, the liquid byproduct of ethanol production, which can be added to total mixed rations to provide nutrients as well as moisture to help reduce dustiness of mixed feeds.  However, producers should take into account the high water content when determining whether distillers solubles are price competitive. Gadberry said some producers have also tried to make free choice slurries available, but high intakes can cause sulfur related health problems.
Gadberry said UA has conducted several trials using DDGS as a supplement. A rate of 0.3 percent of body weight was more efficient than was 0.6 percent for growing cattle on summer pasture, but targeted rates of gain for marketing or breeding also have to be considered in deciding the best supplementation rate. He said, “Improved forages in Arkansas, such as Bermudagrass, can have a moderate to high protein content, but the high fiber content can limit rate of gain. The energy value of distillers grains is probably benefiting these cattle most. The protein in distillers grains is a higher rumen bypass protein; cattle may benefit from this.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here