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Ration Tips for Using Distillers Grains

Jerry Bertoldo, Dairy
Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops

Last Modified: June 25, 2013

The nutritionist may work for a feed company or as an independent consultant. The person is undoubtedly familiar with the particulars of dry distillers grains (DDGS) but might not recommend putting it into your ration. Poor results in the past from highly variable DDGS make some nutritionists take a "wait-and-see" strategy concerning local distillers.

Livestock farmers who don't use a nutritionist miss the luxury of having someone sort out the details that lead to a reasonable decision on whether or not to feed distillers. There are lots of calf raisers and back-yard beef operators who could feed the product, but they need some guidelines. That's the purpose of this article: to give some tips on feeding DDGS and offer you opportunities to save money and get good performance results.

Thumb rules for DDGS use
  • Limit DDGS to a maximum of 40% og diet dry matter (DM) in finishing steers, 20% in dairy heifers and 10% of dairy rations. These recommendations are based on DDGS being 12 to 14% fat. With lower fat DDGS, you can include more in dairy diets.
  • In growing or milking cattle you cannot replace all the cornmeal in a diet with DDGS unless you feed high levels of corn silage.
  • If DDGS represents a high percentage of the diet protein, you must use other protein sources with significant lysine content such as soybean, fish or blood meal.
  • If hay crop is the main forage source, particularly as dry hay, and distillers is maxed out, attention to rumen available nitrogen or degradable protein is important. You can add urea to the diet.
  • Including DDGS with a base of good corn silage and/or high quality hay or haylage will result in a ration high in energy. While this is a good formula for finishing steers, growing heifers will trend towards excessive body condition.
  • Calcium supplementation is essential in growing animals with high DDGS inclusions rates.
DDGS is usually worth the extra cost per DM ton verses the wet or "modified" product. It will show signs of spoilage four to five days post-manufacture in the summer and seven to 10 in cold weather.


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