What to Consider When Using Distillers Grain

— Written By and last updated by

Most cattle producers have already begun their winter-feeding programs for this winter. Most operations feed hay throughout the winter and that can become quite expensive. With this year’s weather, hay supplies may be limited and quality not the best. To keep cattle at their appropriate body condition, producers may need to think about supplemental feeding. There are several feeds and byproducts that could be incorporated into your system.

There has been an increased interest in feeding distillers grains in the past couple of months since the ethanol plant in Raeford opened. Distillers grains are byproducts from corn milling. There are two processes associated with corn milling – wet and dry milling. Wet milling produces byproduct feeds of corn gluten meal and corn gluten feed. Dry milling produces distillers grains, dried distillers grains, wet distillers grains, and condensed solubles. Since there have been many questions about the use of distillers grains, I want to focus on some things to consider. Distillers grains have been used to feed over a long time period, but monitoring cattle intake should be considered.


            Things to consider when feeding dried distiller’s products:

  • All products are high in Phosphorus (P), so there is a greater potential for an imbalance of Calcium to Phosphorus ratio (Ca:P).
  • Distillers grain can be highly variable in their dry matter and nutrient content. There can be inconsistencies in the product, so it is recommended to send a sample off for each batch to know what you are feeding.
  • Sulfur levels can be an issue. The last time the plant was open, sulfur levels were not an issue, but they should be monitored. Sulfur toxicity called PEM can occur.


            Things to consider when feeding wet and syrup products:

  • Dried distillers grains (DDG) can be kept for several years in a commodity shed.
  • Wet distillers grains (WDG) keep for 2-3 weeks during the summer and longer in the winter. Cover with plastic and consider putting it on plastic-covered floor.
  • It’s hard to mix the product. You will need to consider your feeding and handling program to make sure you are able to mix it correctly. It is difficult to feed the wet cake without a mixer wagon and front-end loader.
  • Cattle like to drink/lick the condensed soluble product and can over consume. It should not be fed free choice. Figure out how to limit the amount of the product that is fed. Some people have put a bolt in the wheel of the lick tank to slow down the cows’ consumption.
  • Odor and flies can be a problem when feeding the wet cake. Consider storing outside under a cover to minimize problems. Another option is to store in drums with a plastic liner to keep oxygen from getting to the product.

No matter which feeding program you use, consider the feeding infrastructure – do you have the infrastructure in place to feed these ingredients? Consider how to set it up so you are getting the most out of the feeds and are able to mix and feed it correctly/efficiently. Always get an analysis – this is the only way you know what you are feeding. Do some research and figure the economics of what you want to feed. Just because a feed is free or cheap does not mean it is a good deal. There can be hidden handling costs and extra labor involved to handle the feed. Take time and decide what is best for your farm.

For more information, please contact Taylor Chavis, Extension Livestock Agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at 671-3276, by E-mail at Taylor_Chavis@ncsu.edu, or visit our website at https://robeson.ces.ncsu.edu/. North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age, veteran status, or disability. In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation.