Buying lightweight, high-risk sale barn cattle has always been a gambler’s game — until now. According to Missouri cattleman Chuck Sherrill, dried distillers grain (DDG) cubes and pellets are the ace in the hole.
For years, Sherrill has been purchasing and turning around low-end type cattle on his Diamond, Mo. farm. A few months ago, he made the switch from a mixed ration containing 50% corn and 50% DDG to MasterHand Milling’s 100% DDG extruded cubes and pellets.
“We used to feed half DDG and half corn because it was easy to come by and just what we’d always done,” Sherril said. “After doing a little math, we figured out that ration was costing me more in the end than the DDG cubes even at a higher cost to buy the product.”
In early December, Sherrill purchased a comingled group of 23 lightweight bull calves and decided to put the DDG cubes he’d heard about to the test. He started the calves on two pounds per head per day of the DDG cubes and mid-quality hay.
A little more than 30 days later, the calves had seen every kind of Missouri weather including a long period of rain and cold that left the cattle sick.
“These calves had everything against them,” Sherrill said. “They were about the highest risk cattle you could buy and then the weather just went to pot.”
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Sherrill pulled the cattle in to be worked and weighed in early January once they had recovered from the setback and was pleased with the gains he saw.
“We brought them in to give shots, cut the bulls and weigh them up,” Sherrill said. “They averaged a pound of gain per day and my cost of gain was only $0.54. That’s pretty good on this kind of calf when we’re only feeding them two pounds a day.”
Sherrill said he thinks the DDG cubes made a big difference in the calves’ performance.
“This product has really taken off here in this part of Missouri and people are figuring out that it really works, especially on these high-risk calves that need that energy kick to really get going,” he said.
Four weeks later in mid-February, Sherrill said the calves have been put through the weather ringer again with everything from snow and ice to sunshine and rain.
“I haven’t weighed them again yet, but the biggest thing right now is they’ve stayed healthy and stayed on feed through all of it,” Sherrill said.
Sherrill plans to continue feeding this set of calves into the summer before marketing them in July and he’s happy with how they are doing. He’s also been feeding the DDG cubes to other cattle including 150 head of his own weaned calves.
“With this product, our cattle are really looking a lot more like I want them to look,” he said. “They have some size and aren’t overly fat and full, but they aren’t thin either. They are ready to go.”