Along with other strategies like rotational grazing and culling lower performing cattle, adding a protein supplement is a common strategy for meeting nutrient needs in any situation where quality forage is scarce. Distillers grain cubes and pellets offer a versatile solution that can fit into many types of operations.
Distillers grain cubes provide a highly concentrated energy and protein source that is ideal for pairing with lower quality forages. By supplementing only a few pounds per head per day fed on the ground or in bunks, producers can eliminate the need to purchase high quality forage and offset a portion of pasture forage intake, helping save both dollars and acres. Distillers cubes can also be utilized with success in confined feeding operations without the need for top quality hay.
In the cow-calf sector, this equates to the ability to meet cow nutrient requirements and retain more cattle per acre even as forage is scarce. With an 8% fat and 28% protein guarantee, distillers cubes can help maintain or improve body condition, lactation and breed-back rates.
Research trials conducted in recent years have studied cattle grown on pasture using distillers cubes. Data has shown cattle supplemented with 100% distillers grain cubes doubled their bodyweight gain per acre over unsupplemented cattle, even at higher stocking rates. In one study, cattle not fed in the late summer dropped off to only 0.52 lbs. of gain per day compared to fed cattle gaining 1.94 lbs. per day in the same period. See complete trial data here.
Distillers grain pellets can also be utilized in early weaning calves to reduce the nutrient load on cows. Available in smaller pellet sizes, distillers cubes are highly palatable and provide a low-starch source of energy and protein to jumpstart rumen development and encourage early bone and muscle growth.
While distillers cubes can be a valuable resource in maintaining profitability when forage is a challenge, it doesn’t pay to “wait and see.” It’s critical to be aware of your pasture’s current condition and evaluate regularly through the season. Adding a supplement before both forage and cattle start to decline is key to avoiding losses in performance and production.