Supplementing cattle when forage is scarce or low-quality isn’t a novel idea. However, with drought conditions worsening across much of the US and feed costs at historic levels, producers are looking for ways to maximize efficiency and get the most “bang for the buck” out of their nutrition program at all stages of production.

While supplementing to fill nutritional gaps of low-quality forage is common, university researchers have recently studied the use of supplementation as a strategy for growing cattle. Some studies have shown when paired with higher quality forages, supplementation can improve forage utilization, leading to increased production and profitability.

Dried distillers grain (DDG), a co-product of the ethanol industry, has become one of the most widely used feed ingredients in the beef industry thanks to high energy and protein content combined with very low starch.  Extruded DDG cubes and pellets have also gained popularity, providing a more efficient way to feed DDG on pasture.

DDG Cubes Offer Concentrated Nutrients

A recently published study by Oklahoma State University sought to investigate the chemical differences between loose DDG and extruded DDG cubes, and to evaluate the effects on intake and digestibility of growing heifers fed the extruded cubes at various rates.

To compare loose to extruded DDG, researchers took samples of loose DDG before it was processed through the extruding equipment. Samples were then taken of the resulting extruded product, then both samples were ground down for analysis. The extruded cubes were found to have higher fat, protein and total digestible nutrients than loose DDG, but had lower fiber content. The cubes were also found to be more soluble and digestible.

Supplementation Decreased Forage Intake

For the supplementation rate portion of the study, Charolais-cross heifers were assigned to four treatment groups with varying levels of cube supplementation rates per day.  Blood and fecal samples were collected at various times during the 29-day trial.  Four Holstein steers with rumen cannulas were also used to further study digestibility and disappearance.

The study showed higher supplementation rates increased both rate of passage and total diet intake, while decreasing hay dry matter intake.  Forage digestibility decreased while total diet digestibility increased, indicating the animals required less energy from forage due to the high energy supplement.

The research team concluded that DDG cubes can be a beneficial supplement for growing cattle consuming moderate to high quality forage due to the increased energy content.  Additional research has been conducted to study the ability of DDG cubes to allow for increased stocking rates in similar grazing systems.

To read the entire published journal article, visit the Journal of Animal Science.

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