As a representative for Joplin Regional Stockyards and the owner of a growing operation in southwest Missouri, Matt Hegwer has fed and sold countless cattle over the years. Like all producers, he is always looking for ways to make his operation more efficient.

Last month, Hegwer teamed up with MasterHand Milling owner Dusty Turner to run a feed trial using 100% distillers grain pellets on his latest load of calves. The cattle, 87 head of Brahman-influenced crossbred steers and heifers, are owned by a long-time customer of Matt’s who has been buying the same set of calves from a producer in Louisiana for 26 years.

In the past, Matt has tried numerous rations and feed proucts including straight dried distillers grains.  While some products did increase daily gains, they required the extra time and labor of mixing rations.  In the case of loose DDG, Matt said they often just didn’t see any significant gain, even when feeding as much a 7-8 pounds per head per day.

“We’ve tried loose DDG several times without much success,” Matt said. “This DDG pellet seems like it’s working with just 3-4 pounds a day.”

The trial cattle have been on feed just over 30 days.  Born in September, the calves had a good vaccination program prior to shipping but were wild when they arrived on site.  Matt was surprised at how quickly they settled in.

“The cattle came to the feed good, took to it pretty quick,” he said. “The cattle are pretty content on it, even though we are feeding just a smaller percentage of it. They seem to be doing good.”

Matt joked that he was most surprised when he had to do some clean up around the lots.

“Probably what made it stand out most of all was all the hay still stuck in the feeder, and I had to pay somebody to come weedeat around the fence” Matt said. “They werent sticking their heads through the fence trying to get to other grass. They just spent most of their time laying around and eating, but they seem to be full and have everything they need.”

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One of the biggest benefits of feeding 100% distillers grain cubes is the reduced need for top quality forage.  With the naturally concentrated protein and energy in the feed, producers are able to supplement any type of forage from pasture to stocks to old hay bales.

“We startued out using last years fesuce hay. It wasn’t very good, just the last we had left,” Matt said.

The cattle were weighed on arrival after shipping 550 miles straight off the cow and had shrunk 6%. Weighed again at 30 days on feed, they had gained back the 6% shrink plus an additional 10 pounds.  Matt plans to weigh again at 60 days but has yet to process the calves.

“We haven’t run them in a head chute yet,” he said. “We need to get it done, but we’re getting along so well with the health right now we hate to knock it. We haven’t had to doctor anything yet.”

With ever-increasing costs and regulations for medicine and supplies, managing herd health is critical and nutrition can make or break an otherwise strong health program. Matt said he has definitely seen a difference with the DDG pellets.

“If things keep going like this, we’ll be feeding a lot of this product,” he said.

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