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Midwest/North: Storing corn coproducts for winter cow diets

Erika Lundy for Progressive Cattle Published on 24 September 2019

Historically, corn and corn dried distillers grains (DDGs) are priced at seasonal lows during the fall months. Due to their unique nutrient profile, DDGs are a good source of both protein and energy.

High in fiber and low in starch, DDGs are an ideal supplement in high-forage diets since they do not lower rumen pH or negatively affect fiber digestion the way corn and other starch-based feeds may.

Adding corn coproducts to forage-based cow diets is a beneficial, cost-effective alternative to other protein and energy sources. However, storage and handling limitations are a major obstacle for feeding DDGs on cow-calf operations, as the high moisture content of wet (approximately 70% moisture) or modified (approximately 50% moisture) DDGs can rapidly spoil. Likewise, less than 1% of bodyweight of corn products are generally fed to mature cows during gestation and lactation.

Producers may be within close proximity to a corn ethanol plant and can obtain smaller quantities, more frequently, to reduced spoilage. There may be other instances where a cow-calf producer could purchase small amounts of DDGs from a nearby feedlot, or multiple cow-calf producers could partner to feed from a single load of distillers grains.

The key to long-term storage of high-moisture DDGs is to eliminate oxygen exposure to prevent spoilage. This option has been successfully demonstrated with modified DDGs alone, as well as with wet or modified distillers grains combined with cornstalks, wheat straw, corn silage, beet pulp and soyhulls.

Approximately 20% of dry forage (as-fed basis) added should result in a product that packs and stacks like corn silage. The addition of a roughage source to wet and modified distillers also increases the ease of handling the feedstuff when temperatures are below freezing.

The majority of research and demonstration projects have shown the most success when storing corn coproducts, with and without a ground forage source, is in a silage bag, piled and covered or in a bunker storage structure. Managing the face of the bag or bunker is important to eliminate spoilage during feed-out, considering the small quantities of DDGs that will likely be fed per day.

Consistency of corn coproducts, even from a single source, is often a concern of cattlemen. Therefore, purchasing one load and storing for long-term winter feeding also provides an opportunity for producers to submit one sample for nutrient analysis and determine a game plan for successfully incorporating the coproduct into beef cow diets. end mark

Erika Lundy
  • Erika Lundy

  • Extension Beef Program Specialist
  • Iowa Beef Center - Iowa State University
  • Email Erika Lundy

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