Distillers grains have become a widely used feedstuff for the livestock industry, especially for operations near ethanol plants.  The industry has learned a great deal about how to use this product to complement other grains and feedstuffs to support animal protein production in a cost-effective manner. 

One of the challenges to making the best use of distillers grains for beef cattle operations, especially in the wet (WDGS, about 35% dry matter) and modified (MDGS, about 50% dry matter) forms, has been matching the supply from the ethanol industry with the demand and need for feeding beef cattle.  Typically the demand for feedstuffs is the lowest during the summer months when the cowherd is on grass and a portion of the yearling population is grazing as well.  Ethanol production will stay relatively constant throughout the year.  This in-balance of supply and demand creates a situation where distillers grains are relatively less expensive during the summer as compared to other times of the year.  The following chart from an earlier iGrow article by Darrell Mark shows the relationship between the seasonal price patterns of distillers grains and the monthly cattle on feed numbers (Figure 1).

Storing distillers grains to take advantage of price trends

One way to take advantage of these seasonal price patterns would be to purchase distillers during the lower price periods in the summer and store those products until later. There are several different storage options available that have been successfully utilized to store wet and modified distillers grains.

One of the challenges in storing WDGS is that the product by itself does not readily stack or pack in a bunker or pile.  One approach to solve that problem has been to mix about 80% WDGS and 20% roughage on an as-fed basis.  That mixture can then be stored in either a bunker silo or pile and covered with plastic.  Another possibility is storing WDGS in a silage bag; in this case care needs to be taken to avoid excess pressure on the bag to prevent rupture.

Because MDGS contain less moisture, they lend themselves better to being stored in a bunker or pile without being mixed with other roughage as compared to WDGS.  In some cases mixing 10% roughage would make packing in a bunker silo easier. Using either a silage bag or covering a pile or bunker with plastic will help prevent spoilage and dry matter losses until the start of the feeding period.  What kind of impacts on spoilage losses and animal performance might we see with uncovered storage?  Some recent experiments at Nebraska compared WDGS stored either covered or uncovered for 40 days before the start of the feeding period.  The researchers found that uncovered storage resulted in dry matter losses from 6 to 12%.  On a twenty-ton load, that would equal about 1680 pounds of dry matter losses at the high loss rate.  If the WDGS were 35% dry matter that would be the equivalent of about 2.5 tons as-purchased.  In that study there were no reductions in performance and efficiency for growing or finishing cattle fed the spoiled WDGS, although there was a reduction in feed intake for growing calves fed the spoiled product.

Of course market conditions are constantly changing and purchasing and storing distillers grains may not be appropriate for every situation.

Source: Warren Rusche