With rangeland conditions less than ideal in many parts of the country, stocker operators may be looking for supplemental feed options that also fit within their budgets. Byproducts from industrial grain and oilseed processing have become commonplace in many feedlot operations, but stocker and cow-calf producers have also begun to use many of these products as a supplement in their grazing operations.

Researchers at the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Ardmore, Okla., conducted a study to compare five byproduct supplements for growing beef steers since there is not much information available about how these products affect cattle gain on forage diets.

The researchers examined five byproduct feeds, including corn gluten feed, wheat middlings, soybean hulls, barley malt sprout pellets and dried distillers’ grains. In a three-year study, groups of steers were fed one of the five byproducts along with a grass hay diet. The byproducts were fed at a rate of 0.75 percent of the steer’s body weight or about 6 pounds per day.

The dried distillers’ grains produced the highest average daily gain over the course of the study, at 2.19 pounds per day. Wheat middlings had the lowest average daily gain at 1.64 pounds per day. The corn gluten feed, soybean hull and barley malt sprout pellet groups had average daily gains of 1.94, 1.88 and 1.86, respectively.

Price is one of the biggest considerations in sourcing supplemental feeds, and the Noble Foundation researchers noted that the dried distillers’ grains were the most expensive supplement fed during the study. However, since the steers supplemented with DDG had the highest average daily gain, they also had the lowest cost of gain.

Producers feeding byproduct supplements also have to be aware of feed quality. The researchers cautioned producers that byproduct feeds can be highly variable in quality. For example, distillers’ grains and corn gluten feed can contain high levels of sulfur, which can lead to sulfur toxicity if fed at too high of rates. Byproduct feeds should be tested for nutrient content to ensure proper ration composition.

For more information, visit www.noble.org.