As the U.S. corn based ethanol industry makes continued advancements in technology, new production methods have had a direct impact on cattle feeders.  

A recent and growing trend has been the extraction of corn oil during ethanol production. In return, this has decreased the fat content of the sweet, malty smelling by-product.  

“Oil extraction through these methods has become popular with an estimated 85% of ethanol plants adapting some form of the processes,” says a recent report by the Iowa Beef Center. The Changing Distillers Grains for Feedlot Cattle overview is the second of six of Ethanol Coproducts for Beef Cattle. “However, due to the variation of oil extraction methods from plant to plant, the nutrient profile of the distillers grains can vary greatly and thus have varied effects on cattle performance.”

The breakdown is most commonly done two different ways: Pre-fermentation fraction and partial oil removal.

Pre-fermentation fraction – germ is separated from the endosperm, and the bran is removed from the kernel.

“Since the majority of the oil is concentrated in the germ, this process can result in significant oil reduction in the distillers grains and bran feeds,” says the report on pre-fermentation fraction. “Previous research with pre-fermentation fractionation distillers grains resulted in no effect on average daily gain, feed efficiency, or carcass characteristics between cattle finished on the fractionated distillers grains compared to the traditional distillers grains.”

According to the report, research has shown cattle fed distillers grains consistently had less dry matter intake measurements. However, mixed results in cattle performance has made it difficult to measure the impact of oil removal. In research trials with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, cattle fed reduced fat distillers produced results showing zero change in performance to moderate decreases (Table 1).

“Within each comparison, diets differed only by the oil content of the distillers grains. In summary, for each 1 percent change in oil content of distillers grain, the feeding value was changed by 1.64 percent,” says the report.

To read, ETHANOL COPRODUCTS FOR BEEF CATTLE: The Changing Distillers Grains for Feedlot Cattle, click here.