"I'm very much enthused about using dry distiller's grains (DDGs) to produce more beef on a fixed-land base. The caveat will be to see what previous supplementation does to subsequent wheat grazing gains. We'll have some data on that in the spring," says Jim MacDonald, a Texas Ag Extension Service (TAES) beef nutritionist.

Though MacDonald expects the majority of DDGs produced via ethanol to be used by feedlots and dairies, he believes the sheer volume of availability will provide stocker opportunity, too. More specifically he explains the most promising opportunity may be in the situation where lightweight calves are held for a couple of months before they go onto wheat.

With that in mind, MacDonald and TAES conducted a summer grazing study using heifers averaging 600 lbs. which compared feeding 3 lbs. of DDGs/head/day (about 0.5% of the animal's body weight) to no supplement. Calves receiving the supplement gained 1/4lb./day more than those not receiving it.

In a study where DDGs was used as supplement on fall dormant range, steers weighing about 400 lbs. received 1lb., 2 lbs. or 3 lbs./head/ day of DDGs. Compared to calves receiving no supplement, MacDonald says gain improved from just over 1/2 lb./head/day at the 1-lb. supplement rate to 1¾ lbs./head/day at the highest level of supplementation.

"However, the effect was quadratic in that the more you supplemented, the incremental gain was lower," MacDonald explains. "In other words, at the 1-lb. rate, the efficiency of gain was about 50%, where at the highest rate, it was 40%."

During the summer trial, the efficiency was only about 10%, he says, because both sets of animals were eating well on grass and the supplementation did not make as big a difference.

Of course, MacDonald points out the economics of supplementing with DDGs will depend on the cost relative to the value of gain. He paid $118/ton for DDGs in the study, which equated to a $12.50/head investment for $18.80/head in return over the 63 days the heifers were fed in the summer trial.

With the increase in corn and DDGs prices, by the first part of January, MacDonald explains the same scenario would have the producer paying $175/ton, which would result in a $18.96/head investment for a $16.20/head return.

The $175/ton DDGs rate in the fall study adds up to a $16.33/head investment at the highest level of supplementation. That investment was worth $68.25/head.

"Producers need to run the economics in their situation to see if it is a good fit," MacDonald says.

MacDonald also cautions that producers feeding DDGs need to be cognizant of all sulfur sources, including water. He explains feeding DDGs high in sulfur to cattle that also have high sulfur in their water can lead to trouble.

Find more info at agnews.tamu.edu/dailynews/stories/ANSC/Jan0307a.htm.