Though distiller's grain (DG) can be a valuable, cost-effective component of growing rations, Chris Reinhardt, a Kansas State University feedlot specialist, cautions producers, "The phosphorus content (about 0.8-0.9%) of DG may increase the required calcium content in order to maintain a proper calcium to phosphorus ratio. Excess phosphorus also will result in increased phosphorus excretion in the manure and the associated need to dispose of this element. Excessive sulfur content (about .5-1.2%) can limit the potential use of DG due to mineral imbalances, health problems, reduced intake and possibly death."

Further, he explains, "The fat content of DG is beneficial to growing and finishing cattle as a concentrated energy source; but excessive fat in the diet of forage-fed animals can reduce forage digestibility, resulting in lower net energy consumption and lost body condition."

You can find more pros and cons in the article Reinhardt penned for the Kansas Livestock Association at www.kla.org/PDFS/Newsletter%2011-17-06.pdf.

Incidentally, Reinhardt also provided research to Certified Angus Beef, LLC (CAB) last summer for a project examining the effect of popular feeding trends on carcass quality. That research showed a 20-point drop in marbling on a 1,000-point scale, when cattle were fed a diet of 30% or more DG, compared to feeding them none.

"That may not sound like much of a drop, but it is significant, especially when grid premiums are on the line," says Larry Corah, CAB vice president. "For producers trying to hit a high-quality target, like the Certified Angus Beef(R) brand, this is one of dozens of little things that can add up."

According to Corah, distillers grains are commonly fed at 10% to 40% of feedlot diets, on a dry-matter basis.

You can find more out about DG in the CAB project at www.cabpartners.com/news/press/wp_feed_effect_080206.pdf.