The increasing availability of dried distillers grains (DDGs), a feed-grain by-product resulting from grain conversion into ethanol, begs the question of how they can fit into cattle-production environments.

Kansas State University (KSU) researchers used 346 steers (572-lb. average) to evaluate DDGs performance in an early intensive-grazing system. The pelleted DDG was from sorghum grain.

After a brief preconditioning and backgrounding period at a commercial yard, the cattle were grazed May 1 to Aug. 3, 2005, at KSU. Four treatments were randomized over 16 pastures — no supplementation (CON); a supplemental rate of 0.3% of body weight of DDGs (LOW); a supplemental rate of 0.6% of body weight of DDGs (MED); and a supplemental rate of 0.9% of body weight of DDGs (HIGH). All were on an as-fed basis.

Supplement treatments were fed once daily June 15-Aug. 3 in feed bunks located in each pasture. Weights were estimated based on a projected average daily gain (ADG) of 1.8 lbs./day from May 1 to June 14. Supplements were adjusted every two weeks based on an ADG of 2 lbs./day during the supplement period of June 15 to Aug. 3.

Grazing trial results suggest providing DDGs as a supplement at 0.3% body weight results in about a 0.2 lb./day increase in gain relative to non-supplemented cattle. Feeding at higher levels increases gain and may allow for higher stocking density. The researchers recommend prospective users conduct a partial budget analysis of DDGs and its delivery costs to determine its financial feasibility.
KSU Beef Tips newsletter, May 2006

North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming researchers studied the effects of weaning calves 75 days earlier than normal, and followed their progress through the finishing phase.

Weaning calves early can improve cow weight and condition scoring, and stretches the forage supply. This can be especially beneficial in years of drought, when forage supplies may be running low.

In an ongoing study, researchers found backgrounded, early-weaned steers grew faster and were more efficient, but required an extra 61 days on feed to reach final harvest weight.

Cow herds from the South Dakota State University Antelope Station (SDSU, 140 cows); North Dakota State University Dickenson Research Extension Center (DREC, 88 cows); and the University of Wyoming Beef Unit (UW, 93 cows); were used in the study.

Cow body condition scores (BCS) were monitored August to November to measure early weaning's impact on cow performance, and calves' weaning weights recorded. Calves from SDSU and DREC were transported immediately after weaning to a backgrounding facility. Steers were backgrounded 49 days if they were early weaned, and 54 days for normal weaned. After 7-8 weeks of backgrounding, they were transported for finishing to a commercial feedyard. Calves from UW were managed in a similar manner.

Researchers found early weaning helped maintain and improve cows' body weight and BCS. Normal-weaned steers were heavier entering the backgrounding phase, but early-weaned steers from DREC had a higher average daily gain (ADG) during backgrounding. SDSU calves had similar ADG across weaning dates.

During the finishing stage, normal-weaned steers were an average 169.4 lbs. heavier on arrival, but final harvest weight didn't differ between groups.

Hot carcass weight and ribeye area didn't differ between groups, nor did yield and quality grades. However, UW early-weaned steers had greater yield and quality grades because that group was fed to a higher degree of finish.

Researchers say early weaning is advantageous in sparing a significant amount of forage and improving cow body condition. Early-weaned calves performed well in the backgrounding phase. Researchers are currently working on data for the study's second year.
South Dakota State 2005 Beef Report