Byproduct feeds from ethanol plants offer ranchers a way to supplement bad hay.

“Distillers grains can pick up the slack when the hay quality falls short,” Chris Zumbrunnen, University of Missouri (MU) Extension livestock specialist in Milan, told field day attendees recently.

Speaking at the MU Forage Systems Research Center and the Greenley Research Center, Zumbrunnen said dried distillers grain (DDG) offers around 30% protein, lots of fat and lots of energy. That's a great combination to counter the poor-quality hay that was harvested late and rained on during haymaking, he says.

Zumbrunnen says there are several products available that require different handling methods. The dried byproduct, which has only 10% moisture, handles and stores easily, but precautions must be taken in storage.

“It can draw moisture and become caked,” he says. “If you put it in a bin, you might have a hard time getting it out.”

Meanwhile, the wet product, with 65% moisture, is less expensive, but offers extra challenges in storing and handling. “It’s tough to store and do anything with. You can’t stack it, as it will spread out unless contained.”

But, a new modified wet distillers grain – at 50% moisture – allows more flexibility and ease in feeding. It retains its shape and won’t blow away like dry product.

”The modified wet product can be fed on the ground or on top of unrolled baled hay. It stays in place,” Zumbrunnen says.

The modified product is easier to store and keep than other products, but Zumbrunnen recommends transporting it in a dump trailer rather than a hopper-bottom wagon. It won’t flow out of the latter, he says.

The modified product can be stored on a flat surface and covered with 8-mil plastic sheeting. Next, place limestone on the side of the pile to seal it. Under an airtight seal, the product can be kept all winter, Zumbrunnen says.

“We kept some at the FSRC until April this year,” he says. “There will be some colored mold around the bottom edge, but tests at the vet school indicate that mold isn’t toxic.”

Researchers at the University of Nebraska developed a way to store and feed the wet byproduct. They mixed it with poor-quality hay to give it body. The best storage is in a bunker-type silo where it can be packed down.

“You can use poor quality CRP-type hay,” Zumbrunnen says. “The hay just serves as filler to give it body.”

A mix of 40% hay and 60% wet distillers product makes a feed useful for beef cowherds. “At that ratio, you’ll hardly be able to see the wet byproduct,” Zumbrunnen says. “You can drive a tractor on it in a bunker to pack it down to expel air from the stored product.”

The best time for herd owners to buy distillers product is in late summer, before demand picks up from the feedyards. “You can save $30/ton by buying in the off season,” Zumbrunnen says. "If you can store it, now's the time to buy it."

Editor’s note: For more on this topic, see:

-- University of Missouri release