A recent study by USDA indicates that 38% of dairy operations, 36% of cattle-feeding operations, 13% of beef-cattle operations, and 12% of hog operations are feeding ethanol co-products to livestock. But results of an exclusive survey of 2,572 BEEF magazine readers in 11 states who identify themselves as cattle feeders found that two-thirds of respondents include distiller's grains in their feeding rations.

The BEEF magazine-Kansas State University (KSU) study was conducted by graduate student Josh Hoeme, along with KSU professors Jim Mintert, Ted Schroeder and Mike Woolverton, with funding from the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (www.agmrc.org). The survey was designed to learn more about how the rapid growth in ethanol production and the resulting availability of distiller's grains is affecting cattle feeders. The results show cattle feeders have mixed feelings about distiller's grains.

On average, survey respondents were located within 55 miles of an ethanol plant that is either currently in operation or under construction. Among cattle feeders responding to the survey, a third don't include distiller's grains in the ration, with 59% of those citing handling issues as the overriding reason. Close behind was availability and cattle quality/yield impact, both garnering a 39% response. Animal gain performance was listed by 20% of respondents who don't feed distiller's grains as a concern with distiller's grains in the ration.

Of the two-thirds of respondents who include distiller's grains in the ration, the percentage of both wet distiller's grains with solubles (WDGS) and dried distiller's grains with solubles (DDGS) included in the ration varied widely. Of the 26% of respondents feeding DDGS, the average usage level in the ration was 16%, though reported rates ranged from 3% to 85%.

More feeders use WDGS, with 84% saying they include it in their rations. (The total is more than 100% because some feeders use both.) Feeders using WDGS reported feeding rations that varied from 5% to 67% WDGS, with an average of 27%.

Among feeders utilizing distiller's grains, 18% prefer DDGS and 82% prefer it wet. Those preferring the dry product indicated handling ease as an important advantage over wet distiller's grains.

Full results of the survey will be published in the August issue of BEEF.