DDG is an Effective & Economical Choice for Late Pasture Supplementation

Jul 20, 2020

Tara Jo Bina
Countryside Feed Nutrition & Formulation Professional
As summer wears on, pasture grasses move past the point of maturity and forage quality decreases. This is especially the case with cool-season grasses like bromegrass, as neutral detergent fiber (NDF) levels increase and protein and energy levels decline. Therefore, you need to supplement your cattle’s diet to keep weight gains on track.
While corn and soybean meal used to be the supplement of choice, dried distillers grains (DDG) with solubles have become the preferred protein source in recent years. Thanks to the expansion of the ethanol industry, this ethanol byproduct has become widely available in corn and sorghum-producing regions.
One significant benefit of DDG is that it provides about three times as much protein than corn grain. More than two-thirds of this protein escapes degradation in the rumen, which makes it an excellent supplement for yearling cattle and cow/calf pairs. DDG also contains up to 25 percent more energy than corn, and it’s a good source of phosphorus – so much that it can eliminate the need for a phosphorus supplement altogether. All of these qualities make it a more economical feedstuff than corn.
For every pound of DDG an animal consumes, there is a 0.75 lb reduction in forage intake. So, supplementing DDG is an effective way to increase stocking rates without being too hard on grass.
When supplementing yearlings during the final 30 days on summer pastures, the level of performance increases incrementally as DDG is increased. For example, research from the K-State Stocker Unit1 shows feeding cattle 2 lbs of DDG per day resulted in an average daily gain (ADG) of 0.2 lb more than those that were fed only bluestem grass. Feeding 6 lbs of DDG per day provided an ADG increase of 0.43 lb more than the controlled cattle with no DDG being supplemented.
Labor can be a challenge when using DDG as a pasture supplement. Studies have shown that supplementing every three days can be as effective as supplementing daily with DDG. Another option would be to use a self limiting mix using increased fiber, salt or other limiting agents to offer the supplement free choice in a manner that will hold cattle intake to the desired level needed.
Another benefit of using a creep feeder is that you can add a number of products to your mix to improve weight gain and the overall health of your animals. Examples include:
  • Ionophores: Using the right ionophore feed additive can increase the rate of weight gain and feed efficiency. In fact, providing ionophores on summer pastures has been shown to increase ADG by .15 to .2 lb.2 Ionophores can also effectively control coccidiosis.
  • Fly control: Additives like garlic can repel flies and insect growth regulators (IGR) can prevent fly emergence altogether.
  • Medications: A number of different products are available to prevent conditions like bloat, scours, anaplasmosis, stomach worms and more.
A lot of factors go into determining the right DDG rations for your cattle, so I encourage you to consult your local Countryside Feed nutritionist for custom-tailored assistance. In addition to helping you establish the correct rations for your operation, you can trust them to accurately assess the overall health of your animals and recommend the right feed additive products when needed.
1 Marc P. Epp and others, 2005, Kansas State University.
2 Dale A. Blasi and Marc P. Epp, 2009, Kansas State University.

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