Research Geared to Easy Storage of Wet Distillers Grains

Research Geared to Easy Storage of Wet Distillers Grains

July 25, 2008

UNL research indicates that wet distillers grains are easier to store than most people might expect, said a UNL specialist.

Distillers grains are a good source of protein and energy that may become economical to store, said Aaron Stalker, extension beef range systems specialist at the West Central Research and Extension Center at North Platte. If historic seasonal price patterns continue, livestock producers will be able to buy wet distillers grains in summer when they're least expensive and feed them in winter when there's a protein deficiency.

As pasture rent continues to increase and, at the same time, distillers grains become more available, the price of distillers should become more economical, Stalker said. He believes the two cost curves will cross and it will be less expensive to feed distillers grains with a poor-quality forage than to rent pasture.

"We also think that there's potential for this to be a drought management strategy," he said. "Distillers grains will be a substantive feed to make up for the lack of forage in a drought situation."

Stalker said that some research at the Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory near Whitman is geared toward finding the most effective combination of poor-quality forage and distillers grains to make a ration that producers can feed out in the pasture. Stalker is aiming for a ration that can make up half the cow's daily intake while cattle are on grass.

"That way we can put twice as many cattle in the same pasture without damaging range health," Stalker said.

Stalker said that the water in the wet distillers grains offers a big challenge because it's very expensive to transport. Another drawback is that most ranches don't have the equipment to handle wet distillers grains. Distillers also has a relatively short shelf life. Research will investigate ways to overcome all those obstacles.

Stalker's had good success with homemade bunkers using round bales and plastic or ground hay used to cover the bunker. Early results show that after about two weeks the grains start to mold, but the mold is not harmful to cattle.

A big concern with moldy corn is aflatoxins, Stalker said. Although further studies are needed, samples analyzed have not shown aflatoxin or any other mycotoxin in concentrations great enough to be of concern. Cattle readily eat stored distillers without adverse effects. Stalker hopes that continued investigation of distillers grains in cattle rations will provide producers with an inexpensive, high protein and high energy feed.

Faith Colburn
Communication Specialist
West Central REC, North Platte