By Cheryl Anderson
DTN Staff Reporter
OMAHA (DTN) -- Finishing steers can be made a little more economical without sacrificing performance, according to a recent University of Nebraska feeding trial that examined the effects of replacing corn in finishing beef diets with a newly developed, treated corn stover/distillers grain pelleted product.
According to Jim C. MacDonald, associate professor of ruminant nutrition at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, researchers at UNL had already done a fair amount of research with using calcium-oxide-treated residue in finishing diets and proved that producers can use up to 20% calcium-oxide-treated corn residue in without sacrificing performance in diets containing 35-40% wet or modified distillers grain (MDGS).
As a natural progression to the research already done at UNL, MacDonald said UNL partnered with Pellet Technology USA, LLC, a company located near Gretna, Nebraska. The company developed a business model to harvest or purchase corn residue and use calcium-oxide-treated residue mixed with distillers grains with solubles in a pellet. Produces will be able to purchase the pellets like a commodity, saving them the time-intensive process of processing the residue themselves.
The study evaluated the effects of replacing 10%, 20% or 30% corn (dry matter basis) with the treated corn stover pellets and MDGS in a diet containing either 20% or 40% MDGS on finishing cattle performance.
The 183-day study used 336 crossbred steer calves with initial body weights of approximately 663 pounds. After being limit-fed a common diet for five days prior to the trial, steers were separated into two weight blocks (light and heavy) and assigned randomly to pens. The steers were given either 20% or 40% MDGS with either 10%, 20% or 30% pelleted treated corn stover and DDG. A control diet consisted of a 50:50 blend of dry-rolled corn and high-moisture corn, and 40% MDGS.
MacDonald said the researched used modified distillers grains with solubles as opposed to dried product because there seems to be some synergy between wet or modified distillers grains and the higher inclusion rates of corn residues.
One of the things the researchers learned is that the higher the inclusion rate of modified or wet distillers, the more residue you can use in the diet.
"We were able to add 20% of the residue in diets containing 40% modified distillers grain, but when we add only 20% modified distillers grains, we could add 10% without giving up any performance," he said. "The cattle still do fine if you add more, but this is how much you can displace corn with these different amounts of distillers grains."
But many other factors need to be considered in determining amounts of distillers and residue to feed. But in the end, it all boils down to economics. The price of corn is not as important as the price of distillers grains relative to corn and the price of the pellet relative to corn.
"You've got the price of distillers grains, the price of the pellets and the residue. You've got the price of corn," he said. "All those things interact to figure out how much you should feed in a given scenario."
If the distillers grains are cheap enough, it would make sense to get 20%-40% distillers in the diet, he said. Although most people will begin removing distillers grains from rations once it gets to be the same price as corn, the UNL data suggests that producers could even use distillers grains that are the same price as corn.
"As long as distillers grains prices are lower than corn and you can get somewhere between 20% and 40% distillers grains in the diet, and if the pellet is cheaper than corn, then it would probably make sense to use the pellet, regardless of corn price," MacDonald said.
Cattle given 10%, 20% or 30% of the pelleted feed with 40% MDGS had equal or similar performance to the control diet with 40% MDGS. Those given the 10% pelleted feed with 20% MDGS had similar results as the control diet, however the researchers found that feeding the pellet at 20% or 30% of the diet dry matter with 20% MDGS decreased feed efficiency.
The most important thing learned from the trial is that with 40% MDGS, producers can feed up to 20% of the pellet and not give up any animal performance. Likewise, with 20% MDGS, producers can feed up to 10% of the pellet and not sacrifice performance.
"The cattle did fine if you included at greater levels, but feed efficiency declined after those points, so you're giving up some performance in that case," he said. "So you have to make that up by paying less for the feed in order to make it work. Those are the break points we think are critical for producers if they are interested in using the product.
MacDonald pointed out that while this most recent feeding trial was with using the pellets in finishing diets, the UNL researchers have also evaluated it in growing diets, as well as in high roughage diets.
"Residues fit into a lot of beef cattle production systems," he said. "The pellets help improve digestibility and makes the residue more uniform and makes the residue more uniform since it's ground and cattle can't sort it."
"There's a lot of potential application out there for a product like this," he said.
Other researchers on the project were Galen Erickson, professor, as well as research technicians Jana Harding, Curt Bittner and Dirk Burken.
Cheryl Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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