Mixing wet distillers grains with low-quality hay or straw for cattle grazing rangeland may be a way to increase stocking rates without hurting animal performance, say University of Nebraska researchers.

They evaluated the effects of supplementation on grazed forage intake in a study at the university’s Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory from mid-June to late August of 2009 and 2010. Twenty paddocks were randomly assigned to four replicated treatments: Control at the recommended stocking rate, and three double-stocked treatments supplemented with 60% straw and 40% wet distillers grains, 60% hay and 40% distillers grains, or 70% hay and 30% distillers grains. Forty yearling steers were randomly assigned to treatment paddocks, five steers per paddock.

During the first year of the study, there was no difference in average daily gain between control steers and those supplemented with a mixture of 70% hay and 30% distillers grains. Steers supplemented with 60-40 blends of hay or straw and distillers posted higher gains.

During the second year, the 60%-straw supplement brought lower daily gains than the other treatments. Forage intake was highest for steers in the control treatment, and the intake of range forage was reduced 18-22% when the animals were supplemented with one of the mixes.