Byproduct feeds from ethanol plants offer beef producers a way to supplement bad hay being baled for winter feed this year, says Chris Zumbrunnen, University of Missouri Extension regional livestock specialist at Milan, MO.

“Distillers grains can pick up the slack when the hay quality falls short,” he says. “There is a tremendous amount of high-quality product available.”

There will also be plenty of poor-quality hay that was harvested late and rained on during haymaking, he adds.

Dried distillers grain (DDG) has around 30% protein, lots of fat and lots of energy. Several products are available that require different handling methods.

The dried byproduct, which has only 10% moisture, handles and stores easily. However, precautions must be taken in storage. “It can draw moisture and become caked,” says Zumbrunnen. “If you put it in a bin, you might have a hard time getting it out.”

The wet product, with 65% moisture, is less expensive, but he adds a caution: “It’s tough to store and do anything with. You can’t stack it, as it will spread out unless contained.”

A new modified, 50%-moisture wet distillers grain offered by some ethanol plants allows more flexibility and ease in feeding. It retains its shape and won’t blow away like dry product.

“The modified wet product can be fed on the ground or on top of unrolled baled hay. It stays in place,” Zumbrunnen says. “Those old cows love it.”

It’s easier to store and keep than other products, but be careful how you transport it. “You’ll want to haul it in a dump trailer, not a hopper-bottom wagon. It won’t flow out.”

Store the modified product on a flat surface and cover it with 8-mil plastic. After the sheeting is laid over the pile, a front loader is used to dump limestone on the side of the pile. When the lime flows down the side of the plastic-covered mound, it seals the bottom. Under an airtight seal, the product can be kept all winter.

“We kept some at the Forage Systems Research Center until April this year,” says Zumbrunnen. “There will be some colored mold around the bottom edge, but tests at the vet school indicate that mold is not toxic.”

University of Nebraska researchers developed a way to store and feed the wet byproduct. They mixed it with poor-quality hay to give it body. The best storage is in a bunker-type silo where it can be packed.

“You can use poor-quality, CRP-type hay,” says Zumbrunnen. “You’ll just use the hay as filler to give it body.”

A mix of 40% hay and 60% wet distillers product makes a feed useful for beef-cow herds. “At that ratio, you’ll hardly be able to see the wet byproduct,” he says. “You can drive a tractor on it in a bunker to pack it down to expel air from the stored product.”

The best time for herd owners to buy distillers product is in late summer, before demand picks up from the feedyards. “You can save $30 a ton by buying in the off season. Now is the time to buy if you can store it,” says Zumbrunnen.