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Opportunities and Challenges of Feeding Distillers Grains to Dairy Cows

Posted: February 10, 2010

Availability of corn distillers grains plus solubles has increased substantially and, consequently, the interest in using these feeds in dairy cattle diets has also increased.

Current feeding practices on Pennsylvania dairy farms consist of providing a substantial portion of dietary dry matter as corn grain. Given the growing demand for renewable fuel production and the current reliance on corn for meeting this demand, the cost of corn for Pennsylvania dairy farm feed may become prohibitive. The recent expansion of fuel ethanol production capacity has resulted in an increased availability of ethanol byproducts for dairy cattle feed. Availability of corn distillers grains plus solubles has increased substantially and, consequently, the interest in using these feeds in dairy cattle diets has also increased.

New ethanol plants in the eastern part of the US including Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and western New York state will increase the availability and potential cost effectiveness of wet and dried distillers grains in our typical Pennsylvania dairy rations While byproducts of corn fermentation to ethanol have been used for ruminant diets for many years, interest and research in feeding distillers grains to dairy cows has increased in parallel with overall fuel ethanol production.

Along with most of the feeds that can be utilized to provide nutrients to the dairy cow, distillers grains present the dairy farmer and nutritionist with unique opportunities and challenges that must be evaluated on an individual farm basis. A new Penn State Extension publication reviews data related to feeding distillers grains to lactating dairy cows and the challenges that may arise due to their inclusion. It is available on the Penn State Dairy Cattle Nutrition Web site.

Jud Heinrichs, Professor of Dairy and Animal Science,  Department of Dairy and Animal Science