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Dairy Focus: Ethanol Production Byproducts Nutritious Animal Feed

J.W. Schroeder, NDSU Extension dairy specialist J.W. Schroeder, NDSU Extension dairy specialist
Byproducts from Dry-Mill or Beverage Ethanol Byproducts from Dry-Mill or Beverage Ethanol
NDSU’s dairy specialist offers advice on feeding distillers grains to dairy cattle.

By J.W. Schroeder, Dairy Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

Editor’s note: This is the 13th article in a series on the issues facing the region’s dairy farmers, particularly the impact of the growing ethanol industry.

Distillers grain has long been recognized as a nutritious feed ingredient for animals, including dairy cows.

It is unique in that it is the only fermented feed ingredient from the dry-mill fuel or beverage ethanol process. Its features are:

  • starch is removed
  • it’s a product of fermentation
  • high fiber content
  • contains dried yeast cells
  • developed in an all-natural process
  • considered Food and Drug Administration food grade
  • it’s a highly digestible protein source (85 percent)
  • concentrated grain nutrients
  • good source of bypass protein
  • contains essential minerals

The handling characteristics of distillers grains also are unique. Here are some key points about these products and how they should be fed to dairy cattle:

Dried Distillers Grain with Solubles

  • It’s a byproduct from the fermentation of grain for the production of ethyl alcohol.
  • Solubles in dried distillers grain are left over from the fermentation and are added to the grains before they are dried (most common product).
  • Corn, milo, barley, rye, wheat or sorghum are the grains used to make distillers grain. Usually corn is the predominant grain used.
  • It’s a good source of bypass (undegraded) protein if properly dried.
  • It contains 10 percent to 12 percent fat. Remember to include the amount of fat from dried distillers grain when calculating the amount of fat found in the diet.
  • It’s low in calcium and high in phosphorus and potassium. Proper mineral supplementation is required.
  • Crude protein will vary between 23 percent and 28 percent on an as-fed basis.
  • It’s generally included at the following rates: 20 percent to 35 percent of the grain mix, 15 percent to 25 percent of the total ration dry matter or 6 to 10 pounds per cow per day.

Wet Distillers Grain

  • It contains approximately 65 percent to 75 percent moisture. It is produced by straining out the coarser particles found in the stillage and then being pressed to remove some moisture.
  • It’s low in calcium.
  • Feeding large amounts may reduce dry-matter intake, especially on corn silage diets.
  • Limit intake to 15 percent to 25 percent of the total ration dry matter or 9 to 10 pounds of dry matter per cow per day.
  • Store in a clean, dry place. It may be stored in a concrete or asphalt bunker silo or plastic bag.
  • The product deteriorates rapidly in hot weather. It needs to be fed within two to five days in the summer. During cold weather, it will last five to seven days.
  • It can be ensiled in silage bags to extend its shelf life.
  • Usually price limits hauling to no more than 100 to 200 miles from the distillery.

Stillage (thin slop)

  • It’s a byproduct from the distillery industry.
  • It’s material remaining after straining, pressing or centrifuging out larger particles.
  • It’s very low in dry-matter content (may average 2 percent to 6 percent dry matter).
  • On a dry-matter basis, the nutrient content is similar to dried distillers grains with solubles except for bypass protein (contains very low amounts of bypass protein).
  • Limit intake so dry matter or nutrient intake does not limit milk production. Limit intake to 50 to 100 pounds per cow per day or 3.5 to 7 pounds of dry matter per cow per day.
  • Mineral supplementation should complement the low calcium and high phosphorus content of this byproduct.

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:J.W. Schroeder, (701) 231-7663,
Editor:Ellen Crawford, (701) 231-5391,
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