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Dairy Focus: Why Feed Byproducts?

J.W. Schroeder, NDSU Extension dairy specialist J.W. Schroeder, NDSU Extension dairy specialist
Nutrient composition of selected byproducts and cereal grains on a dry-matter basis. Nutrient composition of selected byproducts and cereal grains on a dry-matter basis.
Nutritive value of commodities in relation to prices of 44% soybean meal and shell corn. Nutritive value of commodities in relation to prices of 44% soybean meal and shell corn.
NDSU’s Extension dairy specialist helps producers decide whether feeding byproducts is the right option for them.

By J.W. Schroeder, Dairy Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

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

Various byproducts from feed-processing industries are available for North Dakota dairy farmers to incorporate into diets fed to dairy cows and replacement heifers.

Using these feeds may decrease the feed costs (depending on prices of byproducts and grains) and helps dispose of these byproducts in an ecologically sound manner. When determining whether to purchase and feed a particular byproduct, several factors should be considered, including:

  • Is the byproduct economical to feed? Will feeding this byproduct reduce feed costs and/or increase milk production or growth to more than pay for the additional costs?
  • How palatable is the byproduct? Can it be added to a grain mix that will be fed through the parlor or individually, or does the byproduct need to be included in a total mixed ration or mixed with silage to maintain palatability?
  • Does the byproduct provide an economical source of a nutrient, such as fat, fiber or protein, needed to complement forages being fed?
  • What are the additional costs associated with transportation of this byproduct to your farm? What additional costs are associated with the extra time you will need to spend locating the most economically priced commodity? These costs need to be included when calculating the cost of a particular product.
  • Do you need special equipment or facilities to handle and store this byproduct? Are these available on your operation?
  • How long will feeding a load of this byproduct take? Can this byproduct be stored for that length of time? Wet byproducts are limited in the amount of time they can be stored and still maintain their quality.
  • Is this byproduct available year-round, or is it available only seasonally?

The nutrient composition of byproducts frequently is different from classical grains used to feed dairy cattle. For example, wheat middlings and distillers grains contain about three times more phosphorus than corn grain and twice as much phosphorus as wheat grain. Thus, a different mineral mix is needed to complement the higher phosphorus content in wheat middlings. Using rations that are balanced is imperative to ensure that the nutrient needs of cattle are met.

To calculate the nutritive value of a byproduct or cereal grain:

  1. Multiply the current price of shelled corn by the energy factor for the particular commodity of interest.
  2. Multiply the current price for 44 percent soybean meal by the protein value for the particular commodity of interest.
  3. Add the values in steps 1 and 2.

For example: What is the nutritive value of corn gluten feed if shelled corn costs $3 per bushel ($107 per ton) and 44 percent soybean meal costs $250 per ton?

  1. Energy value: $107 per ton x 0.597 = $63.88
  2. Protein value: $250 per ton x 0.304 = $76
  3. Total value: $63.88 + $76 = $139.88

Thus, corn gluten feed has a nutritive value of $139.88 per ton. If corn gluten feed could be purchased for less than $139.88 per ton, it would be economical.

In addition, the cost per unit of protein or energy can be used to compare the nutritive value of different products. Remember that the cheapest feedstuff may not always be the most economical ingredient. The moisture content of wet byproducts always should be considered when calculating their nutritive value. Do not pay extra for high-moisture, wet byproducts, compared with the dry form.

NDSU Agriculture Communication

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