Distillers Grains and Soybean Hulls - A Complementary Combination for Cattle Performance

Introduction

The profitability and ultimately the sustainability of any beef farm largely depends upon the operator's ability to add value to both home grown and purchased feed ingredients by feeding them to cattle. Given the strong market prices for corn experienced in the past few months, adding value to corn by feeding it to beef cattle has become a challenge. It has spurred on the interest of many beef producers to consider other effective alternative feed ingredients to replace at least some of the corn in beef rations.

Soyhulls and distillers grains are two examples of by-product ingredients that can be effective in sustaining or even improving cattle performance while reducing feed costs. Research in recent years is suggesting that combining these two feed ingredients in beef rations can be an effective replacement for corn.

Soybean Hulls

Soybean hulls and soybean oil meal are by-products of the soybean processing industry, where soybeans are processed for oil extraction. The hulls are made up of the seedcoats of the soybeans that are removed during the process. These hulls are usually toasted to destroy urease activity and ground to the desirable particle size. They can be purchased in a pelletted form as well as a loose form. Soybean hulls or "soyhulls", as they are often referred to, consist mainly of highly digestible fibre and are low in starch content. Both of these attributes make them a good potential alternative feed ingredient for ruminants. They are particularly valuable as a supplement for beef cattle on a high forage diet, as they are a good source of energy and are also beneficial to overall fibre digestion. Several research projects have illustrated their value in beef rations. The energy value of soyhull is often reported to be lower than grain corn, more similar to oats or ear corn meal. However, it has been shown that when soyhulls are substituted for grain corn on a one to one basis as a portion of high forage based rations, they are capable of supporting similar animal performance. This suggests that in this situation, the energy level of soyhulls is very similar to grain corn.

Distillers Grains

Distillers grains were originally only generated as a by-product of alcohol beverage plants. Now, with the growth of corn based ethanol production and the presence of six dry-milling plants operating in Ontario, they are becoming a more common alternative feed ingredient. Like soyhulls, distillers grains are low in starch and high in fibre. Several research trials have demonstrated their value as an effective source of energy, protein and phosphorus in all stages of production for beef cattle. Distiller's grains from ethanol plants can be purchased and utilized in different forms: Distillers Dried Grains with Solubles (DDGS), Wet Distillers Grains (WDG), Modified Distillers Grains (MDG) and Condensed Distillers Solubles (CDS). Distillers grains are considered to have higher energy values than corn, but like soyhulls their energy value decreases slightly when included at rates beyond what is considered optimum.

Table 1. Example of nutrient content (dry matter basis) of shelled corn, DDGS, and soybean hulls

 
Shelled
Corn
Distillers Dried Grains
With Solubes (DDGS)
Soybean Hulls
Crude Protein
9.0%
30.0%
12.0%
TDN
88%
90%
77%
Fat
4.3%
10.6%
2.1%
Calcium
0.02%
0.12%
0.55%
Phosphorus
0.30%
0.80%
0.17%
Sulphur
0.11%
0.80%
0.11%
By Pass protein
55%
55%
25%
NDF
10.8%
31.0%
60.3%


Combining Soyhulls and DDGS in Backgrounding Rations

Combining soyhulls and distillers grains for inclusion in beef backgrounding rations can be an effective strategy. While these by-products are similar in that they consist of relatively high fibre and have a low starch content, their individual nutrient profiles are different and can be quite complementary. Soyhulls are low in fat, crude protein and minerals such as phosphorus and sulphur while DDGS contain a more concentrated level of these nutrients (Table 1).

Florida researchers compared the performance of soybean hulls and DDGS in a backgrounding feed trial1. The 600 lb cattle were divided into 4 treatment groups for the 42 day trial. They were fed on a high forage diet (free choice bahiagrass hay) which was supplemented with either DDGS alone (6.17 lbs/hd/day), DDGS/SBH (4.19 lbs of DDGS & 2.16 lbs of soyhulls), SBH/DDGS (4.52 lbs & 2.11 lb) or SBH alone (6.87 lbs of soyhulls). As Table 2 summarizes, they discovered that the cattle on the two combinations of soyhulls and distillers grains had superior gains compared to either the soyhulls or DDGS fed alone. The DDGS/SBH (4.19 DDGS & 2.16 SBH) combination resulted in the best feed conversion (7.69:1) while the other SBH/DDGS (4.52 & 2.11) combination resulted in slightly better gain (1.83 lbs).

This demonstrates that there may be a synergistic effect by combining these complementary byproducts in high forage, backgrounding rations.

Table 2. Comparison of Dried Distillers Grains and Soybean Hulls as Supplements for Backgrounding Calves

 
Co-product Supplement
DDGS
DDG/SBH
SBH/DDG
SBH
Initial bodyweight, lb
604
608
606
600
Bodyweight gain, lb/day
     
Day 0-14
0.73
1.19
1.37
1.39
Day 14-28
1.98
2.07
1.78
1.48
Day 28-42
2.05
2.07
2.36
1.50
Day 0-42
1.59
1.76
1.83
1.45
Estimated mean hay intake, lb/d
6.0
7.16
7.95
6.45
Estimated total intake, lb/d
11.45
12.84
13.85
12.58
Feed:Gain
7.81
7.69
8.13
9.26

DDGS= 6.17 lb/d distillers dried grains; DDG/SBH = 4.19 lb/d DDG, 2.16 lb/d soybean hulls; BH/DDG= 4.52 lb/d SBH, 2.11 lb/d DDG; SBH,= 6.87 lb/d SBH.


Soyhulls and DDGS in Finishing Rations

Soyhulls are finely ground and because of this it is generally accepted that they can pass through the rumen quite rapidly. By supplementing them in high forage rations, that passage time is slowed down, allowing for more energy to be derived from them. Therefore, using soyhulls in a high concentrate (finishing) ration that has a high rate of passage that will potentially reduce their energy value is not recommended.

However, researchers at the University of Illinois compared the performance of growing/finishing beef cattle when a combination of soyhulls and DDGS replaced part of the ration in a typical corn finishing diet2. In this 196 day feeding trial they were also trying establish if there was an optimum length of feeding period for this DDGS/soyhull combination in a finishing ration. The two different diets fed are illustrated in Tables 3 and 4.

Table 3. Ingredients and nutrient composition of distillers-soybean hull diet

Ingredient
% DM basis
Dried Distillers grain
40.00
Soybean hulls
35.00
Corn silage
15.00
Ground corn
9.01
Limestone
0.68
Rumensin (80)
0.02
Thiamine
0.03
Trace-mineralized salt1
0.10
Copper sulphate
0.01
Vitamins A, D, and E
0.01
Liquid fat
0.15
Nutrient composition
% DM basis
CP
17.1
ADF
29.4
NDF
47.4
Calcium
0.75
Phosphorus
0.44

 

Table 4. Ingredient composition of the finishing diet

Ingredient
% DM basis
Dried Distillers grain
25.00
High-moisture corn
57.00
Corn silage
8.00
Ground corn
8.57
Limestone
0.65
Urea
0.50
Rumensin (80)
0.02
Trace-mineralized salt1
0.10
Copper sulphate
0.01
Vitamins A, D, and E
0.01
Liquid fat
0.15
Nutrient composition
% DM basis
CP
15.2
ADF
9.2
NDF
21.7
Calcium
0.52
Phosphorus
0.41

240 steers were used to determine the optimum length of time for feeding a diet containing 40% dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) and 35% soybean hull (SH, DM basis) to feedlot cattle. Treatments consisted of feeding the DDGS-SH diet for 56, 84, 112, 140, and 196 d before switching to a corn-based finishing diet. All cattle were harvested after 196 d. The performance results of this trial are shown in Table 5.

Table 5. Effect of length of time on a high distillers-soybean hull diet on live animal performance

Item
56
84
112
140
196
On-trial wt. (lbs)
667
674
671
671
667
56 DOF1 wt. (lbs)
886
869
894
888
879
84 DOF wt. (lbs)
974
984
1005
1003
990
112 DOF wt. (lbs)
1068
1058
1087
1090
1062
140 DOF wt. (lbs)
1171
1169
1189
1201
1183
168 DOF wt. (lbs)
1263
1233
1267
1273
1275
Final live wt. (lbs)
1316
1294
1329
1346
1353
Final SBW2 (lbs)
1263
1242
1275
1292
1299
DMI3 (lbs)
18.2
18.2
19.5
19.8
21.2
AFW4 (lbs)
1310
1298
1330
1349
1354
ADG5 (lbs/d)
3.31
3.21
3.39
3.49
3.54
Feed:Gain6
5.44
5.61
5.69
5.63
5.95

1DOF = days on feed.
2SBW = shrunk body weight (Final BW × 0.96).
3DMI = dry matter feed intake
4AFW = hot carcass weight/0.6287 (average dressing percentage of all steers).
5ADG = average daily gain
6Generated using hot carcass weight

As shown in the above performance summary, replacing part of the finishing diet with a combination of DDGS and soyhulls resulted in very similar cattle performance both from an average daily gain and feed conversion perspective. Although carcass quality results are not shown here, the combination of soyhulls and DDGS in the finishing ration had no negative impacts on carcass quality.

The Bottom Line

  • Soyhulls and distillers grains are both effective by-product feed ingredients for beef cattle.
  • Their high fibre and low starch content make them particularly good high forage ration supplements.
  • Their nutrient profiles complement each other, enhancing their combined profile.
  • The combination of soyhulls and DDGS in high forage backgrounding program may enhance animal performance.
  • The combination of soyhulls and DDGS can be an effective replacement for some of the grain corn in a finishing ration.
  • The cost effectiveness from including soyhulls and DDGS will depend upon the price of these two byproducts, compared to grain corn or other alternative ingredients at the time of feeding.

References

1Hersom, Matt and Jacquline Wahrmund, 2008. Backgrounding Calves on Co-Products.
2008 Florida Beef Cattle Short Course. Department of Animal Sciences, Gainesville, FL

2Homm J.W., L. L. Berger,1 PAS, L. A. Forster Jr., and T. G. Nash. 2008. Optimizing the Length of Feeding an Elevated Level of Dried Distillers Grains plus Solubles -Soybean Hull Diet to Feedlot Cattle. Department of Animal Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana 61801. The Professional Animal Scientist 24 (2008):328-333

Poore Matthew H., PhDa,, John T. Johns, PhDb, W. Roy Burris, PhDc, Soybean hulls, wheat middlings, and corn gluten feed as supplements for cattle on forage-based diets. Department of Animal Science, North Carolina State University.Vet Clin Food Anim 18 (2002) 213-231

Swanson K.C., M.KO and C.J.Mader, 2007. Corn or soybean hull into haylage - based backgrounding beef cattle diets: Effect on growth and efficiency during the backgrounding and finishing periods.
Department of Animal and Poultry Science, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada



Click here to view other Virtual Beef articles


For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca