"Each feed is a complement to the other in terms of balancing
nutrients," said Mike Hutjens. "For example, distillers grains
are high in protein, fat, energy content and phosphorous.
Cornstalks are high in fiber and low in phosphorous and crude
Hutjens said that research by South Dakota State
University involved combining 70 percent cornstalks and 30
percent distillers grain (on a dry matter basis).
"This diet may be an alternative for older dairy heifers and
far-off dry cows," he noted. "Heifer growers will see this is as
a potential economical base ration with additional minerals and
In the South Dakota trial, the combined ration was fed to
850-pound heifers to achieve an average daily gain of 1.8
pounds. Another group was fed a traditional ration. Comparable
weight gains and wither-hock height growth were achieved as with
use of the traditional heifer ration; but the cost per day for
the conventional ration was $1.26 per heifer per day, compared
with 40 cents per heifer per day for the distillers grain and
"For smaller heifers, 450-pound heifers, the cost for the
conventional ration was 70 cents per heifer per day, compared to
27 cents per heifer per day for the test ration," said Hutjens.
"The distillers grain-cornstalk ration could also be fed to
far-off dry cows, similar to the high-straw-based diets popular
in the Midwest."
Hutjens noted that there are some management considerations
to be observed when feeding the distillers grain-cornstalk
"Sorting can be a problem if the final ration is too coarse
with cornstalks," he said. "Processing of the cornstalks is a
must. The length of the cornstalks needs to be reduced to less
than 2 inches using a chopper, TMR vertical mixer and/or tube
[to top of second column]
"Feed moisture should be monitored with the wet distillers
grains. If the final feed is too dry, consider adding water. Try to
get the bagged cornstalks and wet distillers grains to over 50
percent moisture to get compaction and avoid heating and spoilage.
The ration in the South Dakota study was mixed fresh each day from
stored cornstalks and bagged distillers grains."
He added that feeding heifers more than once a day is
"Monitor feed intake -- the dry matter consumed, feed refusal --
both the amount and sorting concerns, and manure consistency," he
said. "Balance mineral, vitamin and protein levels.
"If cornstalks are baled or stored outside, watch for mold
formation and feed quality."
Producers should measure heifer growth to ensure growth goals are
"Most producers prefer to mix the wet distillers and processed
cornstalks as needed to avoid bagging charges and save time," he
said. "If the final mixture is not bagged correctly, ensuring enough
moisture and packing pressure, it can heat and lead to spoilage.
"Wet distillers grain leaves the ethanol plant at a pH of 3.
Little fermentation occurs in bag storage due to the low pH of the
distillers grain and the limited amount of fermentable carbohydrate
in the cornstalks."
of Illinois Extension news release]