The growth in ethanol plants throughout the Midwest has increased the need for good distillers' grain feed guidelines. University trials are under way to determine the nutritional information, including some at the University of Illinois (UI). UI has been conducting trials and expects a second round to be done this spring.

Larry Berger, professor of nutrition in the UI animal science department, reports that the first studies found that cattle producers could economically feed distillers' grains for 37½ and 50% of cattle diets. Currently, cattle feeders use distillers' grains for only 10 to 20% of a diet. The ability to feed the grain at these high levels depends on prices. Berger says if the price of grain is less than the price of corn, it pays to feed more distillers' grains. Once the price of the grain rises 10% above the price of corn, then feeders should lower grain levels to 20 to 25% of the diet.

“We are finding that distillers' grains are an excellent source of protein and energy even when fed at higher levels than previously thought economically feasible,” Berger says. “The challenge now is to develop guidelines that can assist producers in making management decisions.” Interested feeders may watch for UI research results on this project at the Web site http://traill.outreach.uiuc.edu.