With the increase of ethanol production in Missouri, University of Missouri researchers are looking at the effectiveness of the industry's by-product, distillers dried grains with solubles, to enhance calf growth.

“Corn distillers dried grains provide an excellent energy and protein source to enhance growth performance in calves,” said Jim Williams, professor of animal science.

“With the increase in ethanol production, these grains should be available for producers.”

Researchers are looking at the optimal inclusion rate of DDGS in pellet form for pre-conditioned calves fed a no-roughage diet.

Finely ground distillers grains are being used as a feed supplement, but many producers don't know what levels to use or have ways to measure growth performance, he said.

“I have quite a few producers calling wanting me to formulate diets because they do not know how much protein and energy the DDGS is contributing,” he said.

In earlier research, pre-conditioned calves were fed a control diet of 40 percent soy hulls and 20 percent wheat midds in pellet form.

Whole shell corn was fed separately. DDGS was then substituted for the corn, soy hulls, and wheat midds.

At this level, performance of growing calves was optimized at 4.6 pounds DDGS per head per day, he said.

In current research, Williams will feed Angus calves with an average weight of 500 pounds one of eight diets.

The DDGS will be added to the control diet at rates of 1.7, 2.7, 3.5, 4.2, 5.2, and 6.2 pounds per day. These treatment diets will be fed to calves for 40 days in order to calculate the optimal inclusion rate of distillers grains to meet the calves' amino acid requirements.

“Such a supplement has potential because we are taking the roughage out of the diet.

“The calves are getting all the roughage from the by-product, which is a new approach for producers feeding by-products to cattle.

“We think over a 40-day study that you still can improve performance of the calves, reduce manure output, and save money on the labor from not feeding hay,” he said.

Development of a DDGS pellet would reduce handling and storage problems, Williams said.