Animal Science Department


Date of this Version



Gillespie, K.L. 2013. Supplementing distillers grains in a yearling system as a forage replacement tool with bunk or ground feeding, and impact of winter supplementation level on finishing performance and profit. MS Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Animal Science, Under the Supervision of Professors Terry J. Klopfenstein and L. Aaron. Stalker. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2013

Copyright (c) 2013 Kari L. Gillespie


The benefit of adding weight to cattle prior to entering the finishing phase through a forage-based backgrounding system has become more important with increased corn price. Further, as competition for available forage increases, the value of replacing grazed forage with a supplement such as distillers grains, also increases.

A 2-year beef systems study evaluated optimal supplementation time of distillers grains and summer forage savings with distillers supplementation. High winter level supplementation of distillers grains increased winter ADG, decreased summer ADG, and increased final live weights and HCW compared to cattle supplemented at a low supplement level designed to only meet protein needs. Summer supplementation of distillers grains increased summer ADG, but decreased feed efficiency and in year 1, decreased finishing ADG. Gains through the forage-based system were similar when cattle were supplemented at a high winter level but not in the summer, compared to cattle supplemented at a low winter level and in the summer. There were no overweight carcasses with supplementation using spayed heifers. System profitability increased with high winter supplementation, and but was unaffected by summer supplementation. Summer supplementation reduced grazed forage consumption 17-24% when fed at 0.6% BW daily.

Six systems studies using various winter supplements on corn residue at a high and low supplementation level were analyzed. Cattle backgrounded at a high supplementation level during the winter had a greater finishing ADG and produced 37 kg greater final BW, created more revenue, and were more profitable across four economic scenarios.

Finally, distillers grains as a summer supplementation and forage replacement tool was investigated with spayed yearling heifers. Supplemented heifers had greater ADG and ending BW. Animal performance was similar between bunk fed and ground fed heifers, with loss factor of MDGS when ground fed calculated at 5.6%. Forage savings was approximately 15-17% when distillers grains were fed at 0.6% BW daily.

Advisors: Terry J. Klopfenstein and L. Aaron Stalker