Animal Science Department


Date of this Version



Published in J. Anim. Sci. 2008. 86:1223–1231. Copyright © 2008 American Society of Animal Science. Used by permission.


The ethanol industry is expanding rapidly. This expansion in production of renewable energy also increases production of by-products. These byproducts, primarily distillers grains plus solubles (DGS), are utilized very efficiently by ruminants. When the starch in corn is fermented to produce ethanol, the remaining nutrients (protein, fat, fiber) are concentrated about 3-fold. Whereas DGS is an excellent protein source for ruminants, the large supply and the price relative to corn make DGS an attractive energy source as well. This is especially important with reduced availability and higher price of corn because of demand by the ethanol industry. A meta-analysis of 9 experiments, where various levels of wet DGS were fed to feedlot cattle, shows that wet DGS produced higher ADG and G:F compared with cattle fed corn-based diets without DGS. A similar analysis with dry DGS showed similar type of responses but with less apparent feeding value for dry DGS compared with wet DGS. Metabolism studies suggest the fat in DGS may be partially protected from ruminal degradation leading to greater proportion of unsaturated fatty acids at the duodenum and greater total tract fat digestibility. Both the fat and the undegradable protein in DGS appear to explain some but not all of the greater feeding value of DGS compared with corn. Lower quality roughages may be used in feedlot diets containing wet DGS because of the protein, moisture, and physical characteristics the DGS contains. The feeding value of DGS is greater than dry-rolled corn or high moisture corn; however, the feeding value of DGS appears to be less when fed in finishing diets based on steam-flaked corn than in those based on dry-rolled or high-moisture corn.