Effective Use of Co-products by Cow Calf Operations

Joe Sellers, Livestock Specialist, Southwest Iowa


The expansion of the ethanol industry has created large volumes of distillers grains available for use by the beef industry in Iowa.  While feedlots have rapidly adopted use of these products, the cow calf industry is slower to put them to use.  The relatively small size of many cow herds, the lack of feed delivery equipment, and the low prevalence of dry milled ethanol plants in southern Iowa  are all obstacles to wide spread utilization of these feed resources by cow calf operators.


The Iowa Beef Center and local extension staff have responded to numerous requests for education, research and demonstration, and individualized ration development regarding use of distillers grains and other co-products.  In the twelve county area served by Sellers three pasture walks, four educational meetings, and four field days were held to inform producers about the value and possible limitations of using co-products in grazing and cow wintering programs.  These events reached 285 participants.

Two on-farm demonstrations on area producer farms were conducted by Sellers and Iowa Beef Center staff to demonstrate the low cost delivery of distillers grains in cow-calf grazing systems.  A grant from the Leopold Center helped fund this, as part of a three year demonstration project.  Future efforts will include a grazing trial at the ISU McNay farm in 2007.

During the winter of 2006-2007 Sellers is working with Iowa Beef Center and McNay staff to conduct demonstrations of storage and feeding of distillers grains.  Silage bags were filled in October to store modified distillers grains with solubles, and a mix of wet distillers grains with solubles and poor quality hay.  These feeds will be used for ewe, developing heifer, fall cow calf pairs, and gestating cow rations during the winter of 2006-2007.


The increased offering of programming for beef producers on using co-products has increased the visibility of the Iowa Beef Center and Iowa State University Extension in the region.  Sellers and other staff will offer three more workshops and four invited presentations during November and December 2006.  One of the best measures of success of livestock educational programming is the follow up requests for technical assistance, and the growth of other programs.  Sellers has consulted with and prepared rations for fifty operations during the past few months.  These winter cow rations typically can save producers $.15-.35 per head per day in winter stored-feed expense.  As the co-product supply grows, land values increase, and the cow herd rebuilds, this type of programming will become even more critical.

140 Iowa Beef Center

Page last updated: August 15, 2007
Page maintained by Linda Schultz, lschultz@iastate.edu