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Alternative feeds for feedlot cattle

Allen Trenkle


One of the first considerations when looking at an alternative feed is whether the byproduct is safe and if cattle will consume the feed.

Some byproducts may contain harmful materials that are toxic or inhibit consumption. Nutrient content in relation to the requirements of cattle also should be considered.

For example, high protein feeds will have more value when fed to cattle with greater protein requirements. On the other hand, fibrous feeds with lower digestibility are not reasonable options for replacing corn in a finishing diet.

Some byproducts are wet materials which will increase cost of transportation, cause problems with storage, and require a change in feeding methods. Price of the alternative feed should result in lower feed costs.

A final consideration is to check for the availability of nutrients in the byproduct being considered. When the decision is made to utilize a byproduct, the supplementation of the ration should be altered to account for the addition of the byproduct.

Because corn gluten feed is available in many parts of Iowa and has been well researched as a feed for cattle, it will be used as an example for evaluating use of alternative feeds in cattle rations. Corn gluten feed (CGF) is a coproduct of the wet corn milling industry and is available in wet (40 to 60 percent dry matter) or dry (90 percent dry matter) forms. CGF is palatable and readily consumed by cattle.

Though CGF is a fibrous feed (8 to 10 percent crude fiber), the fiber is highly digestible, resulting in a feed with energy similar to corn grain in feedlot rations. It is estimated that the energy of wet and dry CGF is 95 percent and 90 percent that of corn.

Protein concentrations vary between processing plants, but usually average about 21 percent on a dry basis. CGF also contains high concentrations of phosphorus, potassium, and sulfur. It has very low concentrations of calcium. The high sulfur content may be a problem in certain situations and may require supplementation with thiamin.

As CGF in the diet increases above 30 percent of dry matter, it is important to make adjustments to account for changes in fiber, calcium, and sulfur.

The later part of the article lists the results of tests on nutrient content from the various types of feed and the relative benefits of the replacements.



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Article made possible through the contribution of the Iowa State University 

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