Utilization of distillers grains in feedlot cattle diets



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Kansas State University


Four studies evaluated effects of dry distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) containing high S concentrations on feedlot performance, ruminal fermentation, and diet digestibility by finishing cattle. Trial 1 used finishing steers fed diets based on steam-flaked corn (SFC) or dry-rolled corn (DRC), and containing 30% DDGS (DM) with 0.42% S (0.42S) or 0.65% S (0.65S). No interaction (P ≥ 0.15) between dietary S and grain processing occurred, but feeding 0.65S decreased DMI (P < 0.001) and ADG (P = 0.006) by 8.9% and 12.9%, respectively, whereas G:F was unaffected by S concentration (P = 0.25). Steers fed 0.65S had 4.3% lighter HCW (P = 0.006), lower KPH (P = 0.009), and lower yield grades (P = 0.04) than steers fed 0.42S. Concentration of H2S was inversely related (P ≤ 0.01) to ADG (r = -0.58) and DMI (r = -0.67) in cattle fed SFC, and DMI (r = -0.40) in cattle fed DRC. Trial 2 used the same treatments as in the first stud, and investigated ruminal fermentation characteristics and diet digestibility by feedlot cattle. Feeding 0.65S increased ruminal pH (P < 0.05), but decreased total VFA concentrations (P = 0.05). Steers fed 0.65S had greater ruminal NH3 concentrations (P < 0.01) than steers fed 0.42S. The magnitudes of these effects were greater in steers fed DRC than in steers fed SFC (interaction, P < 0.01). Feeding 0.65S yielded greater apparent total tract digestibilities of DM (P = 0.04) and ether extract (P = 0.03). The 3rd study evaluated effects of in vitro S titration (0, 0.1, 0.2, 0.3, 0.4, 0.5, and 0.6% of DM) in substrates based on ground corn and DDGS (GC-DDGS) or ground corn with urea and soybean meal (GC-SBM). Concentrations of NH3, total VFA, IVDMD, in vitro gas production, and gas composition were unaffected by S (P > 0.05) or by the S × substrate interaction (P > 0.05). Study 4 evaluated cattle feedlot performance when exposed to DDGS containing high S levels, either continuously or intermittently. Treatments were chronic high S (CHS; 0.60% DM), chronic intermediate S (CIS; 0.50% DM), and sporadic intermediate S (SIS; oscillating from 0.40 or 0.60% S DM basis). Steers fed CHS had 11.2 and 6.1% less (P < 0.05) DMI than steers fed CIS and SIS, respectively, but there were no treatment effects on ADG, G:F, or carcass characteristics (P > 0.10). These studies suggest that changes in cattle performance and digestibility associated with high S are primarily attributable to decreased DMI, but infrequent exposure to high levels is no more harmful than continuous exposure.



Distillers grains, Feedlot cattle, Sulfur

Graduation Month



Doctor of Philosophy


Department of Animal Sciences and Industry

Major Professor

James S. Drouillard