Limit-feeding a concentrate mix that contains alternative protein sources, such as dried distillers grains and urea, promotes good growth rates in post-weaned heifers, according to a study presented last week in Minneapolis at the Joint Annual Meeting of the American Dairy Science Association and the American Society of Animal Science.        

The 84-day study took place at the University of Minnesota Southern Research and OutreachCenter in Waseca. During the study, researchers fed Holstein heifers one of three grain mixes, plus free-choice hay, from 13 weeks to 24 weeks of age. Heifers received a limited amount — 5 pounds — of their respective grain mix per day. The grain mixes are as follows:

  • Cracked corn and a soybean-meal-based pellet.
  • Cracked corn and dried distillers grains. (The grain mix supplied 2.5 pounds of dried distillers per heifer per day as fed.)
  • Cracked corn and a urea-based pellet. (The grain mix supplied 0.03 pounds of urea per heifer per day as fed.) 

During the first 28 days of the study, heifers fed the corn-and-distillers-grain mix grew at about the same rate as heifers fed the corn-and-soybean-meal mix. However, the corn-distillers group tended to gain faster than the heifers fed the corn-and-urea mix.

There were no performance differences between the three treatment groups from day 29 to day 56 or from day 57 to day 84 of the trial.

“Overall heifer performance for the 84-day study was not affected by concentrate mix fed,” say the study’s authors. In other words, it’s OK to include these two alternative-protein sources in grain mixes fed to post-weaned heifers.

The following table shows the average daily gain (ADG) and feed-gain ratios for the three treatment groups:                  

  Cracked corn and
soybean-meal pellet 
 Cracked corn and
dried distillers
 Cracked corn and urea-based pellet
 ADG (lbs)     2.09  2.18  2.10
 Feed-gain ratio (lbs)   4.35  4.10  4.31

Source: Hugh Chester-Jones, University of Minnesota Southern Research and Outreach Center.