If you’re looking for a high-quality heifer feed with a lower cost than traditional corn and soybean feed grains should consider distillers grains, says Tamilee Nennich, Purdue Extension dairy nutrition specialist.
Although distillers grains have typically been fed to lactating cows because of their demand for protein, recent Purdue University studies show that distillers grains are a viable feed option for young heifers, though other research has shown distillers grains can be introduced as early as the calf starter diet and are a viable feed option for young heifers.
"We've seen similar growth performance whether producers are feeding distillers grains or more traditional feeds, such as corn and soybeans," Nennich says. "We also found that it doesn't matter if an animal is being fed in a feedlot and has a diet based on harvested forages or if that animal is grazing. Distillers grains can be an option in either situation."
While the nutrient values of distillers grains varies, Nennich notes that they typically have about three times the protein, fat and mineral content of corn because starch is removed from the grains during ethanol production. Because of the higher nutrient values, if you feed distillers grains, you need to monitor the heifer's overall diet to be certain she is getting proper nutrition.