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Establishing Economic Value of Distillers Grains for Beef Cows

30 May 2007

Iowa State University Extension

By Daryl Strohbehn, Iowa Beef Center, Iowa State University Extension. In Iowa most of the hays that we feed are sufficiently high in protein to meet cow herd needs, but many will be insufficient in energy content.

Therefore, most cow-calf producers should look at the cost of distillers grains from an energy perspective, which is likely much different than the way a feedlot might look at the product.

Historically, Iowa’s most competitive source of feed energy readily available on the farm is CORN. However, many producers do not like to feed corn and would rather price distillers grains against their old standby, hay.

To do these price comparisons one needs to take into account moisture differences in the products, energy density, transportation costs to the farm and finally any differences in storage and feeding losses. Keep in mind that moisture, energy and protein levels can vary immensely in these products resulting in large fluctuations of cost per unit of nutrient.

Rather than accepting average table value results as the final answer you should know how to determine the nutrient value on your own. The place to start is evaluating the feeds on a relative nutrient content basis. Be sure to evaluate at the same moisture content, thus convert everything to a 100% dry matter basis. Let’s show an example.

Compare wet distillers grains to purchased hay for energy:

Wet distillers grains: 35% dry matter, $55/ton delivered to your farm, 110% TDN and 10% storage and feeding loss:

Step 1: Pounds lost due storage and feeding = 2000 lbs – 10% of 2000 lbs = 2000 x 10% of 2000 (200 lbs) = 1800 lbs remaining
Step 2: Pounds of dry matter in remaining distillers grains = 1800 lbs x 35% dry matter = 630 lbs of dry matter
Step 3: Pounds of TDN in remaining distillers grains = 630 lbs x 110% TDN = 693 lbs of TDN
Step 4: Cost per pound of TDN = $55.00 / 693 lbs = $.0794 / lb of TDN

Purchased hay: 85% dry matter, $80/ton delivered to your farm, 58% TDN and 15% feeding loss

Step 1: Pounds lost due storage and feeding = 2000 lbs – 15% of 2000 lbs = 2000 x 15% of 2000 (300 lbs) = 1700 lbs remaining
Step 2: Pounds of dry matter in remaining hay = 1700 lbs x 85% dry matter = 1445 lbs of dry matter
Step 3: Pounds of TDN in remaining hay = 1445 lbs x 58% TDN = 838 lbs of TDN
Step 4: Cost per pound of TDN = $80 / 838 lbs = $.0954 / lb of TDN

This method works very well when protein sources are assumed to be equally utilized, but does not work well if this is not the case. Updates and Links

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association has updated their quarterly survey on feed analysis of distillers’ feeds from Iowa plants. The survey is in the form of a downloadable spreadsheet and was conducted in March 2007. The website is http://www.iowarfa.org/ Also on their site is presentations from a Distillers’ Grains Workshop held in March.

If you are not already aware the USDA Market News publishes prices of wet and dry distillers’ feeds. This website will give you current regional prices of wet, dry and modified distillers’ grains. The address for this website is: http://www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/nw_gr111.txt

May 2007

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