Providing grazed cattle with a self-fed salt supplement plus dried distillers grain can add to cattle gains while limiting beef producers' indirect expenses linked to daily delivery, such as fuel and labor, a new Kansas State study finds.
The study – which followed two drought years and stressed pastures – involved K-State researchers looking for better ways to optimize cattle performance and maintain pasture health.
The researchers grazed beef heifers over a 78-day period at K-State's Beef Stocker Unit in the northern Flint Hills, adding to two heifer pens availability of DDGs mixed with salt at two different levels.
"We have known for several years that DDGs is a good source of protein and energy when fed as a supplement for cattle," said Dale Blasi, extension beef specialist with K-State Research and Extension. "In this study we wanted to determine the consumption and resulting growth from supplemental DDGs when provided at two levels of salt addition."
"Salt limits the intake of DDGs," said Blasi, who led the research team. "The more salt that is included, the less DDGs is consumed."
Did the DDGs work?
The cattle were split into three grazing "treatments," each consisting of four pasture paddocks:
• Heifers in the control paddocks (85 head total) were fed no DDGs with salt,
• Heifers in the "low" paddocks (94 head) had access to DDGs with 10% salt,
• Heifers in the "high" paddocks (100 head) had access to DDGs with 16% salt.
How the heifers gained >>
The heifers gained weight over the 78-day grazing period as follows:
• In the control paddocks, heifers had an average daily weight gain of 1.91 pounds,
• In the "low" paddocks (DDGs with 10% salt) heifers had an average daily gain of 2.62 pounds,
• In the "high" paddocks (with access to DDGs with 16% salt) heifers gained an average 2.41 pounds.
Cattle in the "low" treatment paddocks consumed approximately 3 pounds per day more DDGs than their counterparts in the "high" group consumed.
"This supports the idea that providing DDGs with salt in a self-fed fashion can be used to improve cattle performance without the indirect expenses associated with daily delivery, such as fuel expenses, labor, and others," Blasi said. "Providing DDGs to cattle on native grass at about 0.3% of body weight will significantly improve performance."
More information on DDGs-salt supplement study in cattle is available on the Kansas State University Animal Science website.