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Do DDGS Affect Feedlot Cattle Health?

Corn, wheat and other grains contain 68-70% starch, 10-13% protein, 2-4% oil, 2-3% fiber and 2% minerals. Bioethanol production only uses the starch from the grain. Therefore, the protein, oil, fiber, and minerals are much more concentrated in the dried distillers’ grains with solubles (DDGS) by-product than in the original grain.

DDGS may be incorporated into feedlot diets depending on cost and availability. Feeding DDGS may have positive or negative impacts on animal health. The increased sulfur concentration in DDGS may increase the risk of polioencephalomalacia (PEM), a nervous disorder that has been observed in both high grain diets and high sulfur diets.

A recently-completed research project funded by the National Check-off and Canada’s Beef Science Cluster evaluated animal health and performance impacts of yearling cattle finished on rations containing variable levels of wheat-based DDGS.

The study found that dietary sulfur levels can vary among different sources of DDGS, and this can affect sulfur levels in the rumen, blood and urine. Feeding DDGS at up to 40% of the diet did not increase the risk of PEM or metabolic disease in these studies.

To learn more about this research, view the fact sheet (web version).

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JamesSeptember 6, 2013

Can you tell me if by having the higher sulphur feed in the metabolic study brought up the Ph levels as suggested, did that have a negative effect on the amount of dark cutters or negatively influence the quality of meat at all, or was that not part of the research?


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adminSeptember 9, 2013

Hi James

There was no statistically significant difference in the number of dark cutters among the four treatments (barley-based control, corn DDGS, wheat DDGS or corn/wheat blend) in the feeding trial. That’d be unlikely in any event – B4’s are characterized by differences in muscle pH, but they are actually caused by a number of things, chief of which are relatively severe acute stress a few hours before slaughter, especially if the animals are in poor body energy status (haven’t eaten for a while).

These researchers didn’t look at other meat quality parameters in this study, but they did in this one: /fact-sheets/do-distillers-grains-affect-beef-quality.pdf, where they found that DDGS affected retail shelf life, but not cooking characteristics or taste panel acceptability.



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