The use of distillers products in dairy cattle diets



Document Type


Publication Date



Journal of Dairy Science








Distillers grains with solubles (DGS) is the major coproduct of ethanol production, usually made from corn, which is fed to dairy cattle. It is a good protein (crude protein, CP) source (>30% CP) high in ruminally undegradable protein (∼55% of CP) and is a good energy source (net energy for lactation of approximately 2.25 Mcal/kg of dry matter). The intermediate fat concentration (10% of dry matter) and readily digestible fiber (∼39% neutral detergent fiber) contribute to the high energy content in DGS. Performance was usually similar when animals were fed wet or dried products, although some research results tended to favor the wet products. Diets can contain DGS as partial replacement for both concentrates and forages, but DGS usually replaces concentrates. Adequate effective fiber was needed to avoid milk fat depression when DGS replaced forages in lactating cow diets. Nutritionally balanced diets can be formulated that contain 20% or more of the diet dry matter as DGS. Such diets supported similar or higher milk production compared with when cows were fed traditional feeds. Although DGS can constitute more than 30% of diet dry matter, gut fill may limit dry matter intake and production in diets with more than 20% wet DGS and that also contain other moist feeds. The fiber in DGS, which often replaces high-starch feeds, does not eliminate acidosis but minimizes its problems. Distillers solubles, which are often blended with distillers grains to provide DGS, can be fed separately as condensed corn distillers solubles. Other distillers coproducts besides DGS such as high-protein distillers grains, corn germ, corn bran, and low-fat distillers grains are becoming available.