The University of Nebraska is working with ranchers to develop efficient, cost-effective ways to store distillers grain on the ranch. Storage is key for livestock producers looking to purchase the feedstuff cheaply during summer months to feed during the winter.
"Storing distillers grain is easy," said Aaron Stalker, University of Nebraska Beef Range Systems Specialist. "It is really hard to mess up, and is practically bullet-proof."
One least-cost storage method Stalker has seen involves dumping distillers grain on the ground in a pivot corner. Dumped on the ground in July, by October the grain had formed a four-inch thick crust. Testing the crust, Stalker said protein and phosphorus levels were the same as they were in July. The only difference was the dry matter, because the crust had dried out and the fat in the crust had oxidized.
"From a nutrient standpoint, the stored distillers grain is just as good as the fresh distillers grain," Stalker stated.
One concern Stalker has about storing distillers grain is the development of mold. However, after performing a mycotoxin analysis on several piles of stored distillers grain, he found mold levels in the grain weren't high enough to cause concern.
"Nutritionally, there were no issues with intake or palatability, even if it developed some mold," he said.
One rancher experimented with storing distillers grain between piled bales with ground hay placed on top.
"At the interface of the ground hay and distillers grain, there was some mold and spoilage," he explained. "This particular producer continued to pile distillers grain between the bales, but quit placing ground hay on top, which eliminated the problem."
Another producer piled distillers grain as high as possible with the idea that the taller the pile, the less grain that could crust. The same producer covered the pile with plastic, and it stored well, Stalker said.
"Distillers grain can also be stored in plastic silage bags, but in my opinion, it is a lot of unnecessary expense," he explained. He cautioned producers not to pack the bags too tightly because they could break.
At the Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory near Whitman, NE, distillers grain is stored on black plastic placed between round bales of hay.
"If you do this, I would recommend orienting the bales so the round part doesn't touch the distillers, or it will push them out," Stalker said. "We backed the truck in, dumped the grain out, and covered it up. It will get moldy and smell bad, but it is palatable. The mold doesn't go very deep, and the cattle will still eat it." F
Editor's Note: For more information about storing distillers grain, Stalker can be reached at 308-696-6707, or at firstname.lastname@example.org