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NDSU releases beef research findings

Published: 19 November 2012

Livestock feed has been the focus of considerable research at NDSU in the past year.

Field peas, hull-less barley and distillers grains are among the potential beef cattle feeds they've studied. The researchers concluded that:

  • Dried distillers grains plus solubles can be used to supplement growing steers fed medium-quality hay.
  • Feeding dried distillers grains plus solubles on alternate days may be an option when forage availability is limited. 
  • Field peas make an excellent feedstuff for finishing diets for feedlot cattle. 
  • Hull-less barley is a viable grain for finishing feedlot cattle.

The objectives of the first dried distillers grains plus solubles study were to determine the effect of increasing supplementation of corn dried distillers grains plus solubles on forage intake, average daily gain, gain efficiency and feeding behavior in growing cattle fed medium-quality hay.

Previous research suggested that ethanol byproducts, such as distillers grains, can be an effective supplement for forage-based diets. However, less is known about the effects of supplementation on feeding behavior and behavioral factors contributing to differences in animals' responses to supplements.

Animal sciences researchers conducted a recent study that indicates supplementation with dried distillers grains plus solubles increased growth performance and total dry-matter intake in growing steers fed medium-quality hay and reduced their hay intake and the time they spent consuming the hay.

In another dried distillers grains plus solubles study, animal sciences department researchers evaluated the effects of feeding forage-fed steers dried distillers grains plus solubles on alternate days as a way to reduce feed costs. Researchers discovered feeding only hay and only distillers grains on alternating days resulted in changes in forage intake and concentrations of volatile fatty acids produced in the rumen without affecting digestibility.

These results indicate that the reduction in forage intake and limited metabolic consequences warrant further investigation of alternate-day feeding schedules as an option when forage availability is limited.

The field pea finding resulted from a feedlot finishing study researchers at NDSU's Carrington Research Extension Center and the animal sciences department conducted to evaluate how including field peas in yearling beef heifer diets affected feedlot performance, carcass traits and palatability in different muscles in the carcass.

The researchers learned field peas do not have any adverse effects on performance or meat quality. However, including field peas in the cattle's diet did not increase beef tenderness, which was contrary to the researchers' expectations.

In the barley study, researchers substituted hull-less barley for corn at varying levels in a finishing study with 158 crossbred steers. The researchers found that feed intake decreased as the proportion of hull-less barley increased, but overall gains were not affected, resulting in an improvement in feed efficiency.

For more information on these studies and other recent NDSU beef cattle-related research, visit the "2012 North Dakota Beef Report," which is available at

This is the first NDSU beef publication with research findings from faculty throughout the state, as well as on campus. In addition to feed research, the publication contains articles on nutrition, growth, reproductive performance, artificial insemination, and feedlot and range issues.

NDSU is recognized as one of the nation's top 108 public and private universities by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education.

Student Focused. Land Grant. Research University.

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Vice President for University Relations
North Dakota State University
Phone: +1 (701) 231-1068 - Fax: (701) 231-1989
Campus address: Old Main 204
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Last Updated: Sunday, August 25, 2013