How do DDGS and Pellets Provide Options for Cow/Calf Producers?

Research Summary

Beef cattle producers often ask us how they can use POET® Distillers Grains or POET® Pellets and Cubes in their feeding programs to improve profitability.

A recent economic analysis from researchers at the University of Nebraska now provide data to support a feeding program which includes grazing corn stalks and supplementing DDGS.


Grazing crop residue offers an economical alternative to other more intensive feeding programs. However, the residue contains minimal nutrients and as a result, producers need to provide a supplement to meet the animals’ requirements.

As part of a larger project, University of Nebraska researchers compared two feeding systems: 1) A confined system in which cow-calf pairs received a complete diet in a dry lot, or 2) cow-calf pairs grazed corn stalks with approximately 5 pounds of DDGS per cow per day. All cows calved during the summer and started the different treatments in November and ended with weaning in April. In addition to performance, researchers developed a partial budget to compare the different programs.


Calves from the cow-calf pairs on the grazing systems weighed approximately 72 pounds less than weaned calves from the dry-lot treatment. Less activity combined with a more consistent and balanced diet for the dry-lot cow-calf pairs probably explain this difference. Using 10-year averages for ingredient prices, the partial budget shows that cow-calf pairs on corn stalks had lower feed costs than cow-calf pairs in the dry-lot.

Producers grazing cow-calf pairs on corn stalks compared with the dry-lot system received $103 less for calf value because of the lower weaning weight. However, it cost $174 per cow-calf pair for grazing treatment while the dry-lot treatment would cost producers $374 per cow-calf pair. This means that producers using the grazing option received $97 more profit per calf than the dry-lot calves.

Researchers continued to evaluate performance of the calves during the growing and finishing phases. Interestingly, calves from the grazing treatment had greater intakes, average daily gain, and better efficiency compared with calves from the dry-lot treatment.

Grazing Corn
Stalks with DDGS
Dry Lot
Calf Weaning Weight (lbs)553626
Calf Revenue Difference ($/calf)103
Feeding Costs ($/calf)174374
Improved Profits ($/calf)97


Choosing the best feeding program involves more than just looking at ingredient costs and animal performance. Livestock producers need to also consider factors like feed availability, feed quality, and livestock markets. These variables can change from year to year and as a result, when producers can implement different feeding programs to adjust for these factors, they can optimize their profitability.

Ingredients like POET DDGS or POET Pellets and Cubes provide animals with an economical and digestible source of nutrients. Additionally, since POET uses its unique BPX process at each of its 27 biorefineries, livestock producers can feel confident they receive the same high quality ingredient each time. These features provide producers with feeding program options to capture additional value and improve profitability.

However, in order for a successful implementation of these programs, producers need to know the benefits and details of each program. If you would like additional information on this study or more details on the nutritional profile of POET feed ingredients, please contact us.

Source: Gardine, S. D., B. M. Boyd, C. J. Bittner, F. H. Hilscher, G. E. Erickson, K. H. Jenkins, T. J. Klopfenstein, and A. K. Watson. 2019. Effects of cowcalf production system and postweaning management on calf performance. Appl. Anim. Sci. 35:66-73

ID: 20180014   © 2022 POET, LLC. All rights reserved.
*These results are not a guarantee of nutritional value, as laboratory results are influenced by factors beyond the control of POET Bioproducts.