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Watch sulfur content in animal feed from ethanol by-products

Published on 24 October, 2007, Last updated at 06:32 GMT
By Grant Crawford

Recent expansion in the ethanol industry has resulted in larger amounts of corn milling by-products for animal feed. These distillers grains make good animal feed, but sulfur levels must be closely monitored.

The sulfur content of distillers grains may be extremely high and is also quite variable. If animal diets are not monitored closely, high sulfur levels in the diet coupled with high sulfur in the drinking water can hurt animal performance and health.

When formulating rations, the sulfur content of both the feed and water must be considered. To manage the variability of sulfur levels in distillers grains, feedlot managers should establish a safety margin when formulating rations. This allows for a margin of error if the sulfur level of a truckload of distillers grain exceeds what the ethanol plant reported. In addition, proper mixing and good feed bunk management are needed to ensure the feed is uniformly mixed and delivered to cattle.

In hot summer months, distillers grain levels may need to be reduced, especially in areas with high sulfur levels in the water.

Unfortunately, high sulfur levels in distillers grains are something we must deal with, and may at times limit its inclusion in cattle rations. Through feed and water sampling, careful ration formulation and good management practices, feedlot producers should be able to take advantage of this valuable feedstuff.

For more details, check the University of Minnesota Extension beef website at

(Grant Crawford is an educator specializing in beef with University of Minnesota Extension.)


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