Is feeding brewer’s grain to steers beneficial? How much should I feed per head?
Answer: I foresee no problems with substituting wet brewer’s grains for one-third of the corn-oats-barley (COB) grain ration you are feeding your finishing steers. The University of Florida produced a useful publication titled Wet Brewers’ Grains for Beef Cattle, available at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/an241. This publication includes a description of how to feed brewer’s grains, as well as the nutrient composition. You mentioned that you are presently feeding your 800-pound steers 20 pounds of hay and seven to eight pounds of COB. As they finish, you are feeding an 1,100-pound steer 10 pounds of COB and approximately 23 pounds of hay. This is well within the limits of a hay-grain finishing ration and it should not cause acidosis.By substituting brewer’s grains for one third of the COB ration, you would be replacing about one-third of eight pounds, or 2.6 pounds of the COB dry matter with brewer’s grains. Since the brewer’s grains are approximately 25% dry matter, you would feed 8 pounds X 1/3 X 90% 25%= 9.4 pounds of actual brewer’s grains for an 800-pound animal. For simplicity, you could round that up to 10 pounds. This reflects the fact that brewer’s grains are approximately 25% dry matter as opposed to 90% dry matter for COB.However, brewer’s grains can vary in moisture content. It would be a good idea to have your brewer’s grains tested by a lab to get the full nutrient analysis. Dry-matter percentage would be one of the test results. This would give you a more accurate adjustment from which to feed the brewer’s grains. For example, if the dry matter percentage of brewer’s grains came back at 30% dry matter, you would feed three pounds of brewer’s grains to every one pound of COB (90%/30%=3.0) substituted. If this were the case, you would only feed 7.8 pounds of brewer’s grains to the 800-pound steer. As you can see, the amount of moisture in the brewer’s grains does make a difference in how much you feed. I think that at this rate of substitution, you would not have problems with barley bloat. However, it would be a good idea to make the transition over a week or 10 days. Just add a little more brewer’s grains to the grain mix every feeding, subtracting out the equivalent amount of COB as you go.To learn more about a wide array of topics related to cattle production, visit ATTRA’s Livestock and Pasture page at https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/livestock/.