Brew to Moo

San Diego is famous for beaches, fun attractions, sunny weather and craft beer. With over 155 busy breweries, San Diego is also known as the the craft beer capital of the United States. Have you ever considered what is done with the waste after beer has been made? All the wet grains and yeast (also know as spent brewer's grain) is often thrown away or picked up by livestock producers. When given to livestock, feeding brewer's grain can be beneficial for all parties involved.



There are not as many livestock businesses in Southern California. However, many of these businesses can increase value of their production by utilizing local, spent grains from craft breweries. It is a cycle that helps everyone. Utilizes by-product waste sustainably, easy cleanup for the breweries, cheap feed for ranchers/farmers which leads to more affordable delicious beef for consumers. As well, animals love the taste! I have been doing some homework on the benefits of feeding spent brewer's grain to cattle specifically.


Is spent grain nutritionally stable for livestock? Yes and no. According to research done at Cal State Chico, when using spent grain and supplemented feed, cattle ate more, digested the feed better and gained more weight. Wet spent grain does contain good amounts of protein, fiber and energy which is important especially in a ruminant diet. The digestibility of spent grain is much better since its has been mashed up after being brewed. Fiber is increased after the sugars and starches have been removed from the grain after the malting process, which helps ruminant animals digest and use energy of the product much better.



Wet brewer's grain lacks calcium and potassium which is important for growth performance. To help balance these crucial vitamins, it is recommended to place mineral blocks out in pasture to help with these deficiencies and to improve growth.


Another thing to consider when using brewer's grain is that is has a very short shelf life. Since it is wet, if must be fed quickly to avoid mold, decrease moisture, spoilage and decreased palatability. It is recommended to pick up the spent grain within 1-3 days and used within 5-14 days depending on the season. Keep in mind warmer weather temperatures will cause the spoilage process to happen at a more rapid rate. Good ways to store spent grain is in a silo, plastic bins or bags in a cool shaded place. Some ranchers put their spent grain on a hard surface with run off. However, the liquid that is in brewer's grain that contains nutrients is lost when it starts to drain out.



To compare brewer's grain better, you have to imagine the nutritional content of dry matter. You would have to feed much more brewer's grain than regular dry cattle feeds because there is over 70% water content (74% according to the University of Florida). Because of the higher water concentration, it is recommended to feed 9-20lbs of WBG (wet brewer's grain) for a young steer which would be 2.3-5.2lbs of dry matter. For a mature cow, she should be limited to 30-50lbs of WBG per day which would be 7.8-13lbs of dry matter. (Univesirty of Florida).




Brewer's grain shouldn't be fed alone. Feeding a balanced diet of other grains and pasture feed must be done to properly finish an animal to the most optimal degree. As well, this will also help reduce the amount of water in the final mixture of feed. Some concentrates to consider when choosing feed are wheat, corn, oats, barley, beet pulp, soybean, cottonseed, roughages and grasses. Using these products in an efficient way will help eliminate bloat and help grow your product to the best state of meat quality.


Just like when switching kibble with your family dog, you must take extra precautions to avoid any sort of gastrointestinal upset with your young feeder steers. Always start off with a palatable good quality hay. Then start off slow by providing 1% of body per day weight grain mixture. Start increasing quantity gradually over one to two weeks. If you up the feed intake too quickly, you can cause bloating in your herd. Your weanlings can eat as much roughage/pasture as they want. This gradual process is only applied to the grain feeding program you would want to incorporate into your operation. It is recommended to feed 2-3 times daily and always ensure that you are providing fresh, clean water for your herd.


To sum things up, feeding brewer's grain can be super beneficial to your feeding program for your finishing steers as long as you feed it within the recommended time frame at the right pace to avoid bloat and tummy upset for the weanlings. It is an inexpensive feed source for ranchers and a great way for brewers to get rid of their waste. As well, brewers grain fuels cattle with energy, essential vitamins and minerals with the addition of mineral blocks and access to roughage or pasture. You should always have fresh water provided to optimal health. Using brewer's grain is not only super delicious in the steer's belly, but also for ours when we have that delicious meat on the dinner table.



So, if you are a cattle producer... consider talking with your local brewers to add spent grain to your feeding program. If you are located in an area that does not have a brewery source. You may also consider looking into plant waste from other local farmers as long as it is safe to feed your cattle. Sustainability is a hot topic in cow world, and ranchers are constantly finding ways to please consumers, help neighbors, and provide the best quality meat that there is in the world. AMERICAN BEEF!


Support your local farmers and ranchers and buy/eat beef!


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