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Screening Pellets in Cattle Rations

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Screening pellets can replace cereal grains in rations. Before purchasing pellets, there are quality concerns to consider.

There are three classes or grades of screening pellets. The highest quality is a number one grade. It contains lightweight grain kernels or cracked grain, and a limited amount of weed seeds and foreign material. Number two grade screenings also contain broken or cracked grain kernels, but higher levels of weed seeds and other contaminants than a number one graded screening pellet.

Uncleaned or refuse screening pellets are the lowest quality pellet and may contain aspirator dust, floor sweepings, and other products.

Weed seeds are a major concern. Rumen acids and microbes can’t digest small seeds that have a hard seedcoat. If the seeds are not cracked or broken; (such as mustards, chamomile, and pigweed) they can germinate even if the manure is piled for two or three years prior to application in the field.

Grains are finely ground prior to pelleting. The small particle size in the pellet increases digestion rates which can result in rumen acidosis, bloat, and even death. Introducing these feeds into a ration must be done gradually over time. Different grains have different fermentation rates. This impacts how many pounds of pellets can be fed per head per day. Wheat screening pellets have the most rapid fermentation rate of any grain. Barley and oat screening pellets are digested less rapidly, but animals still require time to become adjusted to the new feed stuff in the ration.

Oilseed screenings can contain four to ten percent oil. Rumen function is impaired if the total oil or fat content in the ration is greater than seven percent. The rumen contracts and turns as normal, but the contents remain stationary. Digestion rates decrease and feed intake can be reduced.

The final issue is the variability in nutrient content from load to load. There is no guarantee for the percentage of grain in an ungraded screening or refuse pellet. Some batches can be of high quality, while others can be mainly hulls and dust. Do not to include screening pellets or other by-product feeds at more than 25 percent of the grain portion of the ration.

For additional information on using screening pellets in rations, contact Barry at 403-741-6032 or


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