February 2013
Farm & Field

Feeding Corn Gluten Feed or Soybean Hull Pellets

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Many cattle producers feed corn gluten pellets or soybean hull pellets to supplement hay. Both are economical sources of nutrients. However, both feedstuffs do have negatives associated with them. The purpose of this article is to educate regarding advantages and disadvantages, and how to use them properly.

Corn Gluten Feed Pellets

CGF pellets are a co-product formed from corn processing. This includes soaking corn in a solution of water and sulfur dioxide to swell kernels to prepare them for extraction. The resulting liquid is called steep liquor and contains protein, minerals and vitamins leeched out of the corn kernels. Starch and oil are extracted from the swollen corn kernels. The remaining fiber (bran) is then mixed back with steep liquor to form CGF. This mixture is dried and pelleted to form the commonly fed product. However, the amount of steep mixed with bran can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, or batch to batch.


The Good

CGF is a fairly good source of nutrients including protein, phosphorus and potassium (see Table 1). Because CGF is low in starch, high in digestible fiber and low in oil, it is safe to feed in relatively large amounts to cattle. Cattle won’t have issues like founder or acidosis like they would on straight corn. Hay intake will not drop off like diets containing straight corn due to the high-digestible fiber content in CGF making it ideal for forage-based diets.

The Bad

Due to variability in incoming corn and within the processing itself, the nutrient content of CGF can vary quite a bit. You’ve also got to remember that hay quality is going to vary quite a bit, too. For this reason, cattle may do very well on CGF for a while and then drop off sharply with no warning. Also, CGF is relatively high in phosphorus and potassium, yet low in calcium and magnesium. Unless calcium and magnesium are present in other areas of the diet, imbalances can cause problems like urinary stones, milk fever or grass tetney. Additionally, because of CGF’s acidic properties, metal storage and feeding equipment can corrode when CGF comes in contact with moisture.

The Ugly

Because sulfur is used in processing, CGF contains high levels of sulfur. When fed at high enough concentrations, this sulfur can actually antagonize selenium, copper and vitamin B12, and cause functional deficiencies. These problems are compounded when CGF is fed in areas naturally high in soil or water sulfur levels or in which soil concentrations of selenium and copper are deficient. Both of these conditions occur in many areas across Alabama. Given that CGF pellets have no natural intake control, individual cattle can consume extreme amounts of CGF pellets under normal feeding conditions.

Soybean Hull Pellets

SHP are a co-product formed from the soybean processing industry. Processing includes soybeans being cracked through rollermills. Soybean hulls are separated from the meats by aspiration. The dehulled meats go on for further processing to extract oil and create soybean meal. The soybean hulls are pelleted for ease of use.

The Good

SHP are a fairly good source of nutrients (see Table 1). Like CGF, soybean hulls are a moderate source of protein, low in starch, high in digestible fiber and low in oil, and thus safe to feed in relatively large amounts to cattle without fears of founder or acidosis. SHP are highly palatable, have a balanced calcium to phosphorus ratio and are a good substitute for oats in horses’ diet.

The Bad

While nutrient variability won’t be as extreme as that of CGF, some variability is to be expected. Potassium levels are elevated so magnesium and salt imbalances can result when large amounts are fed.

The Ugly

Like CGF pellets, SHP have no inherent intake control, thus the most dominant animals will eat the lion’s share so it’s possible to see grass tetney (magnesium deficiency) symptoms in your best cows even when the environmental conditions for grass tetney aren’t present.

The Gaps Left

Protein. Protein found in CGF or SHP may or may not be sufficient to properly supplement cattle needs. This will depend not only on variability within the pellets, but variability in hay sources and changing nutritional needs as pregnancy progresses.

Minerals. While both CGF and SHP are excellent sources of some minerals, others are lacking or, worse yet, may be rendered unavailable by antagonists.

No intake control. Both CGF and SHP are highly palatable and will result in slug feeding for the most dominant animals and underfeeding for the subordinate heifers and older cows.

What can SWEETLIX Supplements do?

SWEETLIX mineral supplements, pressed protein blocks or EnProAl poured blocks can provide essential nutrients (especially copper and selenium) lacking in CGF and SHP in convenient, self-fed forms. The combination of highly digestible fiber in the pellets and the spoon-fed nutrients provided by self-fed SWEETLIX supplements will help enhance hay utilization resulting in better performance on available forages. Contact your local SWEETLIX representative or visit www.sweetlix.com to learn about the wide variety of mineral and protein supplement products available to mix and match in your feeding program.

In summary, while CGF and SHP provide some of the essential nutrients needed by cattle, nutritional gaps can result from inherent deficiencies in these feedstuffs, variable hay quality and variations in nutrient content of the pellets. For these reasons, it is important to balance the ration with appropriate supplements to maintain performance. Cattle supplements pay for themselves in added production when used properly. For more information about the SWEETLIX minerals or EnProAl poured blocks and information to help you decide if they will fit into your management situation, visit www.sweetlix.com or call SWEETLIX at 877-933-8549.

Jackie Nix is an animal nutritionist with Ridley Block Operations (http://www.sweetlix.com). You can contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 1-800-325-1486 for questions or to learn more about SWEETLIX mineral and protein supplements for cattle, goats, horses, sheep and wildlife.