From Trash to Nutritional Treasure; Part 3

We’ve learned that, due to cattle’s unique ruminant digestive system, they can eat a variety of feeds that humans cannot, converting them into high-quality beef and milk.

To learn about the variety of feed ingredients available in Arizona, we first visited a dairy, then a ranch, and now we explore the diet at an Arizona cattle feed yards.

Wyatt Scott, of Pinal Feeding Co., showed us the ingredients in their cattle feed.


Pinal Feeding Co. in Maricopa is located next to Pinal Energy, an ethanol production facility, and the two have found a mutually beneficial relationship. One of the by-products from producing ethanol, a renewable fuel, is distillers grains.

Wet distillers grains are a by-product from ethanol production.

Wet distillers grains (there are also dry distillers grains) are mixed into the feed ration and provide fiber, energy and protein to the diet. The wet distillers grains also provide moisture. The consistency is that of thick oatmeal and has the sweet, earthy smell of a brewery.

“We also incorporate used vegetable oil from Phoenix-area restaurants,” Wyatt added, “which adds fat that cattle convert to energy.”

Most of the cattle feed is made up of roughages – alfalfa, corn stalks, bermuda and sometimes sudan grass – that are imperative for the ruminant digestive system. Added to the mix are steam-flaked corn, wet distillers grains, used vegetable oil, vitamins and minerals.

The complete feed mix.

Similar to human dietitians with whom we consult for healthy and balanced meal plans, Arizona’s feed yards all consult with beef cattle nutritionists who formulate a nutritious, balanced feed ration. Wyatt explained, “We also test our feed weekly, analyzing the nutritional profile to ensure we are producing quality feed the cattle want to eat. It behooves us to constantly review our process as it directly correlates to the performance and health of the cattle.”

Aren’t cattle fascinating? The seemingly odd choices of cattle feed from distillers grains to bakery meal actually has many benefits. Not only are cattle able to process sugar into energy extremely efficiently because of their digestive system, but it also keeps by-products like distillers grains and used vegetable oil – that would otherwise be thrown into a landfill – from being wasted.

wyatt-scott“I truly enjoy the idea of constantly looking for ways to improve how we care for cattle and they are the most transparent with the results. They may not be able to communicate like we do, but it is really simple to see how they are responding to a change. They are a visible 3 dimensional reflection of the work you put in,” shared Wyatt.

These ruminant animals can digest forages humans cannot consume and turn them into great-tasting, nutrient-rich beef loaded with zinc, iron, protein and B vitamins.

Landfills are the number one source of man-made methane emissions (according to the EPA). Isn’t it great that we can mitigate some of that?

Ultimately, there are many ways to raise and feed cattle. We’ll continue to share interesting stories from the beef community in Arizona.

Thank you for ruminating with us.


From Trash to Treasure; Part 1

From Trash to Treasure; Part 2

From Trash to Nutritional Treasure; Part 2

What do beef and beer have in common?

They are a delicious pairing, of course.

However, they are even better friends than that. Cattle can eat the leftovers from the beer making process and they find it delicious and no, they don’t get drunk.

“Spent grains,” the by-products from the production of beer, are what is left over after the mash is cooked and the “wort” (liquid) is extracted. The sugars go with the wort and there isn’t any alcohol in the spent grains because fermentation process has not yet taken place.

What does a brewery do with spent grains?



We visited with Jacob and Laura Hansen of Saddle Mountain Brewing Company to find out.

Oatmeal and Spent Grain Molasses Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich

“We do dry and reuse some of the grains in our restaurant in baked goods such as crackers, pie crusts, cookies and bread. My favorite was an oatmeal and spent grain molasses cookie for ice cream sandwiches.”


These sound delicious. But, when one brews a lot of beer, there are a lot of leftover spent grains so another viable outlet is to feed them to livestock.

The brewery has a partnership with local West Valley cattleman Patrick Bray. Patrick and business partner, Bass Aja, along with their wives (Lisette and Anna, respectively) and their families raise cattle in Rainbow Valley, Arizona, about 40 minutes southwest of the brewery in Goodyear.

The Hansens are thankful for this mutually beneficial relationship because the excess spent grains would otherwise have to be disposed of into the trash. “Instead, we love that there is an environmentally friendly use for the grains so that they aren’t a trash product,” added Laura.


Every time beer is brewed, spent grains are created. Patrick picks up four to six 35- gallon buckets of the spent grains the same day, which is once or twice a week, and is then able to feed the grain to the cattle.


“Having access to the spent grains gives us an alternative feed source for the cattle,” said Bray. “It is nutritionally beneficial providing energy, protein and fiber. I’ve also observed that due to the spent grains, the cows are able to more efficiently convert all of their feed.” The grains are not the main source of nutrition for the cattle but it does make for a nice supplement, helping to keep the cows in good body condition year-round.

An interesting thing has also happened – the cows come running when they see Bray’s white Ford truck coming down the road.


“They love it! It’s like candy to them,” Bray giggled. “It’s fun to see the cows dive into the feed troughs. Plus, it gives me an opportunity to check if the cows are healthy, to make sure they don’t have any problems.”

Sounds like Pavlov’s dog…uh, cow.


Bray added, “The spent grains are a healthy, usable by-product from the community and stay in the community, not going to waste.”

The Hansens also take some of the spent grains home to their chickens. Sometimes the grains even carry the scent of the flavor of the beer – coriander, orange peel, flaked corn for cream beer, or other seasonal flavorings. The spent grains can also be used for composting.


Saddle Mountain Brewing Company and the ranchers have collaborated since the brewery opened in October of 2014. All breweries, from craft-sized to Anheuser-Busch, produce the spent grain by-product and most also have beneficial relationships with ranchers or farmers.

Laura concluded, “It is sort of a full-circle food chain or another take on ‘farm to table’: from farm to grain to brewery to cattle ranch to fertilizer and back to growing more food, we all help each other.”


From Trash to Nutritional Treasure; Part 1

From Trash to Nutritional Treasure; Part 1

Cattle are fascinating animals. Not only do they provide beef, milk, and by-products, but they also are fantastic recyclers and convert feed that is most-times not suitable for human consumption.

The bovine digestive system is not like the human monogastric (single-chambered) stomach. Cattle are ruminants, meaning their stomach has four unique compartments.

These forage-consuming species, along with sheep, goats, buffalo, elk, giraffes and camels, rely on a microbe-based process to digest feed to convert it to energy. The fourth compartment, the rumen, contains millions of microbes (microscopic bugs) that help cattle digest feed.

Thanks to this super-powered digestion process, cattle can eat forages that humans can’t digest. In addition to grass, hay and grains (which are both technically grasses), cattle can be fed leftovers from other industries that would otherwise be trashed in a landfill.

What are some interesting feed ingredients fed in Arizona?

There are lots! Wes Kerr, of Kerr Family Dairy in Buckeye, Arizona, shared that his dairy cows are currently eating a feed mix of alfalfa, oats and sorghum silage, steam-flaked corn, cotton seed, almond hulls, whey, vitamins and minerals. Cotton seeds, almond hulls, and whey are all by-products of other agricultural crops. “We are diligent to provide our dairy cows with the nutrition they need, and sometimes we are able to utilize feed products from other Arizona businesses that one might see as ‘trash’ but, to my cows, they are nutritional ‘treasures,’” Wes explained.

Processed with Snapseed.
Wes and Lauren Kerr with their children Madelyn, Caroline and Evan. 

Seasonal variability does affect the by-products available. For example, right now, cotton seed is readily available as a feed ingredient because Arizona’s cotton farmers have just completed cotton harvest. Cotton seed is high in fat, fiber and vitamins – all important for cattle. When cotton goes to gin for cleaning, the seeds, dirty lint and debris are removed. Interestingly, the dairy also uses the “gin trash” as bedding for cows.

Weather, global markets and geopolitical events also affect pricing and availability of different feed products. For example, Wes shared that “2016 was the largest almond harvest* in California’s history, therefore there were lots of almond hulls available at an affordable price.” *California grows 100% of the U.S. domestic supply of almonds.

Though these feed by-products and others are unique, hay, silage and grains are vital. “We consult with a dairy cattle nutritionist to help formulate the proper mix to keep our cows healthy,” Wes explained. “We also regularly send feed samples to a lab to determine the nutrient value of each crop and commodity to monitor protein, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals.”

From upper left: cotton seeds; steam-flaked corn; pelletized vitamins and minerals; the chopped, mixed and finished feed. 

The Kerrs (and most dairy farmers) grow most of their own forage including corn, sorghum, alfalfa and oats. In recent years, they have switched more to sorghum over corn for silage because sorghum is more drought tolerant (doesn’t use as much water) and is resistant to crop disease.

Wes offered an enlightening perspective that even vegetarians and vegans benefit from animal agriculture: “If one only consumes plant-based foods, like soy products or almond milk, or wears cotton, they are also contributing to the sustainability of all of agriculture. Soy and almond hulls are fed to cattle or they would otherwise go to into a landfill. Everyone wears cotton and we can even utilize the cotton waste.”

The old saying, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is fitting. Or, in this case, “one man’s trash is a dairy cow’s power smoothie.”

Tune in next week for a visit to a cattle ranch and feed yard.

Arizona grows and feeds a lot of alfalfa. It is high in protein, fiber and calcium. Arizona averages 9-10 cuttings of alfalfa from the same crop per year (the national average is 4-5). This is due to Arizona’s warm and temperate climate and summer and winter rains.

Corn Silage
Silage is fermented corn and corn stalks that can be easily chopped and is high in energy and digestibility.

Sorghum Silage
Like corn silage, but from the sorghum plant.

Cotton Seeds
When cotton is harvested (for clothing, textiles, paper…) the seeds are discarded and can be fed to cattle. They are a good source of energy (from fat), fiber, protein and vitamins (vitamin B6, folate, calcium, iron and potassium, protein, thiamin, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and manganese).

Gin Trash
The “dirty” lint, seeds and other plant material can be composted or used for bedding for cattle.

Almond Hulls
When almonds are harvested from the tree, the nut (kernel) is inside a shell which is inside the hull. Hulls provide fiber to cattle.

A grain that is high in energy, protein and fiber.

Soy beans and hulls, the shell around the bean that gets discarded before human consumption, is high in fiber.

The byproduct of cheese making, whey by-products. Human athletes use whey protein for workout recovery. Dairy cattle can be fed the liquid form leftovers, helping cheese makers to waste less, while providing carbohydrates, minerals (calcium, phosphorus, zinc, potassium and magnesium), vitamins (riboflavin, vitamins B-6 and B-12), protein and fat.


Other interesting feed products, some of which we will cover in the series: molasses, beet pulp, citrus pulp, cull products from vegetable production, bakery waste, distillers grains, brewers grains

How to Actually Be a Healthier You

proteinbenefitsNew Year’s resolutions are in full swing, and the common goal is to lose weight or to get in better shape. While these are both worthy goals, we think focusing more on the actual nutrition you give you body will work better towards any goal of being healthier in 2017.

Research continues to show one of the most important nutrients when it comes to muscle growth, and weight loss is protein. Getting more protein, evenly spread out through your day is proven to support healthy, lean bodies, helps to reduce the risk of chronic disease and reduce high blood pressure, all while making exercise more effective. This happens because with a complete source of amino acids, such as beef, you get everything necessary for building and replenishing muscles.

protein-challengeThe Beef Checkoff wants to help you reach your goals of being a healthier you in 2017, and an excellent way to get more protein in your diet is with the 30 Day Protein Challenge. This challenge helps you to start consuming more protein a day while also ensuring you spread the wealth throughout the day, helping you to feel full and satisfied longer.

Are you ready to take the challenge? Head over to our website and sign up! You will receive helpful tools and tricks to ensure your success on your journey, and we are always here to root you on!