Value Added Opportunities from the Manufacture and Feeding of Silages Produced from Liquid Cheese Whey and Other By-products to Growing and Finishing Cattle and Beef Cows

2003 Annual Report for SW01-001

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2001: $59,777.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $20,758.00
Region: Western
State: Utah
Principal Investigator:
Dale Zobel
ADVS Dept., Utah State University

Value Added Opportunities from the Manufacture and Feeding of Silages Produced from Liquid Cheese Whey and Other By-products to Growing and Finishing Cattle and Beef Cows


Whey Silage was produced from "sweet" whey in six growing and finishing studies for less than fifty dollars a ton at a time when corn silage and alfalfa hay were priced at one hundred dollars a ton. When diets containing 55 and 80 percent Whey Silage were fed to growing steers, they were equal in digestibility to standard diets comprised of alfalfa hay, corn silage and barley grain. The cost per pound of gain was decreased in studies with growing cattle where 55 to 98 percent of the ration was comprised of whey silage. The economic advantage was not recognized in finishing rations that contained only 12 to 18 percent Whey Silage. Nevertheless, average daily gain was equal in control and treated groups within each of the six studies indicating that animal performance is not compromised when Whey Silage is included in the ration. Studies in 2003 have concentrated on the manufacture and use of whey silage for beef cows using "acid" whey which is lower in DM and of less value than "sweet" whey. Results to date indicate that beef cows perform equally as well as cows on traditional forage diets but at only 65% of the cost. This is siginificant for beef producers as feed can make up to 75% of operating costs.

Objectives/Performance Targets

1. Determine production and carcass characteristics of growing and finishing cattle and beef cows under maintenance conditions fed ensiled products that were derived from combining “sweet” or “acid” liquid cheese whey, low-quality roughage sources and a concentrate source.
2. Determine nutrient content of these derived silage products.
3. Evaluate economics of production for whey silage compared to traditional corn silage based diets and for cattle fed these silages.
4. Disseminate research results derived from these studies to beef producers, extension and industry personnel in the Intermountain West.


Studies have been conducted or are currently underway to determine the potential of whey silage for beef cows under maintenance conditions. In one study thirty-six pregnant beef cows were stratified by weight and age and assigned to one of two treatments: control or treated. Control cows received a standard roughage maintenance diet and treated cows whey silage which was manufactured using wheat midds, straw and liquid whey (22% DM). The whey came from the manufacture of yogurt and is considered "acidic". There were 6 cows per pen in this 56 day study with treatments replicated three times. Cows were were condition scored initially and backfat determined via ultrasound. A digestibility trial was also conducted by using four cannulated beef cows. Results indicated that beef cows could be wintered on whey silage with no adverse affect on body condition compared to control cows. Digestibility of the whey silage was equal to a traditional hay roughage diet. This was accomplished at 65% of the cost of the traditional diet. A second study using "acid" whey is currently underway with similar numbers of cows but will last 112 days. this study will conclude in March, 2004.

Extension Publication:

ZoBell, D.R., and C. Burrell. 2002. Producing whey silage for growing and finishing cattle. Utah State University Extension Publication AG514.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The studies to date on whey silage have shown conclusively that beef cattle (growing and finishing cattle and cows) can benefit from this new feedstuff. Whey silage consists of residue feeds (wheat midds, straw and liquid whey) and by combining these a nutritious and cost effective value-added product is obtained. These studies are the only ones that have been reported and will serve as a basis for further research by others. In southern Idaho and throughout Utah there are many cheese, yogurt and other plants that produce thousands of tons of liquid whey as a by-product. Through this novel technique beef producers can add hundreds of thousands of dollars to these residue feeds value.