Waste not, want not

June 07, 2017

Making a living raising cattle isn't as simple as just buying a herd and turning it out to pasture. Cattle require specific diets to maintain proper nutrition and weight gain. And how to do this in the most effective and efficient way possible has interested both ranchers and researchers for generations.

Scientists in Texas are interested in how seasons affect how well cattle can digest a type of Bermuda grass, Tifton 85. In a recent study, they found that as seasons progress, the grass becomes harder to digest. However, by supplementing with the dried distillers' grains, this effect can be minimized.

Dried distillers' grains are left over after ethanol production. They are what remains of the ground corn used for fermentation.

"Due to the ramp-up in ethanol production over the past few decades, there has been an abundance of this byproduct in the beef industry," explains Monte Rouquette, a professor with Texas A&M AgriLife Research. "Originally viewed as a waste product of the industry, research began looking into other uses of the byproduct."

He adds that using it as food for livestock is an efficient use of this product. The value-added aspect has moved the grains from wasted to wanted.

The dried grains are now commonly used as a relatively cheap source of feed. In some instances, it can replace primary feed ingredients like corn or soybeans. Some supplements provide additional energy, some more protein, and others minerals. The distillers' grain is used for both protein and energy.

How does this fit with the forage season? Tifton 85 Bermuda grass is a common forage grass across the south and southeast United States. However, as the plants mature, they become harder for livestock to digest. The cattle have a harder time extracting nutrients from the grass. The grains can help add back those nutrients.

The results of this study, conducted by W. Brandon Smith as part of his PhD research, point to a potential two-season grazing strategy, based on animal size, weight, and age. For example, lightweight animals could graze in the early summer without the grain supplement because the grass is able to give them the needed nutrients to thrive.

In the later part of the summer, the matured animals could graze with the distillers' grain supplement. The grain would add back some of the nutrients the cattle lose out on when the grass is further into season.

This research allows the scientists to determine the most effective and efficient way to use distillers' grains as a supplement. They can learn how much is best to give, when is best to give it, and how much return it can provide a rancher.

"These data can then be used in an economic assessment to provide a baseline of potential responses from the use of a supplement," says Rouquette. "This work is of interest to us me because it sheds light on changes that occur chemically within the plant across the year that affect its digestibility."
-end-
Read more about this work in Crop Science. The researchers' work was primarily funded by Texas A&M AgriLife Research at Overton, and partially funded by a Beef Competitiveness Research Initiative grant from Texas A&M AgriLife Research.

American Society of Agronomy

Related Corn Articles from Brightsurf:

Making sense of a universe of corn genetics
A new study details the latest efforts to predict traits in corn based on genomics and data analytics.

Redefining drought in the US corn belt
As the climate trends warmer and drier, global food security increasingly hinges on crops' ability to withstand drought.

Speedy recovery: New corn performs better in cold
Around the world, each person eats an average of 70 pounds of corn each year, with even more grown for animal feed and biofuel.

US corn yields get boost from a global warming 'hole'
The global average temperature has increased 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit over the last 100 years.

Genetic discovery may improve corn quality, yields
Researchers may be able to improve corn yields and nutritional value after discovering genetic regulators that synthesize starch and protein in the widely eaten grain, according to a Rutgers-led study.

Pollen genes mutate naturally in only some strains of corn
Pollen genes mutate naturally in only some strains of corn, according to Rutgers-led research that helps explain the genetic instability in certain strains and may lead to better breeding of corn and other crops.

Fungal mating: Next weapon against corn aflatoxin?
Native fungi combinations show promise against aflatoxin.

Scientists discover new 'architecture' in corn
New research on the US's most economically important agricultural plant -- corn -- has revealed a different internal structure of the plant than previously thought, which can help optimize how corn is converted into ethanol.

Breeding corn for water-use efficiency may have just gotten easier
With approximately 80 percent of our nation's water supply going towards agriculture, it's fair to say it takes a lot of water to grow crops.

Changing temperatures are helping corn production in US -- for now
Increased production of corn in the US has largely been credited to advances in farming technology but new research shows that changing temperatures play a significant role in crop yield.

Read More: Corn News and Corn Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.