Nav: Home

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:

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.
'Turbocharging' photosynthesis in corn hikes yield
Scientists from the Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) and Cornell University have boosted a carbon-craving enzyme called RuBisCO to turbocharge photosynthesis in corn.
High-protein corn also resistant to parasitic weed
In sub-Saharan Africa, 20 to 80% of corn yields may be lost because of a semi-parasitic plant, Striga.
Climate change should help Midwest corn production through 2050
Contrary to previous analyses, research published by Michigan State University shows that projected changes in temperature and humidity will not lead to greater water use in corn.
More Corn News and Corn Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

In & Out Of Love
We think of love as a mysterious, unknowable force. Something that happens to us. But what if we could control it? This hour, TED speakers on whether we can decide to fall in — and out of — love. Guests include writer Mandy Len Catron, biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, musician Dessa, One Love CEO Katie Hood, and psychologist Guy Winch.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#543 Give a Nerd a Gift
Yup, you guessed it... it's Science for the People's annual holiday episode that helps you figure out what sciency books and gifts to get that special nerd on your list. Or maybe you're looking to build up your reading list for the holiday break and a geeky Christmas sweater to wear to an upcoming party. Returning are pop-science power-readers John Dupuis and Joanne Manaster to dish on the best science books they read this past year. And Rachelle Saunders and Bethany Brookshire squee in delight over some truly delightful science-themed non-book objects for those whose bookshelves are already full. Since...
Now Playing: Radiolab

An Announcement from Radiolab