Bill Tentinger runs a farrow-to-finish hog operation near Le Mars in northwest Iowa. Like most livestock producers, Tentinger is concerned about the price and availability of feed in 2013. At the recent Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA) annual meeting in Des Moines, Tentinger—who is the immediate past president of IPPA—shared with us how he is dealing with the situation.
The tight supply of forages has caused a big upswing in the utilization of corn residue in Nebraska. Cows grazing cornstalks and big bales of corn stover are common sights this winter.
But University of Nebraska feedlot nutrition specialist Galen Erickson is advocating for even greater use of corn residue in the future.
“We’re on a mission to improve the use of our residue across the state,” Erickson says. “We still don’t think we use near as much as we should or could. In fact, if we fed all the residue to cattle that are possible in our state, we’d only use ten percent of the irrigated acres that are out there for residue.”
Erickson and his colleagues have done considerable research on increasing the inclusion of cornstalks and corn residue in range and feedlot diets. “We think that over the next five to ten years, this is one of our untapped resources that we can use in a state like Nebraska better than anywhere else—and also in a sustainable manner.”
As corn yields continue to increase, Erickson says, so will the amount of residue left in the fields.
“I see actually removing residue as becoming more critical in the future—if for no other reason—from an agronomic standpoint,” Erickson says, “and I’d much rather see that residue used for cattle in a state like ours, than tilling that residue to get it worked in.”
At the recent Fremont Corn Expo in Fremont, Nebraska, Erickson was joined by UNL nutrient management specialist Charles Wortmann in a presentation entitled “How Cornstalks Can Bring Value Back To Nebraska”.
With more corn being cut for silage and reduced output of distillers grains by some ethanol plants, cattle feeders could face some challenges in formulating feed rations.
“We’ve gotten pretty accustomed to distillers grains in Nebraska,” says Todd Schroeder with Albers Feedlot of Wisner, Nebraska. “We may have to learn to feed less distillers grains or go without.”
Brownfield visited with Schroeder about the drought’s impact on cattle feeding during the Cattle Industry Summer Conference in Denver.
Research at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) on increasing the inclusion rate of ground corn stalks in cattle rations is showing promise.
“What we’ve done around five or six times now at the university’s feedlot is we’ve compared feeding five percent corn stalks, which would be conventional, to 20 percent treated corn stalks—and getting the same performance,” says UNL extension beef feedlot specialist Galen Erickson.
“So basically you’re able to offset 15 percent of your corn needs in a feedlot, which is quite economical.”
Researchers are using alkaline treatments to make the stalks more digestible for cattle.
“We’re estimating, assuming corn stalks are 55 to 60 dollars per ton—and when you treat it, you do increase the cost and there is a hassle factor—but we’re estimating you generally can make 20 to 30 dollars more per finished animal, and also lower the breakeven,” Erickson says.
Erickson says one of the big differences between past research on corn stalk inclusion, and current efforts, is the availability of distillers grains.
“It’s probably one of the reasons we can feed 20 percent treated stalks compared to five percent untreated stalks, and get the same performance,” he says. “So we believe that having 30 to 40 percent of the diet dry matter as distillers grains is a key.”
UNL’s corn stalk research will be one of the topics discussed at a June 20th cattle nutrition meeting for consultants and producers at the UNL ag research center near Mead.
More and more ethanol producers are starting to extract some of the corn oil from their distiller grains. With tight margins, they like the idea of adding an additional salable product to ethanol and distillers grains.
Of course, livestock producers are concerned about how it is going to impact the nutritional value of the DDGs they have come to rely on–and whether the prices they pay for those products will adjust accordingly.
At the recent Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit in Des Moines, the director of ethanol services for the Omaha-based Gavilon Group—Randy Ives—discussed the trend towards corn oil extraction. (Gavilon is one of the largest marketers of distillers grains in the U.S. markets.)
For Ault Farms in Rochester, Ind. raising cattle with $7 corn could really hamper profitability. Aaron Ault is Vice-President of Ault Farms and he says it isn’t just one thing that makes their operation successful. Ault says he spent a lot of time researching and talking with other farmers that were making it work. He says while some techniques may work on some operations they aren’t as effective on others. Ault explains what works for their farm.
A three-year distillers grains research initiative conducted by the University of Nebraska—and funded by the Nebraska Corn Board—has officially wrapped up.
According to Kelly Brunkhorst of the Corn Board, the initiative resulted in a number of important breakthroughs when it comes to feeding distillers grains—a co-product of the ethanol process—to cattle.
“We now have a much better understanding of higher inclusion rates of distillers grains, sometimes up above 60 to 70 percent—and with that came some concerns,” Brunkhorst says, “and the university did a great job of addressing those concerns—specifically sulfur—and was able to understand that we could possibly increase the sulfur rate compared to some earlier research that was conducted.”
Even though this initiative has ended, the Nebraska Corn Board continues to fund distillers grains research. Brunkhorst says one area being explored is how the feed value of distillers is impacted by the extraction of corn oil—a practice being adopted by more and more ethanol producers.
“That creates an unknown as to what that feeding value really is for distillers grains in the future,” he says. “So we continue to work with the university on that issue—and we’ll hopefully have some results over the next year or two on having a better understanding of how ‘de-oiled’ or ‘lesser-oiled’ distillers grains will work in feedlot and range diets.”
Brunkhorst says the ability of the Nebraska Corn Board to fund additional research is limited by what is available via the state’s corn checkoff–which he points out is the lowest of all leading corn states in the U.S.
Nebraska’s current corn checkoff rate of one-quarter of a cent per bushel was set in 1988.
For those farmers faced with low quality wheat this season, incorporating that wheat into livestock diets may be an option, but Steve Boyles, Extension beef specialist at Ohio State University says there are factors to consider.
“Wheat is considered a fast fermenting grain, so probably an absolute maximum of 50 percent of the diet and I would say working with someone who is a novice feeding wheat I’d probably go a little bit lower than that and gradually work the cattle up on feed,” said Boyles.
Boyles suggests talking with your local extension office or your feed representative on how best to incorporate wheat into the diet.
For those farmers faced with low quality wheat this season, incorporating that wheat into livestock diets may be an option, but Steve Boyles, Extension beef specialist at Ohio State University says there are factors to consider, such as how much wheat to substitute for grain in the ration. For those who have not had much experience feeding wheat, Boyles suggests talking with your local extension office or your feed representative on how best to incorporate wheat into the diet.
The elevated prices of corn and soybean meal are driving more and more swine producers to feed alternative ingredients, such as distillers dried grains with soluble, wheat midds and corn germ meal. Diets with alternatives ingredients often contain higher amounts of fiber and non-starch polysaccharides (NSP) compared to traditional corn and SBM diets. According to Bruce McClain of ADM Alliance Nutrition, supplementing swine diets with enzymes—such as ADM Alliance Nutrition’s EASYZYME—can help improve digestion of higher NSP diets. That means improved feed utilization and pig performance.