Nutrient conference helps animal nutritionists learn about benefits of using corn and corn products

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

Several hundred animal nutritionists gathered in Owatonna September 20-21 for the 72nd Minnesota Nutrition Conference, and it was the second year that Minnesota Corn Growers Association sponsored an opening symposium on the first morning, to present the latest research on feeding corn, silage and distillers grains.

Northfield farmer Bruce Peterson emceed the symposium. He was recently elected secretary of Minnesota Corn Growers Association (one-year term began Oct. 1).

Speakers made key points that the future of corn production in the upper Midwest should keep to a growth trend, ensuring a plentiful supply for the livestock industry, and distillers grains–the ethanol co-product–can be included at high rates with quality results, not only in raising beef, but in pork, poultry and other feed consuming industries.

“With the growth of the ethanol industry and the amount of coproducts we are feeding–it has changed the way we are feeding animals,” said Peterson, whose family farm operation raises hogs in addition to corn and soybeans. “Some involved in feeding animals might have a somewhat negative view of the (ethanol) industry, so it is good to show these folks we are putting a lot of financial support into this research, and this event showcases our efforts in that area.”

The first of four speakers at the symposium was Prof. Jeff Coulter, University of Minnesota, who does a lot of studies with corn. He talked about the relationship of corn and soybean yields in some of the major corn production states. Minnesota has the highest ratio of corn to soybean yield rates, and looking at the trends out to 2030, Coulter feels it’s likely Minnesota corn producers will reach an average yield of 230 bu/acre.

“Coulter said the economics are fairly positive for corn in Minnesota,” said Peterson. “For nutritionists, the message is ‘we should continue to gain corn acres at the expense of soybeans.’ In Illinois–their bean yields are much higher than ours, but corn not so. So they might be more likely to grow more beans…For people who are end users, we will have more corn to use in the future.”

When it comes to distillers grains, researchers testing the limits to see how high the inclusion rates can go–not just across different species, but also different phases in the lifecycle of the animals, and for instance, differences in sows that are gestating versus those lactating, and how that affects nutritional requirements.

“This research is teaching us how to maximize use of DDGS while still keeping everything in good balance,” said Peterson.

Two other topics covered: Trends in digestibility of corn silage, and the use of different corn co-products in diets fed to swine. Going beyond distillers grains, nutritionists are getting good responses from corn gluten feed.

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