Feeding high-octane corn can put feedlots in winner’s circle

BeyondImages/Getty images Herd in dry kansas feedlot
IMPROVED EFFICIENCY: Research from Kansas State University and other land-grant universities shows that feeding amylase-enhanced corn hybrids, like Enogen from Syngenta Seeds, improves feed-to-gain efficiency and offers sustainability benefits to the cattle industry.
Research shows amylase-enhanced corn hybrids offer cattle feeding efficiencies.

If you could use high-octane fuel in your boat, getting better performance from your boat and yet paying lower octane prices, wouldn’t you do it?

That’s what feeding amylase-enhanced corn hybrids can do for cattle feeders, explained Dale Blasi, Kansas State University professor and beef cattle Extension specialist.

Blasi and his colleague, John Goeser with Rock River Laboratory Inc., spoke at the 2021 Cattlemen’s College in August, and shared how these corn hybrids that were developed for the ethanol industry have benefits for the cattle feeding industry as well.

Revolutionary enzyme

Enogen is an amylase-enhanced corn hybrid that Syngenta developed specifically to improve ethanol production from corn. This corn enzyme technology is an in-seed innovation that delivers alpha amylase enzyme in the grain. This enzyme was discovered near oceanic volcanoes — in a high-heat, high-pH environment, similar to the ethanol production process.

Typically, an ethanol plant would add liquid enzymes to its corn mash, which break down starch into sugars, which are then fermented with yeast to create ethanol. By blending Enogen corn with other corn, ethanol plants can boost their production with greater efficiency.

For several years, corn farmers near ethanol plants have been producing this corn under stewardship agreements, specifically for the ethanol market. But what’s good for ethanol production can actually be good for a beef animal’s rumen, too.

Feed efficiency

Blasi said research at K-State and other land-grant universities shows impressive feed efficiency boosts in stocker and finishing yards, and across various corn feeding methods.

He said Enogen corn can improve total tract digestibility of starch, organic matter and dry matter with no effects on rumen pH, which can be a concern for newly started stocker calves.

Blasi showed that in K-State and University of Nebraska research, feeding the Enogen corn in grain and silage forms resulted in about a 5% improvement in feeding efficiency on average.

Blasi also said research showed that Enogen corn improved digestibility in cattle by 34%.

“There’s a greater utilization of that starch through the presence of the alpha amylase enzyme,” he said. There were also improvements in use of organic matter and dry matter as well, he added, and reduced waste. Essentially, more of the energy of the corn stays with the animal, where it can be converted to pounds — and less goes out the back end.

“The analogy I use is, you’re utilizing that 91 octane fuel [in your boat], but paying the 87 octane price,” Blasi said. “You’re getting that kick from having that enzyme present in that corn.”

Reducing costs

The cattle feeding business lives and dies by the margin. A nickel here and a dime there may not seem like much; but to a 10,000-head yard, a feed additive that costs 2 cents per head per day can add up to $72,000 per year. Enogen’s enzyme provides the same benefits without the added costs, Blasi said.

Say a feedlot is putting 700 pounds on the steers over their 200 days on feed. It can cost $100 to $115 per head for that gain.

But if you increase your feed to gain efficiency by 5%, with feed cost at $1.20, your cost per pound of gain just in feed is $25.

Sustainability

By putting on more pounds of gain per pound of feed, that’s also an improvement in the cattle industry’s sustainability messaging, Goeser added.

Syngenta released a life cycle assessment of Enogen in February, conducted by the University of Arkansas Resiliency Center. The analysis showed that a 5% increase in feed efficiency in a beef backgrounding and feeding operation could potentially yield the following savings per 1,000 head:

• Greenhouse gases. It would remove 162,000 kg of carbon dioxide, or the equivalent of removing 35 passenger cars from the road for one year.

• Land use. It would save land used for corn production by 66 acres each year.

• Water use. It would save more than 6 million gallons of water, or enough to fill nine Olympic-size swimming pools.

• Energy use. It would save more than 269,000 kWh, or the average amount of energy used to power 22 average homes for one year.

Syngenta Seeds contributed to this article.

 

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