Approach to research speeds knowledge of feeding corn co-products to cattle
As a way to increase the number of corn co-products research studies it supports, and ensure that research takes on a direction that will more quickly benefit the state's cattle industry, the Nebraska Corn Board has created a beef cattle advisory committee.
The committee reviews the latest research results and helps determine which direction the next set of research projects should take. This reduces the time in between research projects and more quickly increases the knowledge base of feeding corn co-products, like distillers grains, to cattle.
"We estimate that, by operating our corn co-products and cattle research in this fashion, we will be able to double the amount of research we are doing," said Nebraska Corn Board member Dennis Gengenbach. A corn and cattle farmer from Smithfield, Gengenbach heads up the Nebraska Corn Board's research committee.
The main corn co-product being examined is distillers grains, which is produced by the state's dry mill ethanol plants.
Dr. Galen Erickson, a beef feedlot specialist with the University of Nebraska, said in the past, research results would be presented and feedback provided. University researchers would then need to present a funding request for the next proposed research project, which the Nebraska Corn Board would consider in its next fiscal year budget.
"The committee and its process allows us to skip the time lag between getting results from one study and starting the next," Erickson said. "It also keeps us more in tune with what is going on in feedyards so our research has the maximum benefit for cattle producers."
The committee is made up of four university researchers, one feedlot cattle producer, one cow-calf producer, one feedlot nutritionist, one forage nutritionist, one member of the Nebraska Beef Council and two members of the Nebraska Corn Board.
"The committee allows researchers and the Corn Board to better understand what is going on in cattle operations across the state, the things we need addressed when using distillers grains and other corn co-products," said committee member Alan Janzen of Circle Five Cattle Co., near Henderson. "We can help focus the research to make sure it is adaptable to the real world, and then take the results right to our feedyard."
The committee was formed last year and set objectives of where it wanted the knowledge on distillers grains to be three years later. During each meeting, the committee identifies the research necessary to reach those objectives, taking into account what was learned in the most recent studies--and changes that may have taken place in the beef industry.
"For feedlots we're looking at inclusion rates, sulfur challenges and the implications of corn fractionation and what may happen should there be less fat in the feed product from that ethanol process," Gengenbach said. "In the cow-calf sector, we're working on ways to better store wet distillers grains, the best ways to deliver product to animals on forage and methods of using distillers grains to replace some forage in the diet."
Janzen said he appreciates the Nebraska Corn Board including cattle producers on the committee. "It's been a very worthwhile endeavor. It creates more dialog with cattle producers and the university, which is good for everyone," he said.
To support the committee and research efforts, the Nebraska Corn Board increased the amount of money it commits to corn co-product and cattle research each year.
"The Corn Board has for many years supported research into corn co-product use in the beef industry, but it has increased funding in order to get more research results each year," Erickson said. "We appreciate that support; and, in the end, it provides a very positive return for the state's cattle industry."
Gengenbach said the Nebraska Corn Board supports so much research into feeding corn co-products, like distillers grains, to cattle because Nebraska is the second-largest ethanol and distillers grains producer in the country--in addition to being the second-largest cattle on feed state and third largest in corn production.
"Corn, ethanol, distillers grains and cattle all go together, with each step adding value and providing significant economic benefits to the state," Gengenbach said. "No other state in the country has a leading position in all three areas, so it is to Nebraska's benefit to work hard to take advantage of them."