Nutrition conference highlights important topics for corn and livestock farmers

written by Jonathan Eisenthal

Minnesota’s top animal nutritionists know to save the third Wednesday and Thursday of September for the chance to engage with colleagues in top level conversations about the latest news and research into what keeps livestock animals strong, healthy and growing.

“More than ever, livestock and crop agriculture depend on each other in order to succeed,” said Chuck DeGrote, a Clara City farmer and Expanded Uses team leader for the Minnesota Corn Growers Association. “This was my first Minnesota Nutrition Conference and it was a great window on all the important research going on in animal nutrition. Minnesota’s corn farmers support ongoing research into animal nutrition because livestock agriculture continues to be one the most important consumers of what we produce on Minnesota crop farms.”

Dr. Alfredo Costanzo discussed his Minnesota Corn-funded research findings: low fat distillers grains perform on par with full-fat distillers grains as beef cattle feed. With the majority of ethanol plants now capturing oil from their distillers grains, this research provides very important research to cattlemen that they can continue to rely on distillers grains as a cornerstone of their beef rations.

One presenter offered a decade-by-decade review of the proceedings of the Minnesota Nutrition Conference. Among other trends, it showed that beginning in the year 2000 through today, the use of corn in animal rations has been a major topic at the conference.

John Goihl, a self-employed animal nutritionist based in Shakopee, has co-chaired the Minnesota Nutrition Conference for the past two decades. He reports that 160 animal nutrition professionals took part this year.

The conference presentations were wide-ranging and fascinating, according to DeGrote.

“Presentations on bacteria made for some real interesting information,” said DeGrote. “Nutritionists talked about the importance of having the right bacteria (sometimes referred to as ‘Probiotics’), and not having the wrong bacteria. And they related this to human health as well. They covered the relationship of bacteria to human health — how bacteria impacts physical and mental health. Maintaining that healthy balance, and how certain foods can help or aggravate problems with bacteria — these ideas have gained a lot of attention.”

One presenter offered research findings about the relationship of stress in livestock animals to bacteria.

“Heat stress can elevate the levels of the wrong bacteria, and cause them to give off more toxins,” DeGrote reports. “This then impacts animal growth. They estimate this causes $800 million dollars in losses every year, worldwide. So they are looking at the importance of finding remedies that reduce heat stress.”

According to Goihl, one talk of particular interest to corn growers focused on the manipulation of particle size and how that relates to animal performance.

“Among the variations that are being researched now, one method takes two particle sizes — a relatively fine grind of grain and blends it with coarser grain — to gauge the impact of this kind of blending on animal growth,” said Goihl.

Another method of manipulating particle size is using a split screen with the hammer mill, to get a very uniform particle size.

“The idea behind this is that if we can reduce particle size we can increase the surface area of the feed,“ said Goihl. “The enzymes and the bacteria involved in digestion then have greater contact with the feed particles, and this allows more complete absorption of the nutrients. It’s increasing the energy the animal gets from the feed. But there’s a negative side too. If you get too fine, then you run into digestive problems. Also, you can grind the corn so fine it’s essentially a powder, but then it won’t feed out of a feeding system. So, there’s a reality element to this too. We want flowability, we want to avoid digestive problems and we want to get the maximum benefit out of the corn. The research is trying to find that ideal particle size somewhere in the middle.”

DeGrote noted other talks of interest: research into the relationship of pelletized dired (blood) plasma feed rations to the spread of PED — Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea in pigs.

A representative of Monsanto talked about the ongoing impact of genomics in crop science, predicting that the benefits from this field of science would continue to accelerate. Monsanto is working on an integrated system of soil mapping, precision planting and the use of genetic products. One new type of product will be a “biodirect” spray that can be used to control weeds. The spray would contain genetic material that activates or shuts off very precise sections in the DNA of the weeds, in order to kill them.

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