Could Feeding Change if Corn Stays Low?

ANALYSIS - Consider corn to control feed costs, farmers are being told ahead of an expected bumper harvest.
calendar icon 29 August 2014
clock icon 2 minute read

US Backgrounders, even those on forage-based programmes, could take advantage from rising corn stocks, a University of Kentucky beef expert has advised.

But those looking to maximise fibre digestibility must limit corn, or the amount of starch offered, said Dr Jeff Lehmkuhler.

This month, cash corn bids as low as $3.40 have been observed - around $120/ton.

This rivals other energy sources, such as soybean hulls ($150/ton), corn gluten feed ($140-160/ton) and dried distiller’s grains ($155/ton), Dr Lehmkuhler explained.

However, he highlighted the risk of augmenting forage-based diets with starch-based energy supplements.

Doing so lowers rumen pH, impacting forage digestibility, reducing intake and decreasing overall energy to the animal.

But, this year may be a time to sacrifice fibre digestibility.

Prescribing the times when this sacrifice makes sense, Dr Lehnkuhler said: “This may be when corn is relatively cheap, hay is low quality, hay stores are short, alternate fibre-based coproduct feedstuffs are more costly, and the target rates of gain are moderately high.”

Furthermore, he assured Backgrounders of Brazilian, Iowa and Oklahoma researchers who had numbers to support corn in forage based programmes.

This includes it used with beet pulp, soyhulls or soybean meal respectively.

Despite this, cattle are not expected to have a major impact on corn stocks, according to an Illinois farm economist last week.

With calf crops low following herd liquidation, Professor Darrel Good said of the beef herd: “Feed use of corn will not receive much support from the beef sector.”

Elsewhere in livestock, broiler numbers and dairy cows are up one per cent this year, while hog numbers bring the ‘most uncertainty’ as the industry looks to farrow more sows after porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus (PEDv).

This year's ethanol production, meanwhile, is predicted to reach a record 14.15 billion gallons, 2.5 per cent up on 2011/12 and 10 per cent higher than last year.

Summing up the short term outlook, Mr Good wrote: “There are some early signs that corn consumption during the year ahead will increase modestly in response to lower prices.

“Corn prices are expected to stay under some pressure at least through the USDA’s September 11 Crop Production report. The size of the corn crop forecast in that report will be important in determining where the low may be in the corn market.”

Michael Priestley

Michael Priestley
News Team - Editor

Mainly production and market stories on ruminants sector. Works closely with sustainability consultants at FAI Farms

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