Corn - Cattle and Salvage

Name: Garland Dahlke, Extension Program Specialist, Iowa Beef Center

Fiscal Year:

Supports Plan of Work Number:
141 - Reduced feed cost for Iowa beef producers

Title of Success Story: 
Corn – Cattle and Salvage

The 2009 Iowa corn grain harvest was challenged with an extended period of wet weather on a state-wide basis.  This situation caused a large portion of the harvested grain to contain moisture levels beyond what would be safe for long term storage of dry grain without mechanical drying.  As a result grain dryers ran around the clock to properly dry the grain.  The problem that arose was that there was not enough dryer capacity to adequately dry the 2009 crop in time before mold and heating occurred to the stockpiled grain.  As a result literally millions of bushels of grain blackened from the heating in storage. 

Millions of bushels of burnt corn now existed with the problem of disposal as well as huge economical loss.  Here an enterprising cattle feeder approached me and inquired on the nutrient and energy density of the burnt feed.  We discussed past experiences feeding heated feeds and came to a conclusion that this damaged corn, although not fit for human, pig and poultry consumption and not wanted by the ethanol industry did not seem to bother cattle. 

To determine the nutrient value and provide a repeatable means of classifying this value became our objective.  This prompted an experiment where corn of different degrees of heat damaged was segregated by color.  Pictures of each classification were developed in order that each category could be identified visually on a repeatable basis.    With these samples and assistance from Mary Drewnoski, a post doctoral ruminant nutritionist in the Animal Science Department of Iowa State University, the samples were placed into the rumens of fistualated steers that Mary maintained in her laboratory.  Digestion of the samples was compared with a conventional near infrared nutrient analysis of the grain in order to arrive at the appropriate adjustment for nutrient digestibility for the degree of heating.

From our efforts, a corn classification chart indicating degrees of damage was produced along with an adjustment chart that allowed the feeder to generate the expected energy of the grain.  A system was then developed for application which consisted of the following:

  1. A hand-grab sample of the grain is taken from the lot
  2. The number of kernals counted that fall into each category (0 through 6) is determined.
  3. The adjustment factor from each category is multiplied by the percent of kernals in that category and summed.
  4. The resulting sum provides the average adjustment for nutrient content for the lot of corn and this would be the value that is used for diet formulation.

Once a nutrient value can be accessed to the grain, this feed can be compared with other potential feedstuffs on the market and utilized where appropriate.  The Beef-Livestock specialists of the Iowa Beef Center were provided with the technical details of using this system along with a computer-aided tool for doing the calculations described above during their Fall 2010 in-service training meetings.  Apart from the use and results the of the field specialists providing data to producers, this author knows of 18 independent Iowa cattle feeders who have utilized this system in feeding cattle.  These producers produced approximately 54,000 head of cattle in the last year using about 1.5 million bushels this type of damaged grain as valued by the system.   This corn which would have been near worthless was recognized for it’s value and valued still competitively at about 70% of its normal value based on energy content allowing a win-win situation for both the grain elevator (insurance company) and the cattle feeder.

(a copy of the training details and computer aided calculation tool can be made available if requested.)

Outcome Statement:   
Short-term results measure awareness and knowledge. 
            The nutrient value of heat damaged grain as been given a value.

Medium-term results measure behavior change. 
            The extensive quantities of heat damaged grain from the 2009 harvest were utilized without waste.

Long-term results measure condition (i.e., new standard).
            An alternative market for this feed was firmly established.

Page last updated: June 19, 2011
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