Animal Nutritionists Share Insights with USGC Customers

Animal nutritionists regularly contribute to U.S. Grains Council (USGC) programs and their research findings are often applied to international livestock production systems. The following leading nutritionists shared their insights for this month’s edition of the Grain News.

Gerald Shurson, Ph.D., University of Minnesota

Gerald Shurson, Ph.D., is a professor with the animal science department at the University of Minnesota specializing in swine nutrition. In June and July 2015, Shurson traveled to Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan and Colombia for the U.S. Grains Council (USGC). He joined a group of experts to conduct a detailed evaluation and strategic program planning project in Vietnam and Thailand that focused on dairy and aquaculture sectors. The group also discussed enhancing opportunities to increase imports of U.S. distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) in swine and poultry sectors. Shurson was also involved in technical programs in Japan and Taiwan related to increasing DDGS demand in these mature export markets. 

Upcoming Research: At the University of Minnesota, one of Shurson’s research projects is working on increasing the feed value of DDGS by developing more efficient production methods and minimizing its carbon footprint.

Thoughts for International Customers: When it comes to DDGS, Shurson urges buyers to obtain testing data related to any quality traits of importance, such as mycotoxin levels. Shurson also suggests that buyers work with USGC offices to get information that will help to accurately assess nutrient content. Obtaining advice from qualified animal nutrition researchers and experts is also a good idea, Shurson said.

“U.S. nutritional knowledge allows international customers to adjust to modern formulation methods to increase feeding accuracy and capture more livestock value of U.S. grains and co-products,” Shurson said.

Alvaro Garcia, DVM, South Dakota State University

Alvaro Garcia, DVM, is a professor of dairy science at South Dakota State University (SDSU). Garcia also serves a role with SDSU extension working with local producers. As a contributor to USGC programs, he has addressed concerns of dairy producers and end-users in Japan about the use of low-oil DDGS in lactating dairy cow rations.

Upcoming Research: Garcia is planning a future research project that measures the effects of DDGS and high forage rations on methane emissions from cattle. Reducing these emissions so that food and fiber production systems are more environmentally sustainable is the reason for this project, and Garcia and the other researchers hope it leads to practices that result in methane emission reductions.

Thoughts for International Customers: Sourcing DDGS from the United States has advantages, said Garcia. In 95 percent of United States ethanol plants, corn is used as a feedstock exclusively. In the European Union and Canada, however, corn is used as a feedstock exclusively by only 34.6 and 50 percent of the plants, respectively. When more than one grain is used, the product’s nutrients will be affected, particularly in the amino acid profile and digestibility of the protein itself, which will compromise animal performance. Analyzing for amino acids is an expensive and lengthy process.

Garcia reminds international buyers that DDGS is sold on a PROFAT basis, which combines protein and fat values. Buyers should also pay close attention to the color of DDGS. Darker DDGS can be the result of overheating during the drying process that diminishes protein content and energy values and can reduce animal performance, particularly in swine and poultry.

Mycotoxins are not destroyed during ethanol fermentation or DDGS production. Instead, their concentration is increased. Inadequate storage conditions may also increase the concentration of mycotoxins due to inoculation by mold spores present in the environment. Therefore, it is important to monitor mycotoxin levels and store DDGS under conditions that minimize mycotoxin growth.

The risk of mycotoxin contamination in U.S. DDGS is very low because most ethanol plants monitor grain quality and reject sources that are contaminated with mycotoxins. If mycotoxins are present, concentrations fall below harmful levels when the DDGS is blended with other feed ingredients to make up the overall animal diet.

Garcia believes it is critical when working with international buyers to have a clear understanding of the culture, climate and livestock goals in their area or country.

“U.S. grains are an excellent source of nutrition for domestic and international livestock producers. It is paramount that other countries have access to these products,” Garcia said.

Joseph Hess, Ph.D., Auburn University, Alabama

Joseph Hess is a professor of poultry science and extension specialist at Auburn University in Alabama. He also helps formulate rations used by poultry farmers in the United States. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Hess works with poultry producers and consumers in Alabama.

Upcoming Research: Hess is researching the benefits of organic mineral supplements in poultry. This is important because of the increased interest in organic poultry by consumers. He is also involved in a study to see if various animal handling methods affect meat quality, which could help increase demand for poultry worldwide.

Thoughts for International Customers: Knowing the nutritional composition of the ingredients used to make feeds is fundamental for poultry productivity, Hess said. As poultry farmers develop rations, they must weigh the value of ingredients to get the best results. Using U.S. grains because of their nutritional quality “allows international producers to meet their goals and become more efficient,” Hess said.