Project: Research project

Project Details


After corn grain is harvested, the remaining parts of the corn plant are termed corn stover. Historically, corn stover has been left on the field as a carbon source, grazed by cattle, or baled and fed as poor quality forage. In feedlot cattle diets, forage is limited to less than 15% of the diet to maximize energy intake; however, if forage digestibility is improved, concentrations included in feedlot diets could be increased. Therefore, research is needed to improve the quality of stover so it can be used as a forage replacement for feedlot cattle without impacting performance. Distillers grains (DG) are a co-product of the ethanol industry. Currently, over 80 percent of DG produced are fed to cattle. Increasing levels of DG are being included in cattle diets as more corn is used by the ethanol industry; however, dietary inclusion is limited by the high sulfur content of DG coming from sulfuric acid used in the processing of corn for ethanol. Distillers grains are sold wet or dry and research suggests that wet DG are a better source of energy for feedlot cattle. Traditionally, corn has been used as the primary energy source for feedlot cattle to ensure optimum digestibility and improve gains. More research is needed to determine ways to improve the digestibility and increase the inclusion of DG and corn stover in feedlot cattle diets to replace corn. Corn stover can be treated to increase its digestibility; however, optimum treatments and appropriate dietary inclusions for feedlot cattle have not been determined. Similarly, my previous work shows that DG can be treated to buffer the acidity added during processing at the ethanol plant. Buffering the acidity from DG may improve fiber digestibility of DG and stover in cattle by improving conditions in the gut for the fiber fermenting microbial species; however, this approach has not been investigated. A series of feeding and metabolism experiments will be conducted by my lab to determine methods of treating and storing DG and corn stover that enhance its digestibility and palatability, thereby allowing this combination to be used as a corn and forage replacement in feedlot cattle diets. I expect to find optimum combinations of treated corn stover and/or treated DG that can be fed to feedlot cattle to replace corn and forage in the diet that will not negatively affect growth, efficiency of gain, or digestibility. Success of these projects will be evaluated based on economic savings of feeding corn stover and DG to replace corn. Findings will potentially benefit producers, the biofuels industry, corn growers, and consumers. Discoveries from these projects will be shared throughout Illinois at producer and extension meetings. These meetings will include, but are not limited to, the annual Beef Field days at two of the University of Illinois' research stations. This research will also be broadcast to the scientific community through regional research meetings, presentation at the American Society of Animal Science meetings, and scientific publication.

Effective start/end date10/1/119/30/14


  • National Institute of Food and Agriculture


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