Importance of corn in animal production
Of the raw materials involved in animal feed, corn grain is the main component, constituting between 50 and 70% of the diets of monogastric animals (mainly poultry and pigs).
Cereals (from Ceres, the Latin name for the goddess of agriculture) are plants of the grass family cultivated for their grain, and corn is one of them. Among the cereals, the most prominent as a source of energy is corn. Between 70% and 80% of its production is used as a feed ingredient worldwide. Therefore, the use of corn is an indispensable tool to maintain the profitability of the system. In animal nutrition, practically all cereals are used in various forms: whole grain, ground grain (incorporated into feed), whole plants harvested before maturity and silage (corn, barley, sorghum). In addition, some cereal crop residues are used as fodder (source of fiber).Cereals are the basis of the universal human diet. Recent data estimate that about 63% of the cereals produced worldwide are destined for this purpose, and the remainder is used for animal protein production. This trend changes according to the degree of development of the countries, being higher in developed countries, where approximately 44% of the cereal produced is for human consumption, while this figure reaches 77% in developing countries. The remainder is used to feed various types of livestock. It is well known that feed represents approximately 70% of the cost of intensive livestock production.
Use of whole corn kernel
Of the raw materials involved in animal feed, corn grain is the main component, constituting between 50 and 70% of the diets of monogastric animals (mainly poultry and pigs). It is the main source of energy and carotene (Vit. A) in animal feed. It contains 9% of protein of low biological value. In most countries worldwide, it is the most used ingredient as an energy supplement in cattle feed. Sorghum grain and oat grain come next.
In cattle, the starch contained in feed grains has different rates and intensity of ruminal digestion. Therefore, from a nutritional point of view, it is not the same to buy a megacalorie in the form of barley/wheat/oats than in the form of sorghum/corn. As the digestion sites change, the nutritional target is different.
Because of its slow rumen solubility starch content, corn is an excellent grain to offer. All these parameters can be used by the producer to improve the grain/meat conversion efficiency (amount of grain needed to produce one kilogram of meat), investing money more efficiently.
The nutritional characteristics of corn come from its genetic components. Production areas and conditions can modify these characteristics, as well as variations in the transformation processes. It is important to emphasize that in order to reach the maximum genetic and economic potential of production animals, it is indispensable to increase the quantity and quality of the protein and lipid contents present in the different varieties of corn used. The use of technological solutions from biotechnology (exogenous enzymes) and industry (organic acids, pre- and probiotics, equipment and processes) make important and effective contributions to improving corn utilization levels.
The global trend towards intensive animal production will require the increased use of energy concentrates in feedstuffs, including corn. In pasture-based systems, the cost of production decreases dramatically as the amount of forage in direct grazing increases, and conversely, as the intensity of production increases, the cost of feed increases dramatically.
Use of whole corn plant harvested before maturity and silage
Corn silage is one of the most important conserved forages in modern production systems. In ruminant feeding, corn silage, with a grain content of 30% to 50%, is considered as an energy supplement to the ration or as a dietary supplement. Corn silage is increasingly used for the following advantages:
- High yield/ha of high energy feed
- Palatable and consistent feed
- Immediate storage, fast harvesting
- Low cost.
- Minimal percentage of losses, as long as it is worked correctly
Cereal production has doubled in the last 40 years, mainly due to the increase in yields achieved from the so-called “green revolution,” which consisted of the use of greater amounts of fertilizers, irrigation, fertilizer-tolerant varieties, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and other technologies applied to agriculture. The projected population for 2050 is 50% larger than today, and the global demand for grains will double due to an increase in people’s income and dietary changes towards meat (which will require grain-based diets). Given this future scenario, biotechnology will undoubtedly play a key role in meeting the growing demand in terms of quantity and quality of food and the sustainability of agroecosystems.
Cereals remain by far the world’s most important source of food, both for direct human consumption and, indirectly, for livestock production inputs. Therefore, what happens in the grain sector will be crucial for global food supplies. In the future, maize consumption may grow faster than that of rice or wheat, in line with the growth of the livestock sector.
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