How do kernel traits of the corn in swine and poultry feed influence weight gain and performance? Researchers with Golden Harvest Seeds and Iowa State University are working together to identify the relationship through a Golden Harvest-funded study that began in November 2004.

Livestock producers have tended to preferred hard, high test-weight corn. However, that thinking was challenged in a University of Nebraska study of feedlot beef cattle performance. Results demonstrated that test weight was not a good indicator of animal performance.

According to Galen Erickson, University of Nebraska Beef Feedlot Research and Extension Specialist and the study's lead researcher, "Cattle fed a dry rolled corn-based diet consisting of corn with higher proportions of softer endosperm gained more efficiently compared to cattle fed harder endosperm grain."

The Golden Harvest Agronomy Up Front Research team is now working with Iowa State researchers to study the influence of corn kernel characteristics on swine, poultry broiler and poultry layer performance. The feeding trial may reveal similarities to the beef cattle study or it could demonstrate a different but equally important set of kernel traits that can be used to predict the best hybrids to feed swine and poultry. In a way this is a venture as it looks at hybrid characteristics that can benefit the end user.

The goal is to identify which hybrids are best suited for the most efficient performance in swine and poultry, which could be useful for corn, swine and poultry producers.

The swine and poultry study, which includes layers, broilers and swine, and six different corn hybrids, will test grain characteristics (such as kernel size and hardness) as well as animal feeding components (such as protein, starch and oil). Corn for the study was raised in a field near Webster City, Iowa. It was harvested in early November 2004, then shipped to Iowa State, where it's being ground and formulated into feed based on National Research Council recommendations.

The animals are being fed and raised as close to industry practices as possible so the results will be as useful as possible to growers and livestock producers.

The swine trials are well underway at Iowa State. "We start feeding the pigs at 20 pounds body weight and will take them all the way to market," Kristjan Bregendahl, Iowa State assistant professor of Animal Science, and lead researcher on the study,  explains. "We'll measure a variety of outcomes, including feed intake, daily gains and feed utilization. At slaughter we'll also
measure other factors such as percent lean, dressing percentage and fatty acid composition. Ideally, we'll be able to help pork producers by defining the nutritional value of different corn-hybrid traits on performance so they can make more informed choices."

Golden Harvest's ability to expand and pursue this type of research has been strengthened by the company's affiliation with Syngenta Seeds, Golden Harvest officials note.