Animal Science Department


Date of this Version



Published in J. Anim. Sci. 2006. 84:1790–1800. Copyright © 2006 American Society of Animal Science. Used by permission.


Two experiments were conducted to determine the influence of chemical and physical corn kernel traits on digestibility and feedlot cattle performance. Seven commercially available corn hybrids representing a range in kernel traits were evaluated for a variety of chemical and physical traits that included test weight, 1,000-grain weight, kernel size, starch, CP, amylose, Stenvert Hardness tests (kernel hardness traits), tangential abrasive dehulling device loss, 12-h in vitro starch disappearance, and rate and extent of in situ DM disappearance. Differences among hybrids existed for all physical kernel traits measured. In Exp. 1, 224 steers in 28 pens were fed the same hybrids for 167 d in a completely randomized design. All diets were formulated to have 12.5% CP and contained 66% dry-rolled corn (DM basis). There were no differences (P > 0.20) among corn hybrids for DMI, ADG, or carcass characteristics. However, efficiency of gain (G:F) was influenced by hybrid (P < 0.01) with a difference of 9.5% from the least to the most efficient. In Exp. 2, 7 ruminally cannulated heifers were used in a 7 × 7 Latin square design to determine the effects of these hybrids on nutrient digestibility, VFA concentrations, and ruminal pH. Total-tract OM and starch digestibilities were not different (P > 0.15) among hybrids and averaged 77.9 and 95.1%, respectively. Differences (P < 0.05) among hybrids existed for ruminal propionate concentration and the acetate to propionate ratio. Kernel hardness traits correlated (P < 0.05) with G:F were 1,000- grain weight (r = −0.81), Stenvert time to grind (r = −0.83), and the proportion of Stenvert soft to coarse particle height (r = 0.83). Propionate concentration was not correlated (r = 0.45) with G:F but was correlated (P = 0.02) to the Stenvert time to grind (r = −0.83). Cattle fed dry-rolled corn hybrids with greater proportions of soft endosperm had greater concentrations of propionate and gained more efficiently than cattle fed hybrids with a harder endosperm. Selecting for these softer kernel traits may improve the efficiency of gain in feedlot cattle.