Beef producers can achieve feed efficiency gains of about 5% by using Enogen corn, a new lifecycle assessment released by Syngenta Seeds and the University of Arkansas Resiliency Center (UARC) has found.

The analysis shows “the potential for beef producers to reduce their environmental footprint by using the corn,” which was originally developed to enhance ethanol production, Syngenta said.

UARC based the assessment on studies done at the University of Nebraska and Kansas State University. The feed efficiency gains “can lead to reduced emissions and less consumption of natural resources — while still helping farmers maximize their operations,” Syngenta said in a news release.

Enogen corn for feed, fed to cattle as grain or silage, helps convert starch to sugar more efficiently, resulting in more readily available energy for livestock,” Syngenta said. “The purpose of the UARC study was to evaluate the performance of Enogen corn for feed — compared to conventional feed corn — when used as an ingredient in their operations.”

UARC’s findings “indicate that an improvement in feed efficiency — as demonstrated in University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) feeding trials — results in approximately 6% improvement in the four key environmental performance metrics of beef production,” Syngenta said.

“The observed environmental performance improvement during the backgrounding phase — as seen in Kansas State University trials — was in the 3.5-5% range, which suggests Enogen corn for feed is an important potential technology for mitigation of environmental impact in this phase of beef production, as well,” the company said.

“Backgrounding is a beef production system that involves maximal use of pasture and forages from the time calves are weaned until they are placed in a feedlot,” according to Penn State Extension.

Among the findings: The analysis showed that per 1,000 head, a 5% increase in feed efficiency in a beef backgrounding and feed yard operation could potentially yield” greenhouse gas reductions equal to removing 35 passenger cars from the road for one year.

Nathan Fields, vice president for production and sustainability at the National Corn Growers Association, said in an email that NCGA has been aware for some time of the studies showing the 5% feed-efficiency gains “and have seen a steady rate of adoption by growers.”

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As to who might get credit for the more efficient feed in still-nascent carbon markets, Fields said, “That is something I believe the entire ag/food supply chain is grappling with. Growers are immediately focused on how certain conservation practices can increase production efficiency while also increasing soil organic carbon, making them a player in the speculative carbon markets.”

Many growers are interested in tapping into the additional revenue stream that participation in carbon markets could provide, but others are considering “whether or not that value is better leveraged by our downstream customers to spur demand (thus keeping prices higher),” Fields said. “In a case like this, I can see the potential for growers to get in on that value-sharing, but it would likely take the beef producer contracting with growers of Enogen on how that premium can be shared.”

A report released last year by Newtrient, which is funded by dairy co-ops to help dairy farmers manage their environmental footprint, discussed promising feed additive technologies but said many were years from gaining approval because of regulatory barriers.

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