Masters Choice Making a Difference With Floury Grain

Published on Tue, 08/19/2014 - 1:07pm

“This past year has been a great growth year for us. I think much of this is due to people realizing the benefits of floury grain. You just gain so much in the way of digestibility when feeding our floury grain hybrids and people in the industry are starting to take notice”
— Lyn Crabtree, Masters Choice Owner

Corn hybrids with floury grain have gained a lot of ground in the industry as dairymen, researchers, nutritionists and those in other livestock markets are looking for more nutritionally sound options for livestock feed. Fortunately for Masters Choice, there is plenty of available research that reinforces the benefits of floury grain. Below we address some of the questions that have been posed about Masters Choice floury grain.

Can you tell me the level of vitreous starch to expect in your kernels at silage harvest maturity?
This is somewhat of a trick question as there is no true measurement for vitreousness in corn kernels at silage maturity. What we do know is that vitreousness affects starch digestibility and this can best be measured by lab analysis through 7 hour in vitro starch availability (7-hr starch). What we have seen through this testing is that at harvest floury grain hybrids have more starch available than vitreous varieties. Also, we have seen that it can take silage with vitreous grain months of ensiling time to equal the starch availability of the floury varieties at harvest. During ensiling, the prolamin protein is broken down producing a softer kernel and increasing starch digestibility.
The chart shows the average starch availability of all Cumberland Valley Analytical Sciences (CVAS) hybrids tested on a 3-week rolling average. The CVAS averages include the softer Masters Choice varieties along with their other samples. What you will notice in this chart is precisely what was mentioned above. The Masters Choice lineup featuring a majority of floury hybrids has a higher 7-hour starch at the earliest interval. You can also see that it takes the CVAS samples over 2 months to equal them in 7-hr starch.

Is it true that the amount of hard-starch a hybrid produces is dependent on the growing environment?

“The amount of hard starch a hybrid producers is influenced by its environment but not dependent on it. Corn, like any other living organism, is affected by its environment. Likewise it is affected by its genetics and maybe to a greater extent.”
— Mark Kirk, MC Research Manager

Farmers understand that the environment can have positive and adverse effects on a hybrid’s yield. To minimize risk, they will plant hybrids they trust to be their highest yielding options. They do not know exactly what this hybrid will yield when planted or if it will be the highest yielding hybrid on their farm every year. However, they do know it gives them the best chance for top-end yields regardless of conditions. This is the same with floury and vitreous corn. Though environment affects vitreousness, the floury hybrid will still be softer than the vitreous hybrid even under extreme conditions.
To look closer at this we have placed some of our hardest and softest hybrids in multiple plots throughout the Midwest and along the East Coast to see how they would perform. What we noticed was that the hybrids that were the softest in one plot were generally among the softest in the other plots. Likewise, the hybrids that were the hardest were usually among the hardest in the other plots as well. This is very similar to yield potential of hybrids. Certain hybrids will always be near the top of a plot as far as yield is concerned be it a good year or a dry year. Environment affects but does not necessarily dictate how a hybrid will perform. Genetics plays a key role in this.

If I don’t see more than 4-5% starch in the manure, why do I need to worry about more starch digestion?
Failing to see more than 4-5% starch in the manure does not guarantee maximal efficiency in starch digestion. The site of starch digestion plays a key role in maximizing feed efficiency and the primary site for starch digestion is in the rumen.
“Rumen microbes ferment dietary carbohydrates and protein to obtain Adenosine Triphosphate which, in turn, is the major source of energy required for microbial growth. The two major reactions of rumen fermentation are volatile fatty acids and microbial cells; the former are a primary source of metabolizable energy the latter the primary source of metabolizable amino acids for maintenance and milk synthesis.” 1 As this study from Dr. Fellner points out, starch digested in the rumen not only fuels microbial growth (which is the primary source of metabolizable amino acids for milk production) but also produces volatile fatty acids which are a primary source of energy. This is also where floury grain corn hybrids have an advantage over vitreous hybrids, as floury grain digests at a higher rate in the rumen than vitreous corn grain. “However, endosperm type of corn grain caused substantial changes in site of starch digestion. Apparent ruminal digestibility of starch increased from 35 to 57% when vitreous corn grain was replaced by floury endosperm grain.” 2 Not only is floury grain more digestible in the rumen, it also has greater efficiency in the small intestine, which leads to the liver and helps with glucose production. Any starch left beyond this point is essentially useless to the animal. Some starch may be fermented in the large intestine. Though this starch does not show up in the cow’s manure, it is still not utilized by the cow.

If soft-texture is important, why does the University of Wisconsin “Grain Evaluation System” not even consider endosperm type [or zein (prolamin) protein levels] when evaluating digestibility of kernels that will undergo fermentation?
The University of Wisconsin’s Grain Evaluation System, Feed Grain V2.0 does include measures for prolamin protein as a percentage of dry matter. It also includes a measure of NH3-N (ammonia) to define corn as “fermented” or “unfermented.” They do this because corn devoid of NH3-N is generally “unfermented.” Unfermented corn generally has no applicable amount of ammonia. This is likely figured in, as fermentation affects prolamin protein by breaking it down, increasing starch digestibility. Prolamin degradation through fermentation can take up to several months for some of your more vitreous corn hybrids. Many producers do not have the luxury of storing silage this long before feeding it.

Perhaps the most common reply we receive when promoting the benefits of feeding Masters Choice floury grain over the standard industry corn is, “If we just grind it finer, it will all feed the same.” This statement is false. Though grinding corn grain finer may affect its digestibility in a positive way, multiple studies have suggested that floury grain still maintains its advantage over vitreous corn. Masters Choice wanted to test this theory themselves. So they had Analab from Fulton, IL perform a simulated monogastric analysis on floury and vitreous endosperm corn hybrids. For this study, Analab developed an enzymatic bath solution simulating a monogastric. They then ground a sample of floury and vitreous corn to 3mm (hammer mill) and another to .8mm (dust). Absorption results were based on residual starch and showed that at 3mm the floury hybrid had a 17% increase in absorption. When looking at the .8mm sample, the floury grain still had a 6.5% increase in absorption.
“Total-tract digestibility of starch by dairy cows was greater for floury than for vitreous corn but was unaffected by fineness of grind.”2 In both cases, this is due to the prolamin protein that surrounds the starch in the corn endosperm. The starch in floury grain hybrids is not bound as tightly in these indigestible proteins as it is in the more vitreous hybrids.
Another common response to floury grain is, “If you feed your grain as high-moisture corn, it doesn’t matter if it is floury or vitreous.” Part of this misconception stems from the fact that high moisture corn in itself seems to be more digestible than dry corn. As you can see from the chart below, whether you are feeding floury or vitreous corn, the rate of passage for dry corn is approximately twice that of high-moisture corn. So feeding high-moisture corn does reduce the rate of passage, leading to more time for digestion. You can also see from this chart, referencing a study by Ying and Allen, that whether fed dry or as high-moisture corn, the vitreous grain has a passage rate twice that of the floury grain. If you are feeding high-moisture corn for the added nutritional benefit in the increased digestibility, you may consider feeding high-moisture floury corn to maximize this benefit.

“We spend a lot of time looking at hybrids before we put them in the lineup. We want to know that each year we are bringing forward a lineup that is stronger agronomically and nutritionally than the previous year. I think our farmers see this. We enjoy hearing from them of their success with our hybrids.”
— Kevin Koone, MC Director of R&D

The Korona Dairy
The Korona Dairy located in Perth, New York, has a herd average of 75 pounds on 2x milking. It runs an average 4.4% butterfat and 3.4 % milk protein. They are always pushing quality and profitability through early adaption of new technologies. During 2013 they grew MC4560, but were unable to plant all of their acres due to poor weather conditions. To make up for this they went to the market and purchased two months worth of Doeblers corn silage from a neighbor. They purchased the silage in January and February to allow time for fermentation and to minimize the chance of heating and spoilage. Preliminary numbers for the two silages were similar. The diet was adjusted for dry matter to maintain the 18 pounds of dry matter in the diet from corn silage.
After switching from the Masters Choice corn silage to the competitor, they saw an immediate loss of 7 pounds of milk. A wet chemistry 24 hour NDFD and 7-hour starch digestibility analysis showed 6 points less starch digestibility and 5 points less fiber digestibility even after 5 months fermenting. On top of the cost of purchasing the silage the Korona Dairy had to add 2.5 pounds of cornmeal to the diet (at an additional cost of 26 cents per cow) to regain milk production. They also experienced fat and milk protein decreases during this time.

High Tower Farms
High Tower Farms from Broadalbin, New York, was first introduced to Masters Choice in the spring of 2012. They had been a Pioneer only farm for many years and experienced above average yields due to their management and cropping program. However, they decided to try 20 acres of Masters Choice to compare MC527 and MC535.
All of their corn was challenged that season due to drought-like conditions. They noticed the Masters Choice hybrids had more robust stalks and looked to be healthier throughout the season. At harvest the crops were measured and scaled for yields by a certified crop adjuster. The Masters Choice corn out-yielded their favorite Pioneer hybrids by 2.5 tons, coming in at 20.6 tons. It also yielded 196 bushels as shelled corn. High Tower Farms stored the Masters Choice corn in Ag bags to keep it separate. They did not feed any of the year’s new crops until November to ensure proper fermentation and to use up old inventory. Though both silages were fully fermented and full of grain, the Masters choice corn measured 85% digestible starch versus 76% for the Pioneer after 4 months of ensiling. The difference was seen every day in the manure of the Masters Choice cows, as there just wasn’t any corn being wasted in the manure.
After experiencing an 8-pound gain in milk when switching to the Masters Choice hybrids and enjoying steady increases in milk production the last two years, High Tower Dairy now exclusively grows Masters Choice corn. In 2013, they were able to sell 20% of their milking herd and maintain pound of milk sold per day due to the increased milk production they gained per cow.

“I’ve heard countless stories from dairymen on how they have been able to improve efficiency when switching to our hybrids, either gaining in milk production, or maintaining with less inputs. It is a great feeling leaving a farm and knowing that you’ve been able to help them, to just really make a difference”
— Scott Harris, MC Sales Director


1 Fellner, V. (2006) “Reactions in the Rumen – Limits and Potential for Improved Animal Production Efficiency.”

2 Taylor, C.C., & Allen, M.S. (2005). “Corn Grain Endosperm Type and Brown Midrib 3 Corn Silage: Site of Digestion and Ruminal Digestion Kinetics in Lactating Cows.” Journal of Dairy Science, 88, 1413-1424.