"The fundamentals of what we need to do are well-known,"
explained Larry Berger, professor of animal nutrition who heads
the effort. "Now we are seeking to make greater improvements in
the process over the next couple of years and move toward a
final answer that can be used by corn growers and livestock
The process is important because of the growing
demand for corn by the ethanol industry, a development that
could reduce the amount of corn available for the livestock
industry, which relies heavily upon the crop.
"The rapid development of the ethanol industry means that the
supply of corn available for livestock production may decrease
in the future," Berger said. "How rapidly could this happen?
Today, enough ethanol plants are being built that within four to
five years that industry could be using 5 billion bushels of
corn each year out of an average domestic supply of 11 billion
"In 2006, the livestock industry is expected to consume 50
percent of the corn crop, so unless we have increased production
of corn or a decrease in corn exports, there will be competition
between the ethanol industry and the livestock industry for the
Berger's work, partially funded by Archer Daniels Midland,
looks at maximizing the food and fuel production per acre of
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"A field of corn doesn't have to be exclusively all for ethanol
or all for livestock," he said. "We can do that by taking the corn
plant's stalk and treating it to increase its digestibility. Then,
we combine that treated cornstalk with distillers grain -- the
byproduct of ethanol production -- to create a quality diet for
The new feed product is being used in trials with beef and dairy
Another part of the study is examining various processing
options, including using corn residues mixed with distillers grains
in a pelleting application and chopping cornstalks and handling them
like silage in an "ag-bag," a long, sausagelike container commonly
used on livestock farms.
"Some of the things we're trying are fairly high-tech; others
involve technology that is easily accessible to producers," said
"The essence of the project is using cornstalks to produce meat
and milk and the grain to produce ethanol and still have enough
protein left among the stalks and distillers grain to provide a
balanced diet for the livestock."
of Illinois Extension news release]