Animal Nutrition

Corn Silage Hybrid Increased Milk, Feed Efficiency

Loading truck with silage

The Enogen brand corn hybrid may have been developed for the ethanol industry to improve efficiency of ethanol production, but new research from Penn State University shows that it may make great corn silage for dairy cows, too. The Enogen hybrid is amylase enabled which means the amylase enzyme is deposited into the endosperm of the grain. (Amylase is used to help digest carbohydrates and starch.) And new research shows that when lactating dairy cows are fed corn silage made from the Enogen hybrid that milk production and feed efficiency increase and the intensity of methane (CH4) emission decreases.

Researchers grew Enogen and its isogenic counterpart (genetically similar but not amylase enabled) and harvested each for silage. Corn silage yield was 7.1 tons/acre for Enogen and 7.6 tons/acre for the isogenic or control. Silage dry matter was similar. The Enogen corn silage had 6% lower CP, 3.9% lower ADF concentration, 7% lower lignin, 14% lower 240-h NDF digestibility, but 2.6% higher 30-h NDF digestibility and 8.5 and 10% higher starch content (two labs independently analyzed samples for starch) than the control silage.

Next, 48 Holstein cows, 78 days in milk producing 97.6 lbs/day of milk, were randomly assigned to receive a diet formulated with 40% Enogen corn silage or 40% control corn silage. Cows were fed a TMR once daily with regular feed push up and milked twice daily. Dry matter intake was the same for both groups. However, cows fed the Enogen corn silage produced 4.4 lbs more milk per day, and feed efficiency improved from 1.47 to 1.55 lbs of milk per lb of dry matter intake. Energy-corrected milk yield was not different between the Enogen and control diets. 

Researchers also measured cows’ gas emissions. While daily enteric methane emissions did not differ, emissions per lb of milk produced decreased. Researchers concluded that the effects seen were likely the result of greater corn starch intake and overall availability of digestible nutrients.

Cueva et al., 2021. J. Dairy Sci. 104:9827-9841