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Why do field trials matter?

December 6, 2012
By Denny Timmerman , Marshall Independent

Senior project development director

If you don't work in the agriculture industry, you may be asking "What is a feed trial?" Feed trials analyze a variety of livestock meal options and their impacts on the animals' health and nutrition.

Improving livestock feed is important to Minnesota's livestock producers as well as processors, such as those making ethanol and other products from commodities.

Overall, the agriculture industry is the second largest employer in Minnesota, so finding ways to make it more profitable benefits us all.

Some of the coproducts left over during agricultural processing provide new nutritional, lower cost feed options. And finding uses for these leftovers help the agricultural processing industry finds ways to add value to their processes.

Dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS), for example, are a coproduct of ethanol production, and also serve to lower the cost of feeding cattle, swine and poultry.

This is especially important when you see where corn and soybean prices are going. Rising grain prices make it more difficult for livestock producers to maintain healthy profit margins. The profit squeeze has intensified with the 2012 drought, which has devastated the U.S. corn crop and pushed grain prices to historic highs.

AURI-sponsored research often results in new uses or markets for Minnesota feedstuffs, too. Take AURI studies on ensiling sugar beet tailings, which identified a higher-value use for the sugar industry coproduct. Likewise, recent trials of low oligosaccharide soybean meal showed the value of using the specially-processed feed in baby pig diets. The research is expected to open up new markets in Asia.

The feed trials also help Minnesota's renewable fuel manufacturers strengthen their coproduct sales. In the ethanol industry, for example, sales of wet and dried distillers grains can account for up to one-third of plant revenues. Making use of these coproducts is essential to the profitability of the business.

The trials also help ethanol producers understand livestock growers' need for consistent, high-quality feed ingredients.

AURI does many feed trials and often partners with the University of Minnesota and state grower groups to carry out feed studies. AURI is a source of unbiased information to Minnesota's agriculture industry, providing a service that helps strengthen agriculture and improve the state's economy.

For more information about feed trials, go to and search "feed trials."



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