Trouw Nutrition and Selko Share Insights on Managing Grain Quality in 2022
(20 May, 2022 AMERSFOORT, the Netherlands) As grain markets experience sustained disruptions, Selko, the feed additive brand of Trouw Nutrition, Nutreco's livestock feed business, is summarizing insights from its recent webinar, "Optimize your grain investment: How to safeguard the economics and quality of grains.
Macroeconomics in today's grain markets
With Russia and Ukraine generating about 30% of the world's traded wheat crop, it is unclear how much the geo-political conflict will affect production and grain prices. Higher energy prices also may affect parts of the feed production process including grain drying. Market uncertainty has prompted changes in grain production around the globe. Australia and India have expanded wheat crops and the U.S. plans for a larger corn crop. Meanwhile, an ongoing drought in Brazil and Argentina is expected to lower yields. Global corn production is anticipated to be predominantly from the U.S. and Brazil. Ukraine's harvest is expected to be down by at least 50%. Wheat producing regions outside of Ukraine and Russia are expanding production. With so many disruptions, the feed production sector should anticipate the potential for lower quality grain supplies and consider interventions to help safeguard grain quality.
Moulds and microbial challenges in grains
Moulds that generate mycotoxins are an ongoing concern for grain quality. Moulds can threaten crops in the field, during transport or in storage. Damaged kernels or broken grains can host moulds while oxygen levels, temperature, relative humidity, pH, and water activity can all increase mould growth rate. Managing water activity is an area of focus for defending against moulds in grains. For several years, the pet food industry has evaluated how even low water activity levels can affect mould growth. About 80% of agricultural commodities are infected with mycotoxins and the problematic effects of mycotoxins can make some grain unusable in feed. Looking just at the reductions in stored grain, losses during storage as well as mycotoxin contamination can be more than 30%.
Supporting quality and grain minimizing loss
Mould growth results in a noticeable difference in the nutritional quality of corn including a drop in metabolic energy, crude protein and fat content. (Figure 1) To guard against mould's adverse effects, contamination prevention efforts should start in the field and continue through transport, storage and production. In the field, weather, drought, harvest rains, pests and mould growth can harm quality. Scoring systems created by the USDA are a helpful tool for evaluating quality factors including grade, moisture, nutritional profile, physical quality and mycotoxin presence. Scoring systems are available for corn and other grains and oilseeds. In storage, temperature shifts can allow condensation build-up and conditions for moisture to pool on stored grain. Grains and oilseeds can be contaminated with mycotoxins during transport or at the feed mill where moulds are typically present in screw conveyors, ingredient bins, elevator legs, pellet mill coolers, feed bins and trucks.
Figure 1 – Mould growth robs stored grains of nutritional quality, reducing nutrition available to livestock.
The average nutritional value of different grains lost to mould has been estimated to be up to 7% for wheat and barley and 6% for corn. Given current grain pricing, this decline equates to more than $200,000 in damage for every 10,000 tons. (Figure 2)
Figure 2 – Mould-based damage to grain quality can quickly become an economic challenge for producers.3
A third-party critical control point assessment can identify possible risks and suggest practices to help mitigate threats. Practices can include using natural or artificial drying, monitoring stored grain and installing aeration and scoring systems, using portable moisture analysis to run spot checks, having a conveyer system that minimizes grain damage and cleaning conveyor belts to remove broken kernels/debris.
Research on additive-based interventions to support returns
Considering threats across the production chain, Selko developed an integrated grain quality approach that starts with a raw material quality program to maintain nutritional value. Conducting a GAP analysis of a feed mill can establish a microbial and moisture blueprint and provide an outside look at critical control points. Testing and properly applied additives can help preserve the quality of stored grain. Sampling across the supply chain allows grain to be checked for components including mould, mycotoxins, water activity (aW), moisture, pH, and nutrient composition.
Research evaluated the efficacy of an additive-based intervention using a mould inhibitor that included organic acids and buffered organic acids to extend the shelf life of grains and feed ingredients. Corn stored in high humidity conditions was maintained three ways: left with 12.29% moisture – as it arrived for storage – dried to 11.14% moisture and treated with a mould-prevention additive – Fylax Forte-HC – and dried to 11.87%. Water activity increased by 6.3% between the dried and the dried and treated corn, while the as-is corn had the highest water activity. When checked for mould growth, the undried corn showed the highest levels of mould followed by the dried corn. A drop in mould count between the dried corn and the dried and treated corn, demonstrated that a mould inhibitor can allow stored grains to retain more internal moisture and still have lower mould growth.
There also can be a better return on investment if corn needs to be stored for up to a year. The return varies based on grain's storage time and water content, but potential for improved returns remains even when treated corn has a water level nearing 23%. (Figure 3).
Figure 3 – Grain treated with an intervention intended to extend shelf life can see a better return on investment even when stored for up to a year.
Current market conditions may make it harder to get high quality grain, potentially for the next few years. Integrating interventions from field through processing can mitigate threats to quality. Remarking on how long uncertain grain markets may persist, Pieter Steyn, global programme manager raw material quality with Selko, said, "We don't know how long today's conditions will continue. It's pretty clear when we look at grains what the risks are - it's not just prices, it's the microbial challenges as well which need an integrated mitigation plan." Details on upcoming webinars in the global webinar series can be found on Trouw Nutrition's LinkedIn page.
About Trouw Nutrition
Trouw Nutrition is Nutreco's livestock feed business line and a global leader in feed, farm and health. We have a 90-year history of developing innovative feed products and more sustainable ways of raising healthy farm animals and companion animals.
With a presence in 105 countries and 22 manufacturing plants, we are a one-stop-shop for feed specialities, feed additives, premixes, nutritional models and customised, integrated services. We are everywhere farmers and home-mixers, feed producers, integrators and distributors need us to be.
Animal nutrition and good farm management have the power to transform our industry and even our planet. To solve the challenges facing our feed-to-food chain, Trouw Nutrition attracts the smartest minds. We have a dedicated team of 8,300 and a global network to help our customers feed the future. Our global brands include LifeStart, NutriOpt, Milkiwean, Gestawean, ChickCare, Maxcare, Sprayfo and Selko.
For more information, please go to trouwnutrition.com or follow us on LinkedIn.
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Article made possible through the contribution of Trouw Nutrition