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ARS Home » Plains Area » Bushland, Texas » Conservation and Production Research Laboratory » Livestock Nutrient Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #373079

Research Project: Improved Practices to Conserve Air Quality, Maintain Animal Productivity, and Enhance Use of Manure and Soil Nutrients of Cattle Production Systems for the Southern Great Plains

Location: Livestock Nutrient Management Research

Title: Effects of steam flaking on the carbon-footprint of finishing beef cattle

item COLE, N. ANDY - Retired ARS Employee
item Parker, David
item BROWN, MIKE - West Texas A & M University
item JENNINGS, JENNY - Texas A&M Agrilife
item HALES, KRISTIN - Texas Tech University
item Gunter, Stacey

Submitted to: Translational Animal Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/8/2020
Publication Date: 12/22/2020
Citation: Cole, N., Parker, D.B., Brown, M.S., Jennings, J.S., Hales, K.E., Gunter, S.A. 2020. Effects of steam flaking on the carbon-footprint of finishing beef cattle. Translational Animal Science. 4(1):S84-S89.

Interpretive Summary: Methane, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide are greenhouse gases that have been linked to climate change. When added together, the global warming effects of these three gases make up the carbon footprint. Corn is processed either by dry rolling or steam flaking prior to being fed to cattle. However, the environmental effects of these processing methods have not been compared. Scientists from USDA-ARS (Bushland, Texas and Woodward, Oklahoma), West Texas A&M University (Canyon, Texas), Texas A and M AgriLife Research (Amarillo, Texas), and Texas Tech University (Lubbock, Texas) studied the carbon footprint of cattle fed corn by these two processing methods. As compared to dry rolled corn, feeding steam flaked corn reduced the carbon footprint by 9 to 13 percent per animal fed. Steam flaked corn also reduced methane emissions from the animal by 30 percent. Therefore, steam flaking of corn is preferred to dry rolling for reducing the carbon footprint of cattle feeding.

Technical Abstract: Grain processing has been used for many decades to improve the digestibility of feed grains fed to finishing beef cattle and to improve animal performance. The most common methods currently used by feedyards in the U.S. are dry rolling (DRC) and steam flaking (SFC). However, the environmental effects of grain processing have not been rigorously studied. This manuscript presents a comparative estimate of the carbon footprint of steam flaking corn in beef cattle finishing diets with and without wet distiller’s grains with solubles (WDGS). Estimates were based on results of published literature and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Although SFC required more natural gas and electricity for processing than DRC, feeding SFC decreased the total carbon-footprint by 9 to 13 percent per steer. This was primarily due to 30 percent lower enteric methane production, 13 percent lower manure nitrous oxide emissions, and 8 percent lower feed production requirement than when DRC was fed. The carbon-footprint were slightly greater when the diet contained 20 percent WDGS than 0 percent WDGS.