Transgenic corn touted for dairy feed efficiency

A transgenic corn variety originally developed for the United States ethanol industry is being officially launched by Syngenta in Canada in 2023 for cattle feed.

Read Also

Low cost, real-time soil carbon quantification could be a game changer

A new partnership between two companies with technologies rooted in artificial intelligence is making carbon quantification more accessible, profitable and…

The Enogen line of hybrids contains a bacteria-derived transgene that produces alpha amylase, a naturally occurring enzyme that speeds the breakdown of starch. Since its introduction in the U.S. in 2012, the line has expanded to include maturity ratings ranging from 80-118 days. Adherence to a stewardship contract has been required for anyone growing Enogen to prevent contamination of the conventional corn supply with the hybrids, as their rapid starch digestibility could affect the quality of foods made using corn.

Why it matters: New research points to significant profitability benefits from feeding Enogen silage. Although the research uses U.S. numbers, it’s likely at least some of the findings will be valid in Canada.

Before Enogen’s introduction, alpha amylase was artificially added during ethanol production, so it seemed an ideal product for the then-booming U.S. ethanol industry. Additional U.S. research led to the revelation that alpha amylase also enhanced the feed efficiency of corn fed to cattle as grain and silage.

[RELATED] Health Canada clarifies rules for gene edited crops

Syngenta’s marketing of Enogen has gradually shifted to its benefits for beef and dairy producers. With its launch in Canada in 2023, it is being promoted with an identity-preserved-style stewardship contract, used solely as animal feed, with strict growing, harvesting and transporting protocols.

According to Syngenta Canada’s sales representative Doug Helm, “a limited number of commercial growers” grew Enogen hybrids in 2022 in Canada and they will be available across the country for the 2023 crop year.

“We’re excited for growers to use Enogen to help improve feed efficiency on their operations,” Helm told Farmtario.

A recent U.S. financial assessment was conducted through the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Animal and Dairy Sciences and Agronomy departments. It evaluated factors such as milk content, expected milk revenue and associated corn silage costs, resulting in a final metric of Income Over Feed Cost (IOFC).

“Syngenta found that when comparing Enogen corn to traditional feed products, a U.S. dairy farm operation could potentially yield a financial savings of $132 to $208 per milking cow,” said a Sept. 27 news release about the research.

[RELATED] China to allow gene-edited crops

Helm stressed previous research conducted by third-party institutions has demonstrated the feed efficiency of grain and silage with the Enogen trait. One example is an Ohio State University study looking at the effects of Enogen corn silage and corn grain on nutrient digestibility, production and enteric methane emission in lactating cows.

There were no trial plots grown north of the border until the 2022 crop year, he said, but “Syngenta Canada continues to develop information to demonstrate the benefits of Enogen to Canadian growers.”

Other benefits shown through U.S. studies indicate Enogen silage is less prone to spoilage upon exposure to oxygen than some other hybrids, and leads to higher silage quality related to better stability.

Long-term environmental sustainability is also being touted as a side benefit to enhanced feed efficiency in the U.S. and in Canada.

“Life Cycle Assessment shows potential environmental savings could be significant,” Helm said. “For example, increasing feed efficiency by about five per cent per 1,000 lactating cow herd could lower emissions of greenhouse gases (at a rate that would be) equivalent to removing 314 passenger cars from the road for one year.”

The University of Wisconsin assessment led to sustainability related findings for the decreased amount of land needed to grow silage for the 1,000-cow herd, less energy needed to grow the corn and less water needed from seed to feed.

“In terms of sustainability specifically, we are just getting started with Enogen here in Canada,” Helm said.