Forget grass, these cows are tucking into popcorn

STUDY: Amy Anstis with the popped sorghum grain at UQ Gatton. The university is researching feeding cattle popped sorghum.
STUDY: Amy Anstis with the popped sorghum grain at UQ Gatton. The university is researching feeding cattle popped sorghum. Sarah Harvey

IT COULD be a while before they get seats in the cinema, but cattle at UQ Gatton are already chowing down on their own popcorn.

Scientists at the university are popping grains of sorghum to feed to the cattle, hoping to increase the amount of starch cattle absorb when they eat the grain.

The research is being conducted by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry at UQ.

Tonnes of sorghum are tediously popped using a small gas hot plate that fits little more than half a kilo at a time.

The burnt and unpopped grains are then removed.

Finally the popped sorghum will be ground into a powder to be fed to cattle.

Principal investigator Amy Anstis said her research would determine the starch digestibility of popped sorghum grain compared with conventional grain processing methods such as disc milling.

"While being very high in starch, the structure of the sorghum grain only allows part of the starch to be digested," she said.

"In a cow's rumen, sorghum grain is slowly degraded, therefore it's considered by animal nutritionists as the least effective starch source.

"The feeding of popped sorghum is expected to increase starch availability and digestibility of sorghum grain, and as a direct result, an increase in milk yield and composition, particularly in milk protein concentration.

"The popped grain is high in dry matter to allow for easier handling, a longer shelf life, and the potential to process on-farm compared to other processing methods, which would result in greater economies, especially for northern Australian dairy farms."

Topics:  cattle editors picks sorghum uq gatton

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