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VanDenAkker Farms: Gene expression is boosting corn silage feed efficiency

September 2, 2021
vanderakker farms

While your average person is still snuggled underneath their blankets in the early morning, Corne VanDenAkker can be found in his barn, tending to the task of milking his herd of cows. There, he reflects on his relationship with farming, which is rooted in a tradition going back almost forty years, beginning when his family made the move from their homeland in Holland to their current homestead in Canada. Upon making the choice to continue this farming tradition, VanDenAkker began farming full-time on his own land and tending his herd after earning a degree from the University of Guelph. Since then, he has grown his herd to over 100 head, added milking robots to modernize his operation, and is continuously seeking how to become a better, more efficient and sustainable farmer.

Through his years of experience, VanDenAkker knows the importance of being cognizant of what goes into his dairy cows in terms of what they eat and the balance of nutrients required to maintain his herd health and optimal milk production. However, he was unsure if he would be able to support his herd with the yields from his own fields. 

Everything we grow goes into our cows

“Everything we grow goes into our cows,” VanDenAkker noted when discussing the 250 acres of corn that is farmed and destined for his own silage. “I didn’t know if I could feed them enough to support the milk.”

VanDenAkker has long used Alltech products such as Yea-Sacc and Optigen in his livestock feed, and five years ago, he was introduced to Grain-Set, an Alltech Crop Science product geared toward grain crops. He began applying it on 40 of his silage corn acres, and over the years since, he has seen consistent results at every harvest. 

“Year after year, we are seeing improved cob fill and an increase in the number of bushels we are getting from those fields when compared to the untreated area,” VanDerAkken said, adding that his average increase is more than 10 bushels per acre.

This crop yield increase is formidable, but the data that really impressed VanDenAkker came after he began feeding his Grain-Set-treated corn silage to his cows. 

“They increased their milk production when we switched,” he said. “I saw a trend in the increase but couldn’t be sure (that it was totally related to Grain-Set).” 

Backed by Science

VanDenAkker’s curiosity about the results prompted him to dig deeper into what he was seeing, and he decided to send samples of both his treated and untreated corn silage for analytical testing. The results spoke for themselves: The Alltech Crop Science-treated corn silage showed a 5.8% increase in neutral detergent fiber (NDF) digestibility. This meant that the dairy cows were getting more energy and taking in more nutrients from the feed, allowing them to not only increase their milk production but to also have more balanced rumen health. These improvements help increase farmers’ profitability and make their systems more efficient.       

What is the science behind these results? Simply put: nutrigenomics. Gene expression helps corn silage crops better withstand environmentally stressful conditions, like drought or overly wet soils, and both biotic and abiotic stress. The plants respond by inducing their own resistance to these stressors and improving their own performance.  

Based on these results, VanDenAkker is enthusiastic about his plans to continue using Grain-Set on his silage corn. When asked about the difference he has seen in his cows, VanDenAkker smiled pragmatically and said, “I feed the cows myself, and I can see the results for myself. They are eating better and getting what they need from the feed. I always had good cows, but they are very decent now.”

What is Grain-Set?

Grain-Set is a unique blend of micronutrients and fermentation products and is specifically formulated for cereal, grain, forage and oil crop production.

  • Provides nutrients essential for plant metabolic processes
  • Increases grain weight and yield
  • Optimizes crop uniformity
  • Improves grain fill and quality
  • OMRI-listed for use in organic production


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