Beef, Dairy Producers: Considered Sorghum Lately?

ANALYSIS - Sorghum is growing in popularity with beef and dairy producers, not only in the US but globally, because of its drought and heat tolerance and diversity as a feed ingredient, writes Sarah Mikesell.
calendar icon 5 August 2016
clock icon 3 minute read

Scott Staggenborg, Director of Product Portfolio with Chromatin, speaks to 5m's Sarah Mikesell about how sorghum can fit into a dairy or beef operation. 

Chromatin’s global footprint offers a strong sorghum portfolio in the US, EU, Africa, Australia and Asia. Currently, Chromatin is developing several new sorghum hybrids that will increase its footprint in the valuable Asian feed markets.

"Chromatin is a sorghum-only company, meaning our breeding and product development programs only focus on sorghum. Over the last seven years our R&D, Breeding and Molecular Biology teams have worked on improving sorghum genetics both in grain sorghum as well as forage sorghum," said Scott Staggenborg, Director of Product Portfolio with Chromatin.

"We released 16 new hybrids this past year, three of which are new forage hybrids."

As some parts of the world experience dryer, hotter temperatures, sorghum may be the perfect fit.

"Sorghum is very drought tolerant and, it's heat tolerant, so it does really well in areas that experience water stress or temperature stress," he said. "You think about tropical countries, as well as places where water use efficiency is really important - even in the US were irrigation water is at a minimum."

In parts of Europe and Asia, where water availability can also be a challenge, sorghum a great fit particularly in livestock markets, he noted.

Sorghum HarvestSorghum is diverse in terms of how it's used in livestock programs.

"Forage sorghum can come in two types. There are types that have grain, so they have a composition similar to corn in terms of finished silage as well as those without grain. The resulting crop or silage product is very high-yielding, so for those who are looking for lots of fibre, lots of silage at a lower cost, the photo-period sensitive ones are extremely important," Mr Staggenborg noted. 

Chromatin's R&D team has integrated new traits into their sorghum hybrids, including the brown midrib trait which offers higher digestibility and results in more gain for the beef producer and more pounds of milk per ton of fed silage for the dairy producer.

"We are hearing from our colleagues in California that is there is also less manure to deal with," he said. "If that is becoming more important to a dairy producer or even a confined [beef] feeding operation, the brown midrib technology is something they may want to consider."

Another trait that Chromatin utilises is brachytic dwarf which provides a better standability and results in a product that is easier to harvest.


For cow-calf operations, sorghum sudans are an option to consider for producers who are grazing or putting up dry hay.

"Sorghum is a great option and we have something that fits almost any need for someone who is in the cattle or dairy business," he said. "It's greatest strength is its drought tolerance and ability to produce a high yield under limited water scenarios."

Sarah Mikesell, Senior Editor

Sarah Mikesell, Senior Editor

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