Feed and poultry/livestock industries in Australia face an interesting dilemma, says the Poultry Hub bulletin of Australia’s Poultry Cooperative Research Centre (CRC). Either they are about to enjoy an abundance of grains at low prices, or they will have to deal with various issues associated with poor-quality grain.

A record harvest is expected in most Australian grain-growing states after the country emerged from a long period of drought into a very wet year. But significant weather damage is expected to occur to the grain crop.

Weather-damaged grain is a double-edged sword, the bulletin notes. If the damage is due to a wet harvest but the moisture is controlled quickly before storage, the consequences on nutritive value of feed grains for poultry production can even be positive. This is because high pre-storage moisture levels can help activate the endogenous enzymes, including fiber-degrading types. These degrade the non-starch polysaccharides (NSP), alleviating the anti-nutritive effects of NSP on the nutritive value of viscous grains such as wheat and barley.

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On the other hand, if the moisture damage to the grain is severe and the subsequent storage is inadequate, the possibility exists of an excessive loss of starch and other nutrients as well as problems with mycotoxins, leading to poor diet quality and bird performance.

A study in Australia on new season grains, funded by the Rural Industries R&D Corporation (RIRDC) details the mechanisms whereby endogenous enzymes are activated in grains and its nutritional consequences for poultry. The report, entitled "The new season grain phenomenon: the role of endogenous glycanases in the nutritive value of cereal grains in broiler chickens," is available at the RIRDC website.