New Varieties Of Sorghum Compare Favorably With Corn For Poultry Rations


   Poultry require a diet that contains a large percentage of cereal grains for protein and energy in their rations. New varieties of grain sorghum are a healthy source of protein and energy for turkey, egg layers, broilers and waterfowl. Currently, in the U.S., sorghum is second only to corn as the most used cereal grain for commercial poultry growers in geographies where both sorghum and poultry are raised. 
   In the past, the rule of thumb was that the nutrient value of sorghum was 10 percent less than corn when used in poultry rations, but that’s no longer true! In fact, today’s sorghum can be used as a replacement for corn in poultry feed rationswith only minor changes in the other dietary ingredients. That’s because new U.S. varieties of grain sorghum have higher relative nutrient values than ever, with low tannin and more protein than corn. When evaluating grain sorghum as a cereal grain, poultry producers should make certain that the nutritional values they are using during ration formulation are current, based on only new varieties of sorghum. 
   Low tannins
   Tannins bind to proteins, making them less available for metabolism. Thus, tannin in feeds can stunt growth and performance in all types of poultry.1 Today, U.S. varieties of sorghum grown for poultry feeding are low tannin or 99 percent tannin-free.
   On average, sorghum contains more protein than corn. The chemical composition of grain sorghum compared to corn shows that sorghum has higher values of protein for poultry, while the energy or fat content of sorghum is slightly lower than corn.Least cost ration formulations can be slightly modified to account for the differences seen in nutritive value without impacting poultry performance.

   Amino acids
   The amino acid profile of sorghum and its amino acid digestibility also compares favorably with corn. Lysine and methionine levels are somewhat lower for grain sorghum, but the synthetic form of these amino acids can be used when balancing a ration to insure that all amino acid requirements are met for targeted production levels.  
   Whole grain or processed
   Studies show that poultry grow well on a diet that includes unprocessed, whole grain sorghum. Poultry can ingest quantities of whole grain, provided that the birds have reached gut maturation. The most cost-effective way to incorporate a small quantity of sorghum grain in the poultry ration is to simply add it in its whole grain form. 
   In addition, a recent feed trial used Rotary Compression Unit (RCU) technology to process grain sorghum at various temperatures. The results indicate improved growth performance in broiler chicks fed sorghum compared to corn. The study concluded that RCU processing has the potential to improve the nutritional value of sorghum grain fed to poultry.2

   Use sorghum with confidence
   Worldwide, the consensus of nutritionists is that sorghum is comparable to corn in nutritional value for poultry when low-tannin or tannin-free varieties are used. Grain sorghum varieties from the U.S. can be used with confidence in poultry rations.
More detailed information about research on the feed value of sorghum for poultry can be found at For other agricultural animals, visit ∆
   1 C. M. Nyachoti, J. L. Atkinson and S. Leeson, 1996. Response of Broiler Chicks Fed a High-Tannin Sorghum Diet. J. Appl. Poultry Res. 5:239-245.
   2 United Sorghum Checkoff Program. Accessed May 5, 2017.   
   DOUG BICE: Market Development Director, United Sorghum Checkoff Program

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