MASSENA — While its focus is on egg production, Southwest Iowa Egg Cooperative in Massena has to somehow feed its nearly 900,000 birds. To do this, it relies heavily on the corn industry. In fact, SWIE utilizes approximately 750,000 bushels of corn per year to feed its birds.
“It’s quite a bit of corn,” said Rich Hall, manager of Southwest Iowa Egg. “Corn is a tremendous energy source. The birds require a lot of energy to lay eggs. They also require protein, so the corn provides the energy and the soybean meal provides the protein.”
The National Corn Growers Association states the poultry industry consumes 1,200 million bushels of corn annually. They are the second largest consumer of corn in the animal agriculture sector. The poultry industry accounts for the largest amount of the U.S. Meat Export market with the top poultry exporters being The Netherlands, Poland and Belgium.
Corn is also utilized to feed fish, beef and dairy cattle and hogs. Today’s gallon of gasoline almost always includes a minimum of 10% ethanol that is derived from corn with about 30% of field corn going to ethanol. The export of corn and corn products is also vital to the nation’s economy, the NCGA said.
Back at Southwest Iowa Egg, feed is trucked in from 21st Century Cooperative daily. The egg farm receives about 120 tons of feed weekly, a mix of corn, soybean meal and a variety of other vitamins and minerals.
The birds are fed automatically by a computerized system at 4, 7, and 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Hall said target consumption for the birds is 22.5 pounds per 100 birds each day.
“It’s not that much, but with the number of birds we have it adds up pretty quick,” he said. “Everything’s controlled by a computer. We have a target temperature year round. Depending on the temperature it turns fans on, turns fans off, the birds are fed automatically...it’s really technology driven.”
Hall said due to the amount of feed the facility uses annually, one could say Southwest Iowa Egg is very much corn driven. He reminds consumers everywhere that Iowa as a whole is also very much corn driven and consumers should consider the impact corn has on the state’s economy and the larger agricultural picture.
“The corn industry is critical to animal agriculture and the production of food,” Hall said. “We produce a lot of pigs, a lot of cattle, a lot of eggs, a lot of broilers and a lot of turkeys in the state of Iowa and that’s because we’re raising very high energy, dense product in corn that we’re translating into high quality protein to feed to the animals.”