With high corn prices, people are showing interest in lower-starch diets. But can you feed less starch and maintain a high level of performance?

"Yes," say researchers at the William H. Miner Ag Research Institute. In an experiment, they partially replaced corn grain with beet pulp, wheat middlings and distillers grain to achieve diets with 18 percent, 21 percent and 25 percent starch. Cows were able to maintain high productivity on all diets, Heather Dann, research scientist at the Miner Institute, told those attending the recent Cornell Nutrition Conference. Starch content did not affect milk production, dry matter intake or rumen pH, she said.

"The one thing we did notice was an increase in butyrate content with the lower-starch diets," she added.

On the basis of this experiment, along with research at other institutions around the country, Dann says lower-starch diets can work. Certainly, they are an option to consider if a farm has an abundant supply of high-quality forage or if the corn price is high relative to other feedstuffs, she adds. But keep an eye on the cows and also the possibility of lower milk-protein yields.