Feeding Kernza® screenings to broiler chickens

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2023: $7,655.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2025
Grant Recipient: Malaina Schlautman
Region: North Central
State: Nebraska
Project Coordinator:
Malaina Schlautman
Malaina Schlautman


No commodities identified


No practices identified

Proposal summary:

Broiler dietary needs are well known. They have high protein requirements (16-22%) throughout the starter, grower, finisher growth stages. Much of the energy and protein in broiler feed mixes is derived from corn and soy. There is increasing interest among small-scale poultry producers to find alternative, sustainable non-corn or -soy derived sources of protein and energy. Alternative cereal grains (e.g wheat or barley) are sometimes used, but rarely have sufficient protein content to meet the high protein demands of growing broilers ( > 16%). Alternative grain legumes (e.g. pea or lentil) can be used to replace soy protein in broiler diets, but at a steep increase in price.  

Kernza(R) perennial grain production is increasing throughout the US as an ecologically and nutritionally sound component of human and animal diets. It's high protein content (18-21%) could allow it to replace at least a portion of the soy-derived protein and corn-derived energy in broiler diets. While the price of human-grade Kernza(R) grain remains high, Kernza(R) screenings, mostly composed of cracked Kernza(R) grain, might be an affordable non-soy protein source for small scale poultry producers and provide an outlet for the by-product as the Kernza(R) industry and infrastructure expands in the US.

Project objectives from proposal:


The sustainability benefits of Kernza(R) perennial grain production are well-documented throughout research literature and in the media. As the industry expands, uses for by-products like Kernza(R) screenings or non-food grain Kernza(R) grain (e.g. off-flavored or high aflatoxin or vomitoxin content) will be needed as key infrastructure to support the Kernza(R) food and agriculture system. Our research explores using Kernza(R) screenings that we can source from local growers as a non-soy or -corn derived portion of broiler grower and finisher diets.

Design: We will grow out 4 batches (16 groups) of broilers. Each batch will be composed of 4 groups of broilers with 15-20 broilers per group. From each batch, two groups will be grown at Malaina's farm and two groups will be grown at Bailey's to have replicates of the treatments. Within each farm there will be a control group fed a normal grower/finisher ration and a test group fed a normal grower/finisher ration that is replaced with 10-40% Kernza screenings. Within each batch, all 60-80 broilers will be brooded together using the same starter diet from the feed store until 14 days, then split into groups and fed the proposed diets and timeline are shown in the table below until processing. Bailey and Malaina will mix the feed together rather than purchasing and formulating separately.

Batch Timeline Control group diet Test group diet
1 (Groups 1-4) Spring 2023 Grower/finisher mix from feed store. Grower/finisher mix + 10% Kernza(R) screenings
2 (Groups 5-8) Summer 2023 Grower/finisher mix from feed store. Grower/finisher mix + 20% Kernza(R) screenings
3 (Groups 9-12) Spring 2024 Grower/finisher mix from feed store. Grower/finisher mix + 30% Kernza(R) screenings
4 (Groups 13-16) Summer 2024 Grower/finisher mix from feed store. Grower/finisher mix + 40% Kernza(R) screenings

Measurements: We plan to collect measurements on the weight of feed consumed and the weight of broilers at different growth stages and at processing.  We will also send our feed mixes to Kansas State University to evaluate for nutritional content to be sure we are meeting broiler dietary guidelines. We will also ask our local vet to visit on processing day to evaluate the health and wellness of the control and test groups. If the test feed mix or health and wellness of broilers in any batch is not acceptable, we will work with Chad (Kstate) and the vet to adjust our proposed diet plan for future batches. We will use the cost of feed consumed and the weight of processed broilers to compare net incomes among and within batches.  The measurement plan is in the table below.

Timeline Broiler Weight Measurements Feed Weight Measurements Feed Quality Measurements
day 0 all chicks    
day 7 all chicks starter consumed  
day 14 each broiler group starter consumed Grower mix
day 21   Grower consumed  
day 28 each broiler group Grower consumed Finisher mix
day 35   Finisher consumed  
day 42 each broiler group (live and processed) + vet inspection Finisher consumed  


  1. Determine whether broiler weight gain and health and wellness is affected by substituting a portion (10-40%) of the grower and finisher diets with Kernza(R) screenings.
  2. Determine how the nutritional value of broiler grower/finisher changes when fortified with Kernza(R) screenings.
  3. Determine how net income is affected by including Kernza(R) screenings in broiler grower/finisher diets
  4. Determine the price-point at which including Kernza(R) screenings in broiler diets is a viable outlet for the by-product of Kernza(R) agriculture and food system.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.