As margins come under pressure, the drive to reduce feed costs means many farmers will be looking at alternative low cost feedstuffs. Chloe Palmer learns more.
Buying by-products from the human food industry is one way of sourcing feed with a high nutritive value at a lower cost.
SAC Consulting ruminant nutritionist Karen Stewart says by-products are often highly nutritious and can be inexpensive to feed, but caution must be exercised when choosing the right one.
She says: “By-products can appear cheap to buy but quality differs between suppliers and batches. Dry matter values and moisture contents can be variable and farmers should be careful they are not buying in large quantities of water.”
Mrs Stewart recommends asking for an analysis for each product rather than relying on standard figures.
Thinking about how the by-products will complement home-grown feed is also vital, she says.
“Think about what you grow, what stock you are feeding and what is currently in deficit in your rations. For example, where wholecrop cereals are fed there is likely to be a shortfall of protein, so choosing a by-product which is high in protein is desirable.
“Decide how a product will be fed and how quickly it will be used. Due to higher moisture contents, many by-products do not keep well. Syrups may need a storage tank and adding it to the ration can be more difficult without a mixer wagon.”
Co-products vary in their moisture content, physical characteristics, keeping quality and palatability. Understanding how these factors vary between products and recommended rates of inclusion in rations is essential.
Bread and bakery waste is palatable and energy rich and provides a useful alternative to cereal grain. Digestibility can be higher due to the lower fibre content but this can lead to acidosis due to the rapid digestion of starch. These products are also high in salt (1-3 per cent).
Derived from bakery waste meal, biscuit meal is sometimes available. It is highly palatable and provides good energy levels. The starch and oil content are both high and can cause digestive upsets if large quantities are introduced to the diet too quickly. Limit to 30 er cent of the dry matter intake.
Sweets and chocolate have a high sugar and fat content and are palatable but generally low in protein. There is a potential risk of acidosis unless introduced slowly with a gradual increase in feed rate.
Carrots are high in moisture (85-90 per cent) with low protein content (10 per cent crude protein). While digestible, high levels in the diet can result in off-coloured fat in finished cattle and sheep, and may cause a taint in milk if fed for prolonged periods in large amounts.
Rapeseed meal is created from the extraction of oil from oilseed rape with a high oil content limiting the scope for inclusion in feed rations, particularly those high in protein. Dry matter values are high at about 90 per cent and typical crude protein levels are about 32 per cent with low crude fibre (11 per cent).
Apple pomace is a by-product of the cider making industry and contains high levels of pectins but a low energy content. Dry matter values for this product can vary significantly so this is a critical consideration when sourcing apple pomace as it also has low protein content (6-8 per cent).
Citrus pulp is a by-product of pressing citrus fruits containing high energy levels and it is a good source of digestible fibre and sugar. It serves as a useful ingredient in rations when combined with cereal and protein sources as protein levels are typically low (about 6 per cent). The recommended feed rate is no more than 3-4kg per day.
Beet pulp is a high energy by-product of sugar processing providing a good source of digestible fibre but low crude protein levels – about 10 per cent. The larger, harder pellet beet pulp is unsuitable for sheep.
Always seek advice from a qualified nutritionist before changing diets by incorporating waste and by-products into a ration.