Key things to know including using the power of multi-carbohydrase enzyme technology to maximize results:

The latest numbers from Statistics Canada show another banner year for Canadian canola production. As canola production has expanded dramatically over the past 10 to 15 years, the opportunity has increased or more Canadian and U.S. livestock operations to take advantage of canola meal as an alternative feed protein source.

Science and production advances are making canola meal a more widely used protein source for animal feed around the world.

Canola production is primarily associated with the prairie provinces of Western Canada, where it was first introduced and has ascended to become the dominant cash crop, based on rising demand for the crop’s healthy oil for culinary uses and a wide variety of food products, along with some ethanol use. However, rising production and export of Canadian canola meal, as well as gradually expanding canola production in the northern tier states and other key pockets of the U.S, have quietly made canola meal a rapidly increasing factor in U.S. feed markets.

Good information on the key considerations for canola meal is available through sources such as the Canola Council of Canada and the U.S. Canola Association.These organizations caution that nutritional composition may vary depending on processing method (i.e. solvent extracted or expeller) and from growing conditions year to year. Some of the important factors to consider include:

Under the microscope: Nutritional composition

The main advantages of canola meal typically include good protein content and amino acid profile, high oil content and a complex carbohydrate matrix, along with good selenium and phosphorous content. Like many vegetable protein sources, canola meal is limiting in lysine but has high levels of methionine and cysteine.

The bypass protein content of canola meal is also substantial, making key amino acids such as methionine more available for milk production. A high bypass protein value and ideal amino acid composition contribute to the dramatic research results showing a substantial milk production advantage with canola meal compared to soybean meal.

The G Factor: Overcoming glucosinolates hurdle

An early concern with canola meal was glucosinolate content, which at high levels can cause a host of problems including health concerns for young animals and a bitter taste that can reduce feed intake. However, this is an issue no longer with today’s canola varieties, as plant breeding advances have steadily reduced the total glucosinolate content of canola to about one-twelfth of that of the older high-glucosinolate varieties.

Ramping up inclusion levels

Advances in the current generation of varieties, along with improvements in diet formulation practices have also supported much higher inclusion levels than was advised in the past.

For example, while recommended levels for poultry were traditionally as low as 3 percent, today even very cautious recommendations, based on appropriate feed formulation techniques and animal health considerations, are around 10 percent for young birds and rise to 20 or 30 percent depending on other life stages and bird types.

Another area where major inroads have been made is in understanding the potential for pigs. For example, the research team of Dr. Martin Nyachoti at the University of Manitoba demonstrated that canola meal can be included in the diets of weaned pigs at levels up to 25 percent while supporting high growth performance (Journal of Animal Science).

Optimizing the energy factor

Canola meal is a slightly more fibrous by product, which lends itself to better utilization in ruminant animals. For monogastrics such as poultry and swine, the energy profile of canola meal compared to soybean meal is often lower. However nutritionists note this gap can be easily addressed by adding slightly higher fat to the diet along with the canola meal.

Game changer: Maximizing nutrition with multi-carbohydrase enzyme technology

Another option to consider is supplementing with enzymes to unlock more nutrients from canola meal. Recent studies and literature reviews, such as those led by Dr. Bogdan Slominski and his team at the University of Manitoba, show substantial gains in nutrient utilization are possible for all species with properly formulated and applied enzyme supplementation; also, this approach can make feasible the use of full-fat canola or off grades of canola seed that can represent an economic, well-balanced source of protein.

Because canola meal is a complex feed ingredient with multiple hard-to-digest components, research trials by Slominski and others indicate multi-carbohydrase enzyme approaches are more effective than single-enzyme formulations.

Top researchers on feed nutrient digestibility such as Dr. Hans Stein of the University of Illinois have highlighted that the digestibility of amino acids in canola meal is lower than for soybean meal, primarily due to higher fibre content. This is a key area where Slominski and others note enzyme supplementation can play an important role.