Rising availability and favorable economics have more animal nutritionists considering this option

The science of success in livestock feeding today is based on precision using top-quality, research-backed options. Precision means knowing the ingredients involved inside out and matching them with products tailored to harvest the most value for the greatest benefits.

Science is showing the tools for the job can differ greatly depending on what ingredients are used – a fact extremely important today as alternative feed sources and varied diets becoming more commonplace. In this “Spotlight on ingredients” series, FeedScape takes an up close look at a number of these, starting with canola meal.

New kid on the block

It’s no secret canola production has skyrocketed over the past decade. That has meant a corresponding increase in the potential for more livestock operations – in Canada and also increasingly in the U.S. – to take advantage of canola meal as an alternative feed protein source.

According to the Canola Council of Canada, in the 2013-14 crop year the country produced approximately 4.2 million tonnes of canola meal and of that exported about 3.2 million tonnes – the vast majority (over 95 percent) to the U.S. This represents a peak in a canola meal export trend that has rocketed skyward in recent years and the highest canola meal exports to the U.S. to date. At the same time, domestic U.S. canola production has expanded to about 1.5 million acres, with virtually all canola meal used domestically, according to the U.S. Canola Association.

Feed use peaking higher

Number are expected strong again in the 2014-2015 crop year, says Brittany Dyck, canola meal manager with the Canola Council of Canada. “The rising numbers we have seen particularly over the past five years are a clear reflection that interest and use of canola meal in the U.S. has expanded substantially over the years. Increasing levels of production in Canada should make even more canola meal available to the US, and other markets around the world.”

The main concentration of canola meal use in the U.S. has been in the dairy industry, says Dyck. The feed source provides an alternative to soybean meal with strong overall nutritional composition including an excellent amino acid profile favorable for milk production. A meta-analysis (Martineau, 2013) comparing results from 49 separate diet treatments with the same level of protein confirms canola meal can increase milk production by approximately 1.4 lbs of milk, per cow, per day, compared to similar use of soybean meal and other vegetable protein ingredients.

There is also significant increasing use and interest in the U.S. poultry and swine sectors, she says. Along with improving economics, this is driven in large part by new research results supporting higher inclusion levels.

Fundamentals to consider

Here’s a quick rundown of what industry should consider:

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.

Glucosinolates. 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.

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 understanding the potential for pigs. For example, the research team of Dr. Martin Nyachoti at the University of Manitoba demonstrated recently 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, July 2014).

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.

Enzyme boost potential. 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. Western Canada headquartered Canadian Bio-Systems Inc. is an example of an enzyme manufacturer increasingly active in the U.S. that has collaborated with Slominski and other feed enzyme researchers to design options that capture this potential with canola meal.

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.

Information from this spotlight on ingredients series was recently featured in ((link to reprint PDF on CBS website)) FeedStuffs magazine. Watch for information on wheat – particularly how to take advantage of the latest varieties available for feed use – in the next instalment of Spotlight on Ingredients in the next edition of FeedScape.