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Canadian dairy cattle may soon have another menu option

Aerin Curtis

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

08-Jul-2016
Last updated on 11-Jul-2016 at 10:23 GMT2016-07-11T10:23:52Z

© iStock.com/liorpt
© iStock.com/liorpt

Camelina meal is being tested as an ingredient for use in dairy rations in Canada in a bid to enhance milk quality.

The Canadian Feed Research Centre (CFRC), a research feedmill owned by the University of Saskatchewan, is offering cows different percentages of the camelina meal and observing the effects.

Sean Thompson, who works as feed industry liaison with the CFRC, said camelina is a crop that has been on the radar for a number of years. He said the university team is now carrying out trials with dairy cows, testing the safety and efficacy of the meal, to ensure Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) approval for use in that livestock segment. 

January 2015 saw the CFIA approve a cold-pressed non-solvent extracted camelina meal for broiler chickens at up to 12% inclusion, which was generated by work done at the CFRC. Similar CFIA green light for inclusion of Camelina in rations for laying hens in the egg industry is expected shortly. 

Rex Newkirk, lead researcher at the CFRC, said the oil seed is a value added feed ingredient due to its fatty acid profile.

Milk fatty acid composition 

“Like flax, it has a lot of omega 3 in it and we’re looking to see how much gets past the rumen into the milk and butter,” he told us. “We’ll probably see some improvements in milk fatty acid composition so that should be beneficial," added Newkirk.

The oilseed contains levels of alpha linoleic acid (ALA) and gondoic acid, which is another longer chain fatty acid, he said. “It’s got about 60% as much ALA as flax, so it should have some of the similar feeding properties as flax."

“The meal is an expelled meal, so it’s fairly high in oil, [it’s] about 14% fat, [but] it’s not like adding straight fat to the diet,” said Newkirk.

The seed is crushed mechanically, so there remains a good quantity of oil in the meal, he said. The left-over oil may be protected, which should help it pass the rumen.

Ongoing trials

In the current study, eight dairy cattle are being fed one of four diets containing, 0, 5, 7.5 and 10% camelina meal in a Latin-square pattern, said Newkirk. Each pairing of cattle gets the same diet for a month before rotating to a different test diet.

The group is in the third month of the experiment with one rotation remaining, he said. The product is being added as part of the concentrate used in a total mixed ration.

“We’re looking at milk performance, and how much do they eat to get that much amount of milk? And the quality of the milk, and the flavor of the milk,” he said. “We’re still in the study so we can’t finalize any data, but so far it’s looking good.”

There has been no issue with feed refusal, he said. “It’s distantly related to the mustard family, but the animals don’t seem to be turning up their noses, we didn’t see any reaction from the animals at all,” he added.

The next step will be to run a related experiment that includes up to 20% of camelina meal in the diet, said Newkirk. If all goes to plan through the follow-up study the approval process could be completed by early 2018.

Additional work

The dairy trials follow research done at the CFRC on the meal in poultry, said Newkirk.  

“They [the CFIA] require some pretty extensive studies before they review it and the review can take about a year,” he said. “In Canada they’re cautious and it takes a long time. The first approach was to go to poultry, those are the least costly trials, and then dairy next.”

“You evaluate increasing levels of inclusion, and in the case of layer hens we recommended it at the highest level because there appeared to be no negative effects,” said Thompson.  

Future additional applications for camelina meal feed use may be with beef cattle and in aquaculture, said Newkirk. The group is in the processing of establishing a digestibility study with fish.

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