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Canola Meal - An Option for Satisfying Ukraine's Protein Deficiency Problems for Dairy, Beef, Swine and Poultry! Feeding Guidelines.

Most of the livestock that I have seen in Western Ukraine during the past two years are fed rations deficient in protein, vitamins and minerals. These nutrient deficiencies severely compromise the animal's ability to perform as evidenced by low levels of milk production and poor rates and efficiencies of gain. The need for protein can be satisfied easily and economically in Western Ukraine by feeding canola meal, which is readily available at little more than the cost of grain. This makes canola meal very under-priced in relation to the performance response that could be realized if it were fed.

The purpose of this article is to encourage the feeding of canola meal to dairy, beef, swine and poultry in Western Ukraine and to give some guidelines for doing so.

The amount of canola presently being raised in Ukraine is increasing. (Rapeseed, the precursor to canola, formerly was a major crop in Ukraine until the USSR "commanded" that sunflowers be planted instead.) The local price and availability of canola meal will be more attractive to feeders if canola is processed to oil and meal locally, which is one reason to encourage local processing. Given that canola meal is under-priced in relation to its feeding value and that livestock in Western Ukraine are protein deficient, it makes excellent economic sense to encourage the feeding of canola meal to dairy, beef, swine and poultry. Before doing so, feeders should understand that some restrictions apply, particularly for young swine. We'll start with a quick discussion of the origin of canola.

The word "canola" stands for CANadian Oil Low Acid - canola. Canola is a modern plant breeding success story. Canadian agronomists started with rapeseed (which is high in (1) erucic acid, (2) glucosinolates, (3) tannins, and (4) sinapine) and developed canola.

Erucic acid is found in rapeseed oil (not the meal), making canola oil toxic to animals. Erucic acid has favorable properties as a lubricant for high-speed engines and is a precursor for an acid used in producing nylon of which there is no other commercial source. Thus, there is a demand for both (1) rapeseed oil, which can contain 25 up to 55 percent erucic acid and (2) canola oil, which contains less than two percent erucic acid.

Glucosinolates, and particularly its breakdown products resulting from enzymatic hydrolysis, are found in rapeseed meal, making it unpalatable (hot tasting as in horseradish, mustard and radishes) and toxic to animals (goitrogenic, cyanide, nitriles). Glucosinolates can transfer into milk. Interestingly, glucosinolates and their breakdown products found in cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower have anti-carcinogenic properties and help to lower blood cholesterol levels. By breeding and selecting for low erucic acid and low glucosinolates a "double 00" canola seed results that makes the oil nutritious and the meal palatable and safe to feed. Processing techniques influence the level of dangerous glucosinolate breakdown products produced. Very Low Glucosinolate (VLG) varieties of canola produce a meal that rivals soybean meal as a protein supplement.

Tannins are present in canola, although at a reduced level from the original rapeseed. Tannins in canola meal supposedly reduce the digestibility of protein about 10 percent for swine and poultry in comparison to soybean meal. This needs to be considered in formulating rations for them by adding 10 percent more canola meal than needed to satisfy the protein requirements. When canola seed is selected for low tannin content, it is called "triple zero" or "triple low" seed. Interestingly, feeding trials with pigs showed no apparent benefit to feeding triple low versus double low varieties of canola meal.

Sinapine is present in rapeseed and canola meals. It is metabolized to trimethylamine by bacteria in the ceca of the bird's digestive tract. This can cause a fishy flavor in brown eggs because the birds that lay them don't have enough of the enzyme trimethylamine oxidase in their bodies to metabolize it to end products, resulting in an accumulation of trimethylamine that is transferred to the developing egg, causing it to taste "fishy".

Canola seed saved from the commercial raising of canola will gradually develop the negative qualities of rapeseed with high levels of erucic acid and glucosinolates. This makes it inadvisable to save home-grown seed for planting if the resultant crop is to enter the food chain. In North America it is common for oil seeds to be solvent extracted rather than mechanically pressed into oil and meal. While there may be some solvent extraction done in Ukraine, mechanical extraction seems more common. Mechanically (versus solvent) extracted canola meal contains about four percent more oil. This increases the energy level but dilutes down the other components by the same amount. The nutritional values shown in the following chart are for solvent extracted canola meal.

Nutrient Composition of Solvent Extracted Canola Meal (As Fed Basis - 90% DM)

ComponentAmino AcidMinerals
Crude Protein, %34Arginine, %2.04Calcium, %0.63
Ether Extract (lipids), %3.8Histidine, %1.22Phosphorus, %1.01
Ash, %4.8Isoleucine, %1.32Available P, %0.40
Crude Fiber, %12Leucine, %2.48Sodium, %0.70
Acid Detergent Fiber,%17.2Lysine, %1.91Chlorine, %0.10
Neutral Detergent Fiber, %21.2Methionine, %0.71Potassium, %1.22
Available Energy- kcal/kgCystine, %0.85Sulfur, %0.85
Growing Chicken, AMEn1900Phenylalanine, %1.35Magnesium, %0.51
Adult Chicken, AMEn2000Tyrosine, %1.01Copper, mg/kg5.70
TMEn1955Threonine, %1.53Iron, mg/kg142
Growing Pig, Dig. Energy3100Tryptophan, %0.44Manganese, mg/kg49.2
Metabolic E2900Valine, %1.79Molybdenum, mg/kg1.4
Net Energy1750  Zinc, mg/kg69
Cattle, Digestible Energy3350  Selenium, mg/k1.1
Metabolizable E2650    
Net E Maintenance1640    
Net Energy Gain1060    
Net E Lactation1570    
Tot. Dig. Nutrients-%64    
Typical vitamin levels (mg/kg except for Choline) of canola meal
Choline, percent0.67Biotin1.1Folic Acid2.3
Pantothenic Acid9.5Riboflavin5.8Thiamine5.2
Vitamin E14Niacin160Pyridoxine7.2

Animal nutrition in its simplest form boils down to (1) determining the nutrient requirements of the animal being fed, (2) determining the nutrient levels in various feedstuffs and (3) mixing available feedstuffs together so as to satisfy the animal's nutrient requirements. The above nutrient table for canola meal may be helpful for those formulating their own rations. To make a comparison of canola meal to soybean meal and to find the nutrient levels of available feedstuffs, please consult a feedstuffs nutrient analysis table. Livestock feeders who don't know how to formulate rations should find someone with a computer that can. Animals shouldn't be fed by guesswork, although many animals are so fed in Western Ukraine. This reduces the profitability of raising livestock. Be smart and formulate nutritionally balanced rations for maximum profits.

Let's look at some guidelines for feeding canola to dairy, beef, swine and poultry.

DAIRY AND BEEF - Guidelines for Feeding Canola Meal

Canola meal can be used as the sole protein supplement for calves (in addition to milk or milk replacer if the calf is of pre-weaning age), growing (heifers) and finishing animals (beef feedlots), lactating cows and dry cows. In other words, canola meal can be fed to dairy and beef animals in any rations where a plant protein source is typically used. Somewhat surprisingly, a number of studies have shown that lactating dairy cows fed canola meal produced five percent more milk than similar cows fed soybean meal or cottonseed meal. Canola meal has a rumen protein by-pass of between 30 and 40 percent. Having forty percent of the original ration protein exit the rumen as amino acids rather than being degraded to ammonia is considered optimum. Plant protein sources for ruminants should be bought based on their cost in relation to their level of protein and energy. In Western Ukraine today, this makes canola meal the plant protein of choice for dairy and beef animals. I don't see any reasons for this price advantage to change soon.

What kind of a milk response should the feeder expect when canola meal is added to the ration of a lactating milk cow?

If canola meal replaces an equivalent amount of protein supplied by soybean meal or cottonseed meal (with the amount of grain fed adjusted to offset the different levels of protein of the various oil meals), milk production should remain the same or improve about five percent, as predicted from the results of numerous feeding experiments.

Western Ukrainian dairy producers should expect a substantial milk response when canola meal is added to the ration of lactating cows since most of the animals are deficient in protein and energy (except perhaps for those cows grazing fresh green pasture). To the extent that the animals are not on full feed and adding canola meal doesn't displace the consumption of other feedstuffs, adding one kilogram of canola meal to the daily diet will increase the energy intake by 0.64 kg of TDN (total digestible nutrients). Since it takes one kg of TDN to produce approximately three kilograms of milk, adding one kg of canola meal to the daily ration would be expected to result in almost two liters more milk produced due to the increase in energy alone. In addition, there would be a milk response from the added protein, which we'll talk about later.

It's time for some ruminant physiology and biochemistry, so let's go back to school. The ruminant [even-toed ungulates (hoofed mammals) such as beef and dairy cattle, sheep, goats, giraffes, camels, llamas, deer, moose, elk, buffalo, antelope, impalas, etc.] stomach is comprised of four compartments or separate stomachs called the rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum. In the rumen and reticulum, microorganisms live on the feed consumed, called the microbial substrate. The types of microorganisms that predominate in the rumen at any given time depends upon the type of feed consumed and the pH (acid level) of the rumen contents. The kinds of microorganisms that flourish are important to the animal as this influences the animal's ability to produce milk, butterfat, weight gain and to maintain rumen and animal health. By adjusting the pH of the rumen and what feedstuffs are fed, you can influence whether a cow predominately fattens or produces lots of milk. You can also influence the level of components (protein and fat) of the milk produced by adjusting the diet and how it is fed. The rumen can be compared to a fermentation vat. Managing rumen fermentation to obtain the desired result is a separate and exciting study that must be understood when feeding dairy cows for high production.

The microorganisms in the rumen and reticulum grow by converting forages, such as pasture and hay that contain cellulose fiber (that simple stomached animals such as the pig and human can't digest), as well as other feedstuffs into microbial protein. As the rumen microorganisms grow, they produce amino acids (protein) and B-vitamins so that supplemental amino acids and B-vitamins are not required in the diet of the ruminant. This fluid mass of microorganisms and other ingested feedstuffs is partially dried out in the omasum before it passes into the abomasum, which is the true stomach (similar to the stomach of pigs and humans). In the abomasum, acids are secreted that kill the microorganisms and protein digestion is started. From here, the stomach (abomasum) contents (called chyme) pass into the small intestine where digestion occurs fairly similarly to that in simple stomached animals.

The critical point that I'm leading up to is this: Rumen microorganisms have their own nutrient requirements, including the need for 11% crude protein in the ration dry matter, in order to grow and perform optimally. (The ruminant animal will need more protein than this in order to produce high levels of milk and to grow rapidly, as we'll discuss later.) Ruminant nutrition involves the feeding of both the microorganisms in the rumen and the ruminant animal itself. Rumen management is both science and art.

When the ration contains less than 11% crude protein, the rumen microorganisms are short of protein, which reduces their ability to grow and to digest feed. The result is that the ruminant animal fed inadequate protein processes less feed through its digestive system and that which is processed is not as well utilized. Most of the ruminants in Western Ukraine, except for those eating fresh green pasture or alfalfa hay, are consuming a ration with less than 11% crude protein in the dry matter and thus microbial performance and animal productivity suffer. The forage that I see being "carved out" of the stacks of hay (straw) that have wintered over and are standing unprotected in the fields in Western Ukraine contains less than 11% crude protein. Besides, the palatability of this weathered forage is reduced so animals won't eat as much of it as the dairyman would like. It might make good bedding but it surely doesn't make good feed. Milk production suffers. (Cutting forage on time in order to capture its optimum feeding value is a problem that should be addressed. Improving forage quality would result in a substantial and profitable increase in the liters of milk produced per hectare of land.)

If supplemental protein, such as canola meal, is added to this low protein forage, animal performance will increase because: (1) When the protein level of the ration dry matter is raised to 11% or higher, the rumen microorganisms begin to function adequately. This improvement in digestion by itself will result in improved animal performance - more milk production in lactating cows and improved growth and weight gain in growing animals. (2) With the rumen microorganisms performing up to capacity, the animal eats more as it can process more feed through its digestive system. This results in a further increase in available nutrients, which supports an additional improvement in production.

Even though rumen microorganisms may have adequate protein to perform when the protein level is 11% of the ration dry matter, the high producing dairy cow still requires additional protein. A 600 kg high producing Holstein cow, particularly during the early stages of lactation, should be fed a diet containing 18% to 19% crude protein in the ration dry matter (broken down into the appropriate percentages of rumen degradable and non-degradable protein, which we won't consider here). The 400 to 450 kg black and white native cows common to Western Ukraine should be fed a ration with at least 15% to 16% crude protein (dry matter basis). Compare this to the protein level of weathered grass hay cut past its prime, that I'm guessing contains less than six percent crude protein.

(If someone has the nutrient values of this weathered grass hay, I would appreciate receiving them. Please send to me at: E-mail: [email protected].)

The amount of increased production expected from feeding supplemental protein will depend, in part, upon how deficient the ration was in protein before supplementation. Since the winter rations that I saw being fed to most of the ruminants in Western Ukraine are pretty pathetic, I think the response from feeding canola meal to lactating dairy cows could be pretty spectacular. There would be both an (1) energy response and a (2) protein response with the combined result being around four to one, meaning four more liters of milk produced for each kg of canola meal fed. This response would be expected if fresh cows were started on canola meal at the time of freshening. Cows that were later in their lactation would not respond as well. It is important to feed fresh cows well and then continue feeding good rations throughout lactation and the dry cow period.

Feeding canola meal would allow the lactation curves of fresh cows to peak higher and to sustain longer, which, along with good animal health, is the objective of good dairy nutrition. It takes adequate protein to support a high level of production at the peak of lactation and adequate energy to sustain it. During the first part of lactation, a dairy cow wants to milk and will pull on body reserves for energy and protein to help keep milk production up, but these reserves run out as the cow loses weight.

It is important to understand that the body reserves of fat (energy) being mobilized by the fresh cow can produce twice as much milk as can the body reserves of protein being mobilized. Therefore, during early lactation when body reserves are being used to produce additional milk, more protein (in relation to energy) needs to be present in the ration to balance the higher amount of energy (than protein) that is coming from the cow's body. During the latter part of lactation when the cow is gaining weight, this situation is reversed. It's natural for a high producing fresh cow to lose weight as its milk production moves towards the peak of lactation. The person feeding the cow should try to minimize this weight loss by feeding a nutritionally balanced ration that allows the maximum intake of dry matter. This takes nutritious feed and good management.

The body weight that is lost during the first part of lactation should be replaced during the latter part of lactation so that the cow dries up with the same body condition that you want it to have when it freshens sixty days later. This is a more efficient utilization of nutrients and produces more milk than waiting until the dry period to put weight on cows.

You want a cow to peak as high as possible in daily milk production as each liter more milk given per day at the peak of lactation can be expected to allow the cow to produce 220 more liters of milk for the entire 305 day lactation. Therefore, it is important to feed a fresh cow properly right from the start of lactation. Cows that are past the top of their lactation curves, and particularly those in the last trimester of lactation, won't show as much milk response to the addition of canola meal to a protein deficient ration as those cows started on canola meal at freshening. Don't wait until a cow peaks in lactation to start feeding her well but instead feed her properly before and at the time of freshening and then continue to do so throughout her entire lactation.

The amount of milk response (and money) obtained from feeding canola meal wouldn't be hard for the dairyman to determine. Canola meal could be fed to fresh cows during the first two to three months of their lactation and their milk response compared to similar fresh cows that are fed a similar ration without canola meal supplementation.

The economics of feeding canola meal could be determined easily by comparing the cost of a kg of canola meal (plus the cost of a little more forage that would probably be consumed) versus the value of four liters of milk. Under present economic conditions in Western Ukraine, a litter of milk is worth about 30 kopeks ($0.075), which is about the same as the cost of a kg of canola (and the extra amount of low quality forage consumed).

With a four to one return in milk, there would be a four to one return on income (using present economic conditions in Western Ukraine) for each kg of canola meal fed. At some level of intake, the expected response from feeding an additional kg of canola meal would be expected to decrease (decreasing marginal return) with the amount of milk response being determined by the protein adequacy of the original ration.

If my assumptions are correct on the protein level of the stored grass hay, I'm suggesting that 60 percent of the ration fed to fresh lactating dairy cows should consist of forage from the wintered stacks of hay with the remaining 40% of the ration being canola meal. To the extent that higher protein forage is fed, some of the canola meal could be replaced with grain. The canola meal (and grain) should be fed in three or more meals per day so as not to overload the rumen microorganisms. No more than 2.5 to 3 kg of concentrate should be fed to a dairy cow in one feeding. The forage should be available ad libitum. Lactating dairy cows should not be away from feed and water except perhaps at milking time. Free choice water must be available to realize these levels of milk response. Milk is mostly water. Without adequate water, animals will reduce feed intake and this will reduce animal performance. Feeding supplemental vitamins and minerals would also help to optimize milk production. The level of energy intake is also very important.

One of the problems with feeding low quality forages is that by the time the protein requirements are met from protein supplements, there isn't much room for more grain. Forage should make up at least 40 percent of the total ration and probably 50 percent. Feeding high levels of concentrate (grain and grain by-products, protein supplements, vitamins and minerals) takes special management to keep from causing rumen digestion problems. Low quality forages decrease animal performance in three ways. (1) The nutrient content of the forage consumed is lower, (2) voluntary consumption by the animal of a poor quality forage is reduced and (3) the forage that is consumed is not as well digested as if it were of good quality. In other words, the animal eats less of a poor quality forage than of a good quality one and doesn't digest the poor quality one as well.

I'm guessing (and others have concurred) that with proper nutrition the black and white native cows in Western Ukraine should be able to produce 6000 liters of milk per lactation (305 days). At present most are producing less than 3000 liters because they aren't being fed properly. This gives us lots of opportunity to make improvements. Using canola meal to balance the protein needs of the lactating cow is a good place to start.

Herds of well-fed Holstein cows can produce in excess of 10,000 liters of milk per lactation so if the herd is of mixed breeding, it would be expected to produce more than if it is of purely black and white breeding. The more Holstein breeding is in the herd the higher the amount of milk that can be produced and the more response expected from feeding an adequate ration. Dairy people in Western Ukraine shouldn't settle for lower production and lower profitability than is possible if their animals were fed properly.

As the protein level of the ration is increased, the voluntary intake of dry matter will also increase if both feed and water are available free choice. This will help increase milk production. The lactating cow should be looked at as a production factory. The more feed she can process (and therefore consume), the more milk she will produce.

Under today's economics, there is no reason for a dairy cow in Western Ukraine to be deficient in protein, as canola meal is available at economical prices. Unfortunately, there are sure a lot of milk cows there that are not adequately fed. The feeder or his/her nutritionist should balance the concentrate portion of the ration so that it contains enough protein (from canola meal?) to balance out the protein supplied by the forage and grain. The protein level should be up to 15% to 16% crude protein in the ration dry matter if she is a black and white native cow and 18% or 19% crude protein if she is of Holstein breeding. The protein level needed depends on the level of milk production.

Tables showing the nutrient needs for various levels of milk production and the nutrient levels of various feedstuffs are available to help in these calculations. It is recommended that the forage be analyzed before formulating the concentrate ration needed to balance the forage as forages can vary considerably in their levels of protein, fiber and energy. Feeding canola meal to balance the protein needs of lactating dairy cows will increase the profitability of producing milk in almost all situations. I highly recommend it!

An increasing amount of the milk that is being produced in Ukraine is from cows owned by private dairy people who have one or a few cows as opposed to collective farms and Lease Enterprises that have large herds of cows. For owners of one or a few cows, supplementing them with canola meal would be easy. They could top-dress the roughage or grain portion of the ration with canola meal, note the value of the milk response versus the cost of the supplement and then decide upon the level of canola meal that was the most economical for them to feed.

Supplementing cows in large herds should also be easy but with the increased number of people involved, controlling and monitoring the amount of canola meal fed and measuring the actual amount of milk response could be more cumbersome.

Finding enough money to buy canola meal in the first place is always a concern. Lack of cash is a common reason given for not making improvements and for continuing to feed inadequate rations. The milk response to feeding canola meal to dairy cows deficient in protein, particularly fresh cows, should be obvious within a couple of weeks or less. If producers are paid for their milk in a timely fashion, there should be a positive cash flow within a month of starting to feed canola meal. (Private dairymen often sell for cash in the retail market place where they may double their return over selling to a milk processor. They therefore receive a return for both the milk sold and for their marketing.)

If the dairy person is really strapped for cash they should beg, borrow or barter for enough canola meal to experiment with feeding it to just a few cows so that they can note the milk response. They could use the increased cash flow from the improved milk production to buy canola for the rest of the herd. There should be no excuse accepted for not feeding a lactating dairy cow properly. Excuses don't feed cows; good rations do!

The growth rate of most of the calves, heifers and bulls that I have seen in Western Ukraine is slower than desired because they are deficient in protein (and probably energy, vitamins and minerals). This means heifers will be older in age before they can be bred and will calve at an older age than they should for optimum profitability. Replacement dairy heifers that are properly fed will calve and enter the milking herd at 24 months of age. To achieve this desired production goal they will need excellent nutrition, including adequate protein, starting at birth and continuing right up through calving.

Heifer growth charts are available that show the height and weight that heifers of different breeds should reach by specific ages in order to be large enough to breed at 14 to 15 months of age so that they will calve at 24 months of age. By measuring height and weight of the heifers and using these charts, you have an "early-warning" system to alert you if your heifers are not growing adequately. If you don't have a scale to weigh the animal, there are measuring tapes available that convert heart girth diameter to weight. You can use the same tape to measure the height of the calf at the withers. By taking these measurements and using heifer growth charts, you can make the appropriate feed adjustments so that your heifers meet the desired parameters. This way you aren't surprised when your heifers reach breeding age but are too small and immature to breed.

If animals are short of protein, their growth in height will be stunted. This is common in Western Ukraine. Both adequate protein and energy are required for them to reach the desired weight norms. If your growing animals aren't reaching the desired height as indicated on the heifer growth charts, increase the protein (and perhaps minerals) in their diet. If they are tall enough but under weight, add grain or grain by-products for energy.

Young animals particularly need supplemental protein. Animals that are three to six months of age need to consume rations containing 16% crude protein on a dry matter basis. These rations should contain high quality forage, adequate grain (forage alone isn't enough until the calf is six months of age), a protein supplement, vitamins and minerals. Water should always be available free choice of course.

Wet feeds, such as corn and grass silages, should not be fed to calves under six months of age as they don't have the rumen capacity needed to consume and process enough wet feed to nourish them. Calves on pasture need supplemental grain and probably protein. Feeders should consult nutrient requirement charts for specific recommendations. Canola meal can be the sole source of supplemental protein to balance out the protein supplied by the forage and grain part of the ration for growing calves, heifers and young bulls. Salt, vitamins and minerals should also be available. Don't forget free choice water.

SUMMARY for Dairy and Beef Cattle

For optimum economic performance, rations for dairy and beef cattle should be balanced for protein. This means determining the amount of protein supplied by the forage and grain and adding enough protein to meet the needs of the animal. Canola meal can be used as the sole source of supplemental protein for dairy and beef animals including calves, growing heifers and bulls, dry cows and lactating cows. Today, canola meal in Ukraine costs only slightly more than grain. Buying canola meal to supplement rations for dairy and beef animals is a smart economic move under present economic conditions.

SWINE RATIONS - Guidelines for Feeding Canola Meal

STARTER PIGS - less than 20 kg body weight.

Recommending the use of canola meal as a source of protein for swine isn't as easy as it is for dairy and beef animals as there are some restrictions and adjustments necessary, particularly for young pigs under 20 kilograms in body weight. It would be preferable if some soybean meal were included in the rations fed to starter and young grower pigs. However, being practical under the present situation in Western Ukraine, if there is not another protein source available or affordable, using canola meal to balance the protein needs of pigs would be better than not satisfying the protein needs at all.

Since canola meal at present costs only a little more than grain, there is no excuse not to feed canola meal to pigs over 20 to 30 kg in body weight to satisfy some or all of their protein needs. Unfortunately, too many pigs in Western Ukraine still are fed only grain (without supplemental protein, vitamins and minerals or even adequate water) and their growth performance is severely compromised. Worse yet, economic performance is reduced, often to where it is impossible for the hog raiser to make a profit.

Even among swine raisers that have seen the benefits of adequate supplementation and who say that they make more money when supplements are fed and tell you that they lose money when supplements are not fed, it is common to see them feeding only grain without supplements. They say they don't have the money to buy the supplements. The number of pigs fed should be reduced down to the amount of feed available to feed them properly, in order to maximize profitability. Profitability, and not the size of the operation, should be the goal. It's one thing to be "macho" but it's another thing to be economically "stupid!"

Feeding canola meal to pigs under 20 kg of body weight should be limited. In one study, using pigs that weighed six to 20 kg and comparing the feeding of canola meal (at levels of 8.8, 17.6, 26.5 and 35.0 percent of the ration) to pigs fed rations containing only soybean meal, showed a consistent decrease in feed intake and average daily gain as the level of canola meal in the diet was increased. The feed efficiency (kg of feed per kg of gain) remained similar except at the highest levels (35% canola meal) where it took more feed to put on a kg of weight gain. This increasingly poorer performance as canola meal replaced soybean meal in the diet was consider to be due to the higher fiber and lower energy levels of canola meal in comparison to soybean meal plus the presence in the canola meal of glucosinolates, tannins and sinapine, which depressed feed intake.

A regression analysis showed that for every one percent increase of canola meal in the diet of starter pigs, the feed intake decreased 0.6 percent and the rate of gain fell 0.5 percent.

The decrease in performance of pigs fed canola meal is partially explained by the ten percent decreased digestibility of the amino acids in canola meal in relation to soybean meal. When additional canola meal is included in the ration to compensate for this 10% decreased digestibility of the amino acids, pig performance on canola meal improves. Adding flavoring agents to feed containing canola meal has improved the feed intake of young pigs fed canola meal, sometimes up to that of pigs fed soybean meal rations.

If possible, use soybean meal to meet the protein needs of pigs under 20 to 30 kg in body weight, although if that isn't possible, including canola meal along with flavoring agents would be preferred to not feeding any additional protein.


For pigs weighing over 20 to 30 kilograms, canola meal may be used as the sole supplemental protein, although if possible, feeding some soybean meal may be advisable. From what I've seen in Western Ukraine, feeding soybean meal is not usually a viable economic option.

The key to using canola meal in the rations of growing and finishing pigs is to balance the ration for digestible amino acids and not total amino acids or total protein, for reasons given above. For lysine and methionine, this can be done economically by adding synthetic amino acids. For other amino acids, feedstuffs should be adjusted to meet the amino acid requirements.

Canola meal is a little lower in energy than soybean meal so this needs to be taken into consideration when evaluating ration performance if canola meal is fed. The dietary energy level can be increased by substituting wheat or corn for barley or adding animal fat if necessary. Rations containing canola meal will be a little lower in energy than if soybean meal were used and this may be reflected in the rate and efficiency of gain.

Based on the results of feeding trials, growing pigs (20 to 60 kg body weight) and finishing pigs (60 to 100 kg BW) fed canola meal in comparison to soybean meal are not expected to show differences in feed intake, rate of gain, feed efficiency, dressing percentage or backfat thickness.


Canola meal can be used as the sole source of protein for gestating and lactating sows and gilts and for breeding boars.

Please Note: In addition to formulating swine rations to meet the protein (digestible amino acids) requirements, swine rations need to be supplemented with vitamins and minerals while paying attention to keep ration energy levels as high as is economically possible. Clean fresh water is an important nutrient in the diet of animals and should be available free choice - always.

Management suggestions: Mixing water with pig feed is not recommended. Such a mixture should never be the sole source of water for pigs. Clean fresh water should be available to all pigs at all times from a source separate from the feed. Cooking feeds for pigs is not recommended, as it can't be economically justified. Nutritionally balanced feed should be available free choice at all times for all pigs except for gestating sows and breeding boars, which should be limit fed. Growing pigs will reach market faster on less feed if they have water and nutritious feed available ad libitum. Lactating sows produce more milk and lose less body weight while nursing if feed and water are available free choice. Pigs that are nursing will have heavier weaning weights if water and nutritionally balanced rations are fed free choice to the lactating sow. Baby pigs should have free choice access to a commercially prepared pelleted creep feed as well as ad libitum water.

Additional Information on feeding pigs is available. Recently I wrote an article on how Ukrainian hog raisers can formulate swine rations (using local feedstuffs) that will support high performance and result in optimum profit. This 15-page paper shows the (1) nutrient requirements for pigs of various ages and functions, the (2) nutrient analysis of various feedstuffs and explains (3) how to formulate balanced rations using local feedstuffs. In addition, sample rations using various feedstuffs for all stages in the life cycle of pigs are shown. The main goals of the paper were to demonstrate how grain alone is not nutritionally adequate for swine of any age and to explain and show how a Ukrainian swine raiser can formulate his/her own rations and realize high performance and optimum profitability. There is also a four-page brochure based on this article available with the nutrient requirement and feedstuffs analysis tables and sample formulas. I also wrote a 17-page article on general swine production for a large farrow to finish operation. All of these reports are available in English and Ukrainian from Land O'Lakes, Inc. in L'viv or from me at E-mail: <[email protected]>

SUMMARY for Swine. Except for starter pigs under 20 to 30 kg of body weight, canola meal can be used as the sole source of supplemental protein for the entire swine herd. Formulating rations for digestible amino acids is important for good performance.

Swine rations should be balanced for energy, digestible amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Pigs should be fed free choice except for gestating sows and breeding boars. Free choice fresh clean water should always be available to pigs of all ages.

POULTRY - Guidelines for Feeding Canola Meal

I don't have any experience with feeding chickens in Western Ukraine so I can't comment on the situation there or the need for feeding canola meal but I suspect poultry don't escape from being deficient in protein any more than do the other livestock there. Since poultry require supplemental protein in addition to what is present in grain and since canola meal is the most economically available protein source available, I'm sure there is an important place for using it in poultry diets fed in Western Ukraine.


It is generally recommended that canola meal can be used in poultry rations up to 10 percent of the diet. A summary of various feeding experiments shows that feeding 10% canola meal in poultry diets results in 98.5% as much feed consumption and 100% as many eggs laid with egg weights that are 99.4% of those from layers fed on control diets. These differences have not been statistically significant.

Monitoring the level of glucosinolates in the diet (from canola meal) is recommended as in some studies there has been an increase in the mortality rate as the glucosinolate level approaches 0.70 micromoles per gram of the total diet. Canola meals typically contain 18 micromoles of glucosinolates per gram so feeding 10 percent canola meal would result in a dietary level of 1.8 micromoles glucosinolates, which is a level where between 1.5 percent and 1.75 percent of the birds would be expected to die from liver hemorrhage according to some studies. Not all studies have shown this relationship. Breeding and selecting for canola seed that contains reduced levels of glucosinolates in the meal would allow more canola meal to be included in the diets of laying chickens without adverse effects.

There is another problem with feeding canola meal to hens that lay brown eggs (as was discussed in the opening parts of this paper) and that is the potential for producing brown eggs that taste "fishy". Sinapine found in canola meal is a precursor for trimethylamine that is produced by bacteria in the ceca of the gut. The trimethylamine is absorbed into the blood stream. Unfortunately, the level of the enzyme trimethylamine oxidase in the body is too low in hens that lay brown egg to metabolize the absorbed trimethylamine into harmless end-products that can be excreted. As a result, some of the trimethylamine in the blood stream ends up in the yolk of the egg, which is the source of the fishy taste.

Fishy flavors can occur when the sinapine level of the diet is higher than 0.1%. Average sinapine levels in canola meal range from 0.6 to 1.8 percent to as high as 3 percent, so if 10 percent canola meal is included in the layer ration you could expect 0.06 up to 0.30 percent sinapine in the total ration. This higher level can cause a problem in brown eggs, so it is recommended that not over 3 percent canola meal be included in the diets of birds laying brown eggs. If the egg-consuming population is used to eating eggs from chickens raised on diets containing fish meal and is thus accustomed to a slightly fishy taste in their eggs, five percent or more canola meal can be fed to birds laying brown eggs.

With White Leghorn hens laying white-shelled eggs, feeding 10% canola meal does not cause a fishy flavor problem in the eggs. As with glucosinolates, if the level of sinapine can be lowered in canola meal by plant breeding and selection, canola meal could be fed at higher levels in the diets of chickens laying brown eggs.


Diets for breeding chickens can contain at least 10% canola meal without a decrease in fertility, hatchability or live chicks per hen per year or in the ability of these chicks to lay when they go into egg production.


The low levels of glucosinolates found in canola meal do not increase the mortality of broilers, as may occur in laying hens. Feeding canola meal at levels higher than 10% may reduce the rate and efficiency of gain of broilers because of the lower energy level of canola meal compared to soybean meal. Therefore, under some conditions, canola meal may not be the most economically attractive source of supplemental protein. Since canola meal is so inexpensive in Western Ukraine in relation to other protein supplements, I would not think this lower energy level of canola meal would justify reducing or eliminating it from the diets of broilers.

When the lower amino acid digestibility of canola meal (10% in comparison to soybean meal) is compensated for by adding enough canola meal to offset it, including 7.5 percent up to 15% canola meal in the rations of broilers had no negative effects in comparison to soybean on broiler performance up to seven weeks of age.

Feeding canola meal to broilers did not have any effect on the organoleptic (taste, smell, etc.) properties of the meat.


Canola meal included up to at least 20% of the ration can be used successfully in the diets of turkeys raised for meat as long as the ration is formulated to meet the bird's requirements for digestible amino acids and the lower energy level of canola meal (in relation to soybean meal) is compensated for by adding fat.


Canola is an attractive source of supplemental protein for rations fed to dairy, beef, swine and poultry. This is particularly true in Western Ukraine under today's economic conditions where canola meal is usually available at a price only a little higher than grain. Realistically, canola meal may be the only economically attractive source of protein since soybean meal is usually very expensive.

Dairy and Beef Cattle. Canola meal can be used as the only source of supplemental protein for dairy and beef animals of all ages and functions. Milk and/or milk replacer should be fed to the newborn calf up to weaning at 60 days of age. Prior to weaning, high protein (18 to 20 percent protein on an as fed basis plus vitamins and minerals) calf starter rations containing canola meal are recommended.

Swine. Canola can be the sole source of supplemental protein for pigs of all ages and functions except for those weighing less than 20 to 30 kilograms if the rations are balanced for digestible amino acids (the amino acids in canola meal are about 10 percent less digestible than those in soybean meal) and ration energy levels are adjusted by adding fat or changing to higher energy grain sources.

Poultry. Rations for laying chickens can contain up to 10 percent canola meal. There may be a fishy flavor in brown eggs at this level. Therefore, adding three to five percent canola meal to hens laying brown eggs is recommended. Adding 10 percent canola meal is also a safe level for broilers if the ration is formulated to digestible amino acids requirements and fat is added to increase the energy density of the ration compared to rations formulated with soybean meal. Breeding hens can be fed rations containing at least 10% canola meal. Rations for growing turkeys can contain 20 percent or more canola meal if the above considerations for digestible amino acids and energy are followed.

Protein requirements that are higher than the amount that can be satisfied with the suggested levels of canola meal can be met by adding soybean meal.

If canola meal is the only protein supplement available, adding amounts high enough to meet the digestible amino acid requirements is recommended over not feeding enough supplemental protein.

THE FUTURE FOR CANOLA MEAL. As the levels of glucosinolates, tannins, sinapine, crude fiber etc. are reduced in canola meal through plant breeding and selection programs, the recommended levels of canola meal that can be included in rations for livestock and poultry can be expected to increase. For those raising canola, it is important to plant canola seed that is low in glucosinolates, tannins and sinapine (and low erucic acid that ends up in the canola oil), which usually means buying new seed each year rather than saving seed from the last crop as canola will revert to rapeseed over time. As more canola is raised in Western Ukraine and particularly if the seed is processed into oil and meal in Western Ukraine, canola meal will become even more available, which is good for the livestock industry. This is a symbiotic relationship as having a viable livestock industry that buys canola meal will provide canola raisers with a better market for this by-product of producing canola oil and increase the profitability of raising canola.

FINAL STATEMENT. Canola meal is an under-utilized and under-priced protein supplement available in Western Ukraine. At the same time, most livestock there are fed rations deficient in protein. This presents a wonderful opportunity for livestock performance and profitability to be improved by adding canola meal to the rations of dairy, beef, swine and poultry. It is hoped that this article on feeding canola meal as well as other articles that I have written on feeding and raising pigs in Western Ukraine and using beet molasses to make liquid feeds for dairy and beef animals will help improve the profitability of the livestock industry in Western Ukraine.

These articles, available in both English and Ukrainian, are available free of charge by contacting Land O'Lakes in L'viv or from me at the following coordinates. Our hope is that these articles will be used and distributed to those that can benefit from learning and using creatively the information that they contain.

My thanks to Land O'Lakes, Inc., L'viv, Ukraine for allowing me to serve as a volunteer for them on their Farmer to Farmer Program. The Farmer to Farmer program is supported by the United States Agency for International Develop (USAID). It is devoted to the privatization and development of a profitable agriculture in Ukraine. Best Wishes!

Roy Chapin, Ph.D., Animal Nutritionist

11145 Chapin Lane, Amity, Oregon 97101
Phone: 503-835-7317
Fax: 503-835-3333
E-mail: <[email protected]>

© Roy Chapin, 2024
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