Exploring Opportunity Feeds

Every November, the Ruminant Feed Industry Days provide learning opportunities for feed industry professionals. Jointly held by Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and Ontario Agri Business Association (OABA), the 2017 Ruminant Feed Industry Days included keynote speaker Mary Beth Hall (USDA, Wisconsin) who spoke on rumen dynamics, resulting milk components, feed analysis, and manure evaluation. As part of the program, Anita Heeg (Feed Ingredients and By Products Specialist with OMAFRA) and Megan Van Schaik (Beef Cattle Specialist with OMAFRA) provided an overview of "opportunity feeds", or novel feedstuffs. Featured feedstuffs included commodities that are relatively new to the feed industry, ingredients that have gained the attention of researchers for novel uses, and products/feeds that have evolved to provide greater efficacy. This article is intended to provide an overview of the feedstuffs presented at the event.

Sodium Butyrate

As antimicrobial resistance awareness increases and antibiotic-free management options are explored, this feed additive is of interest for its benefit on the immune system. Butyric acid, a short-chain fatty acid, has been studied for decades for its effect on rumen papillae development, but more recently, for its benefit on the immune system. It is commonly known as one of the volatile fatty acids (VFA) produced by microflora in the rumen. While it has been available as a feed ingredient in a salt form of calcium, potassium, magnesium and sodium for many years, the product is now also available in a micro-encapsulated form.

The form of butyrate determines its impact on the gastro intestinal (GI) tract. A micro-encapsulated form allows it to pass through the rumen because in this form, butyrate is embedded in a lipid matrix and needs lipase enzymes to release and activate it.

The effects of butyric acid have been studied in livestock across multiple species (including monogastrics). An interesting research focus has been on calves, looking at the impact of butyric acid on the developing rumen and immune system. The immune system of a newborn calf needs to build up rapidly after birth to provide protection from illness. Butyric acid production is minimal during the first week of life due to an undeveloped rumen. Whole milk contains butyric acid, and therefore butyric acid is routinely delivered through colostrum and then whole milk until weaning. If milk replacer is used, it may or may not include butyrate.

To study the role of butyric acid on rumen development and building the immune system, researchers have added butyrate to milk replacer and calf starter. Presented in a liquid form, such as milk or milk replacer, butyrate stimulates GI tract development, mainly affecting the abomasum and small intestine. Butyrate in solid feed primarily stimulates the development of the forestomach and abomasum, and has shown to positively affect rumen epithelium development and solid feed intake. The encapsulation of butyrate enables the release of butyrate at a targeted site. In the case of the developing calf, the protected butyric acid partially escapes digestion in the rumen and abomasum, and is released in the intestinal tract. Guilloteau et al. (2010) found it to stimulate the development and repair of the intestinal tract, as well as develop and improve the function of the immune system. Other researchers had similar research findings. An interesting study done by Gorka et al. (2011) observed adding butyrate to both milk replacer and calf starter for its first 21 days of life; fed simultaneously, it displayed a positive effect resulting in greater papillae length and width, improved health status, and increased starter intake and weight gain in calves.

High Fat High Fibre Pellets

A recent study done by Dr. Katie Wood and a team of researchers at the University of Guelph looked at partially replacing starch with a high-fat, high-fibre (HFHF) pellet in an effort to evaluate alternative feeding strategies when grain-based commodities become expensive. One of the objectives of this study was to determine whether partial replacement of starch with a HFHF pellet in the ration would have an impact on the performance of fattening steers. The research looked at parameters such as animal performance, visceral fat, organ mass and carcass traits in crossbred Angus steers. This project was based on other studies which have indicated that corn or barley can be replaced by high fat pellets to increase the energy density in the diet and reduce starch content.

The control diet consisted of high moisture corn, soybean meal, haylage, salt, vitamin, and a mineral premix which included monensin. When comparing the control diet and the HFHF pellet diet (which replaced 30% of the corn in the overall diet), it contained approximately 48% versus 37% starch and 3% versus 5.6% crude fat, respectively. Between the two treatment groups, the steers did not differ in average daily gain, feed intake, or feed conversion ratio with the diet. When looking at the carcasses, the carcass characteristics did not differ with diet, but also increased with time on feed. Although the results have yet to be published, the study results suggest that partially replacing starch with a high fat, high fibre pellet did not impact growth, performance and carcass traits in steers and could potentially be used as part of an alternative feeding strategy for finishing cattle when grain-based commodity prices are high.

Camelina Meal

Camelina sativa is an oilseed within the Brassica family, also known as "false flax" or "gold-of-pleasure". Camelina is known to have desirable agronomic attributes, such as modest input requirements and good disease tolerance, and is a suitable fit in a crop rotation. Typically Camelina plants grow up to 2 meters in height, have pale yellow flowers, and the seeds mature in pods. Camelina is a relatively new crop to Canada and thus far it is primarily grown and processed in the western provinces. Oil from the seeds is typically extracted mechanically and is primarily used for biofuel. Camelina meal is a by-product of the expeller extraction process. Camelina seeds contain approximately 40% oil and approximately 90% of the total oil is poly unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). Camelina meal contains 30-40% crude protein, 12% fibre, and 10-14% oil. Nutrient specs can vary considerably due to the nature of the mechanical extraction process. Camelina meal is a good source of poly unsaturated fatty acids. Additionally, Camelina meal has a greater proportion of rumen degradable protein than canola, linseed meal, and DDGS.

At this point, camelina meal is an approved ingredient in Canada for broiler and layer feeds only. However, researchers have demonstrated that camelina meal is also a suitable ingredient for ruminant rations. Lawrence et al. (2016) showed similar growth performance between feeding camelina meal, linseed meal, and DDGS in growing dairy heifers. Similarly, Moriel et al. (2011) demonstrated that supplementing camelina meal at 0.33% of body weight did not affect gain or reproductive performance in peripubertal heifers and concluded that camelina meal is a suitable replacement for corn-soybean based supplements. Furthermore, a study by Hurtaud et al. (2007) showed that feeding camelina meal can affect fatty acid composition of milk and physical attributes of butter, but recommends limiting the inclusion of camelina meal in the diet to reduce the risk of milk fat depression. Camelina meal is currently being studied as an ingredient in dairy cattle rations by University of Saskatchewan researchers.

There are some limitations to feeding camelina meal. Like other Brassica species, camelina contains anti-nutritional compounds, including glucosinolates, tannins and erucic acid. Studies have shown that limiting inclusion of camelina meal in cattle rations can reduce adverse effects associated with the aforementioned anti-nutritional factors, such as impaired thyroid function and cardiovascular issues.

Sodium Metabisulphite

There are plenty of studies in the literature about the exploration of various additives and their ability (or lack of ability) to degrade the deoxynivalenol (DON) molecule, a common mycotoxin. Sodium metabisulphite is approved for use in Canada as a preservative agent; however, recent research has shown that sodium metabisulfite effectively degrades DON to render it non-toxic. Research has shown that the formation of the sulfonated DON derivative (DON-S), which occurs in the presence of sodium metabisulfite and heat, results in a reduction in DON. The difference between sodium metabisulphite and other additives with similar end goals is that this ingredient can contribute to the degradation of DON prior to ingestion by the animal. It has been demonstrated that DON-S lacks emetic (vomit-inducing) activity and is non-toxic when consumed by pigs, a species that is extremely sensitive to DON. Frobose et al. (2017) showed that when sodium metabisulfite was added to pelleted piglet feed contaminated with DON, there was a 10-fold reduction in analyzed DON levels, a restoration in average daily feed intake, and an improvement in feed efficiency in piglets at a 1% inclusion rate. Sodium metabisulfite can increase dietary sulfur and sodium concentrations and this is something to be cognizant of when formulating ruminant rations.

Caution must be taken when using this product. Since sulphur dioxide gas can form when sodium metabisulfite is exposed to heat and moisture, care must be taken when pelleting to ensure work safety is not compromised. Sulphur dioxide can also form in the stomach. Coated forms to protect against degradation in the stomach are being investigated.

The authors would like to thank the companies that provided samples and additional product information.


  1. Cappellozza, B.I., Cooke, R.F., Bohnert, D.W., Cherian, G., and Carroll, J.A. 2015. Effect of camelina meal supplementation on ruminal forage degradability, performance, and physiological responses of beef cattle. J. Anim. Sci. 2012.90:4042-4054.
  2. Frobose, H.L., Stephenson, E.W., Takach, M.D. Effects of potential detoxifying agents on growth performance and deoxynivalenol (DON) urinary balance characteristics of nursery pigs fed DON-contaminated wheat. J. Anim. Sci. 2017.95
  3. Gorka, P., Kowalski, Z.M., Kotunia, A., Jagusiak, W., Holst, J.J., Guilloteau, P., and Zabielski, R. 2011. Effect of method of delivery of sodium butyrate on rumen development in newborn calves. J Dairy Sc. 94:5578-5588.
  4. Guilloteau, P., Martin, L., Eeckhaut, V., Ducatelle, R., Zabielski, R., van Immerseel, F. 2010. From the gut to the peripheral tissues : the multiple effects of butyrate. Nutrition Research Review.
  5. Hurtaud, C., and Peyraud, J.L. 2007. Effects of Feeding Camelina (Seeds or Meal) on Milk Fatty Acid Composition and Butter Spreadability. J. Dairy Sci 90:5134-5145
  6. Lawrence, R.D., Anderson, J.L., Clappert, J.A. 2016. Evaluation of camelina meal as a feedstuff for growing dairy heifers. J Diary Sci 99:6215-6228
  7. Moriel, P., Nayigihugu, V., Cappellozza, B.I., Gocalevs, E.P., Krall, J.M., Foulke, T., Cammack, K.M., Hess, B.W. 2011. Camelina meal and crude glyercin as feed supplements for developing replacement beef heifers. J. Anim. Sci. 89: 4314-24.
  8. Patience, J.F., Myers, A.J., Ensley, S., Jacobs, B.M., Madson, D. 2014. Evaluation of two mycotoxin mitigation strategies in grow-finish swine diets containing corn dried distillers grains with solubles naturally contaminated with deoxynivalenol. J. Anim. Sci. 92:620-626
  9. Wood, K.M., Kim, J., and Penner, G. 2017. Abstract: The impact of time on feed and partial replacement of high moisture corn with a high-lipid, high-fiber pellet on steer performance, visceral organ weight, fat deposition, and carcass composition. J. Anim. Sci. 95:294-295

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