Top 5 soybean meal alternatives: 1. Canola meal

Photo: Misset
Photo: Misset

Over the next couple of weeks we will share 5 of the most-promising soybean meal alternatives, this week we look at canola meal and other oilseed meals.

Soybean meal (SBM) is an excellent protein source for many livestock species and it is currently the most common protein component in compound feed for pigs, poultry and dairy cattle. However, because the price of SBM fluctuates and can be very high, farmers are actively investigating ingredients that can serve as full or partial replacements. In addition, soybean production in some parts of the world brings with it significant sustainability concerns, as it’s associated with destruction of natural grasslands and deforestation. However, from a sustainability perspective, replacing SBM must be analysed carefully in terms of how far alternatives are transported, the need for additional processing and other factors. Cost and the protein quality of alternatives are also important considerations. In the upcoming weeks we will share the top 5 alternatives for SBM in terms of protein profile, availability, sustainability and more.

Canola meal and other oilseed meals

Oilseed meal, the substance which remains after oil extraction, offers significant potential to replace SBM in varying amounts in many types of livestock feed. Canola meal in particular is high in protein and offers a protein quality and amino acid profile close to that of SBM. Because canola acreage has increased in Europe, Canada, the US and Australia, canola meal has made strong inroads into the diets of many livestock types, especially dairy cattle and pigs. It is also fed to poultry and some aquaculture species.

Challenges with using canola meal

However, canola meal is not a cost-effective or sustainable alternative to SBM in many parts of the US, because a lack of nearby canola seed crushing capacity means that canola meal has to be transported over long distances. Canola breeding efforts have reduced the level of glucosinolates (which, if fed at high levels, can negatively impact animal health and performance) to almost zero. In some parts of the world, there are concerns that canola meal could be mixed with rapeseed meal but marketed solely as canola meal.

Rapeseed meal

While rapeseed meal can be a suitable nutritional alternative to SBM for dairy cows, for example, there is less global supply of rapeseed compared to canola and its amino acid profile is less favourable. There are also anti-nutritional factors in the meal that present added costs in terms of processing and/or enzyme supplementation.

Other oilseed meals

In addition to canola and rapeseed meal, meal from sunflower, peanut and sesame seed is being explored. Pumpkin seed cake/meal has been found to be a good substitute for SBM in the diet of dairy cows in terms of milk production performance, rumen fermentation and digestibility.

Hein
Treena Hein Correspondent