Supplementation with protected histidine in dairy cow diets including feather meal

Maria Villagrasa & Fernando Diaz

Hydrolyzed feather meal is obtained from grinding fresh feathers that have previously been treated with water vapor under pressure. It is a feedstuff with high crude protein content (CP; 92%) which can be used as a source of rumen undegradable protein in dairy cow rations.

One limitation to its use in animal diets however is its imbalance in essential amino acids. It contains a very high concentration of cysteine and is also high in threonine and arginine, but deficient in methionine, lysine, tryptophan and histidine. Therefore, if a suitable supplement is not included in the diet feeding hydrolyzed feather meal can lead to amino acid deficiencies.

The use of protected amino acids is an option to increase the total flow of limiting amino acids in the metabolizable protein such as lysine (Lys) and histidine (His). This option allows to improve the use of amino acids by the cow as well as reduce the urinary excretion of N and ammonia in manure.

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Feather meal increases protein and energy in dairy cow diets

Alvaro Garcia

Feedstuffs that contribute protein and energy for ruminants are costly all over the world. As a result, feeding usually constitutes the greatest individual cost constituting more than 50% of the cost of production in confined lactating dairy cows. Including byproducts form various industries into the diets is usually an economic alternative to reduce these costs. It also allows for reutilization of “waste” products, increasing the efficiency of production of human food. One example is hydrolyzed feather meal produced by cooking feathers under pressure.

Once dried, their protein content at close to 85%, rivals that of blood meal. It also supplies bypass protein and is rich in sulfur amino acids, usually limiting in dairy cow diets. In addition, hydrolyzed feather meal is rich in crude fat varying from 6 to 14% of the dry matter (DM), which increases its dietary energy content. As if these intrinsic properties were not enough, this basic technology can easily be applied in small family farms by simply using an old pressure cooker.

Advantages of feeding feather meal to dairy cows

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