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Several options available for replacing palm kernel

Fonterra’s Fat Evaluation Index (FEI) may encourage farmers away from straight palm kernel extract (PKE) to other straights, layered loads or blends.

The huge popularity of PKE in New Zealand suggests that if levels are reduced, either something will have to fill the gap or national milk production levels will fall. Lower input/lower output systems on average tend to be less profitable so the majority of farmers are likely to want to maintain output and fill any nutritional gaps that reduced PKE use may generate.

PKE imports have put New Zealand on the radar of international commodity traders, which is increasing the basket of straights available. Responses have been favourable to rumen-safe, low-fat, high-fibre, pectin-rich soy hulls, which seem especially well suited to complementing high-protein, high-quality New Zealand pastures. Dark grain distillers – both maize and wheat – seem to have a fermented taste or smell that stock enjoy but as mid-protein feeds they are of most value when additional protein is required to balance lower protein forages. Where additional protein is required, soya bean meal takes some beating – although it seems expensive per tonne when protein content and quality are taken into account, it is often cost-effective compared with less protein-rich alternatives.

Starch-rich feeds are favoured the world over for high-producing dairy cows because starch effectively provides soluble carbohydrate in a slower release form than sugar. However they are still best suited to controlled feeding situations such as in-shed, total mixed or partially mixed diet feeding systems, which reduce the risk of over-consumption. Tapioca offers the advantage that it requires no further processing. By comparison, grains require rolling or hammer milling to ensure fracture of the seed coat. Tapioca’s large pellet can be hard on augers. Hammer-milled and pelletised 6mm grain pellets ensure good utilisation of grain-based blend pellets in an appealing form that travels well through augers and helps to open up a blend.

The NRM Nutrition Specialists have a Blend Calculator that allows bespoke blends to be created and priced. Forward contracts allow the option to secure some certainty in what can be a very weather-dependent, uncertain industry. Nutrition Specialists have good local knowledge of what is available and what works well in a region, which reflects the quality and quantity of the forages available. They are committed to delivering the most appropriate feed solutions for our shareholders and are closely involved through our National Feed Desk in the supply and use of straights and blends and strive tirelessly to provide meaningful advice through our on-farm and retail networks.

A timely investment in equipment and processes has greatly increased the capacity of the Farmlands blend plant at Waharoa. High-capacity mixers allow the production of precision blends with the option to incorporate a host of essential minerals and additives, including registered zinc to aid in the prevention of facial eczema.

As a Farmlands-owned facility, the Waharoa Blend site welcomes pre-arranged visits by individuals and groups.

For more information, contact your local Nutrition Specialist.

Article supplied by Dr. Rob Derrick, Farmlands Nutritionist.