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PKE-free options grow

As animal feeds go, Palm Kernel Expeller (PKE) stimulates stronger opinions both for and against than most.

PKE has grown to be a major forage replacer and filled a huge nutritional hole in the national dairy herd, ensuring a great many cows have been more fully fed over the last decade or so.

Its low price encouraged many farmers into supplementary feeding with by-products rather than conserved forages. Feeding to fill a pasture deficit and increase days in milk has increased efficiency. Body condition scoring cows and feeding accordingly could be especially relevant this year, as condition seems to have surprisingly slipped more than usual following the wet December in some regions. We have actively made people aware of the other by-product and grain alternatives if they prefer not to use PKE. Although not genetically modified, PKE is increasingly being included in the list of prohibited feeds if supplying particular milk processors for premium markets. Fonterra’s Fat Evaluation Index is also discouraging its use.

For those commercial farmers looking not to use PKE, NRM has introduced more PKE-free dairy products in recent years. NRM Dairy Zero PKE Extra, in particular, has struck a chord with dairy farmers looking to select a feed from the NRM standard range whilst avoiding any PKE.

PKE-free options have also increased for bagged feeds. For instance, NRM Multifeed (formulated to provide a balanced nutritional solution) never contained more than 10 percent PKE but with more and more people looking for PKE-free options, it became guaranteed PKE-free on 1st January 2019.

Grain increases the energy density of a feed but contains rapidly fermentable carbohydrates, which increase the risk of acidosis when the rumen bugs are not accustomed to grain feeding. To lessen the slightly increased risk associated with removing PKE from the formula, a proven rumen buffer – Acid Buf – has been included at the recommended rate for sheep and goats in compound feed. Acid Buf breaks down slowly in the rumen and helps neutralise acid produced by the rumen microbes over a longer period than many buffers. In combination with other minerals already included to help buffer rumen pH, Acid Buf will help during the transition process when NRM Multifeed is introduced to stock. As Acid Buf breaks down it also releases highly available calcium and magnesium, which can be absorbed by the animal. As part of the product makeover, the trace minerals and vitamins were also reviewed, which should be good for animal health and vitality.

NRM strives to understand customers and deliver the products they require. More products are in the pipeline to meet the changing needs of livestock farmers.

For further information, contact your local Nutrition Specialist.

Article supplied by Dr. Rob Derrick, Lead Nutritionist.