Using Grocery Co-Products for Livestock Feed

By Adriane Good, M.Sc AAg, Livestock and Feed Extension Specialist, Moose Jaw

With food waste reduction growing, more co-products from the human food chain are finding their way into livestock diets. This can include products like cull vegetables, dairy products and stale bakery products. These products can be used in a healthy ration for livestock, but there are some things to keep in mind when feeding them on your farm.

  1. Follow Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) rules regarding feed. The CFIA approves feedstuffs for livestock use to reduce the risk of disease and residues in meat. Meat, cannabis, and hemp products are not approved for livestock feed. If you receive any of these products, make sure to dispose of them properly.
  2. Go through what you receive. Depending on where you access these co-products, they could contain items that livestock should not consume. Make sure all the food is removed from packaging and that there is no garbage in the lot. Be especially aware of any mouldy or rotten products, which should be disposed of separately.
  3. Store the product properly. Unlike forages or grains, some of these products may need to be refrigerated, frozen or otherwise removed from oxygen to prevent spoilage. Anything that does spoil should be disposed of separately.
  4. Test for nutrient quality. Human food hasn’t historically been fed to livestock in large quantities, so there isn’t a lot of information on the nutrient content as it applies to livestock. Feed tests are important to determine the nutrient content of anything you feed and that applies in this scenario as well. If you want to incorporate these products into your rations, a feed test will help you develop a ration that will safely meet the needs of your livestock. As always, consult with your nutritionist before making changes to your feeding regime.
  5. Watch for products that are high in starch. Things like potatoes, corn or bakery products are full of starch that is highly fermentable by ruminant animals. While feed testing and ration balancing are still recommended, these products can be safely fed by ensuring long-stem forages are available, introducing the product slowly and limiting them in the diet. While using these feeds, watch for signs of acidosis which can include reduced feed intake, diarrhea and increased breathing rate.
  6. Monitor your livestock. A lot of these products are not commonly fed to livestock, so it’s important to keep an eye on your herd to make sure the products are not having negative effects. If you see a decrease in body condition score or feed intake, or signs of illness, reduce the amount of these products that you are feeding or remove them from the diet altogether. Reassess your feeding plan with your livestock nutritionist.

Using products that come out of the human food chain as livestock feed can be an effective way to reduce food waste and potentially lower your feed bill. However, it is important to put some forethought into your feeding strategy when using these products. For more information on incorporating novel feed sources on your farm, contact your local livestock and feed extension specialist.

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