Sustainable options for Protein in animal feed

John Ryan, Head of Research & Development

In the past, trends showed that animals were being fed high protein diets with excess being excreted as urinary and faecal nitrogen. This is costly both in monetary terms and environmentally.

More recently the results show that overall protein levels have followed a positive environmental downward trend since 2015. Pig feed has shown the biggest decrease in protein content. It declined by 3.5% from 2015 to 2019.

DAFM feed survey 2019 – Average crude protein content of animal feed rations:

  • Dairy – 16.3%
  • Beef – 14.9%
  • Pig – 16.7%
  • Poultry – 18.1%
In Ruminants -Not all Protein is created the Same

Until recently, protein nutrition of ruminants was based upon their requirements for crude protein (CP). However, because of the increased level of productivity of these animals and increased knowledge of feed analysis and nutrient requirements, proteins have been fractionated into different categories, for example, CP, soluble protein, rumen degraded protein (RDP), rumen undegraded protein (RUP) and unavailable protein. In addition to those protein measurements, the amino acid profile of protein supplements can also be determined.

Limiting Amino Acids

Limiting amino acids are essential amino acids in digested protein that are in shortest supply relative to body requirements. Methionine, lysine, and histidine have been identified most often as the most limiting amino acids for dairy cattle. The extent of their limitation is affected primarily by the amount of RUP in the diet and its amino acid composition.

Methionine has been shown to be first limiting for growth and milk protein production when dairy cattle were fed high forage or soybean hull-based diets, and intake of RUP was low. Methionine has also been identified as first limiting for growing cattle and lactating cows that were fed a variety of diets in which most of the supplemental RUP was provided by soybean protein. In contrast, lysine has been identified as first limiting for growth and milk protein synthesis when maize and feeds of maize origin provided most or all of the RUP in the diet.

Alternative Amino Acid sources

Adesco supply KESSENT™ M which is a new source of rumen protected methionine developed by Kemin for the modern dairy producer who is looking for improve efficiency and sustainability. This product has been developed with a proprietary core technology that provides a combination of granule uniformity, spherisation, specific gravity, and particle size. The unique combination of special technical protection and ideal core technology provides a high stability and homogeneity for rumen-protected methionine.

These key characteristics supply the highest amount of methionine available to the animal, as shown by the high degree of rumen escape and high intestinal digestibility. In vitro conditions, show KESSENT™ M combines both a high methionine availability with a high stability under field conditions, resulting in the highest metabolisable methionine content for ruminant formulation. Kessent produces the best productive performance results and profitability, improves the yields in milk and cheese production and allows more accurate ruminant diet formulations

Changing Mindsets

Animal feed has been identified as a critical Action area by the Global Protein Challenge 2040 coalition. This explores how we can feed nine billion people enough protein in a way which is affordable, healthy and good for the environment.

Based on current yields, and food security feed sources such as soya and maize; meeting future demand for animal feed will require an estimated 280 million hectares of additional land worldwide.

The general public and the food industry are starting to recognise that how animal feed production drastically affects biodiversity and global warming.
A major innovation drive is needed to ensure a safe supply of healthy animal feed to meet current and future demand.  As shown in our latest trials, Treated Faba Beans and indeed Native or European Rapeseed meal can serve as an alternative to imported soybean meal.

Sustainability Questions for your business

So do we need to be asking the following questions now?

  • What are the most important raw materials and for which animal feed is it a relevant issue?
  • Who are the internal and external stakeholders we need to be engaging to measure sustainability?
  • What is our relationship with first tier suppliers – Do we really know where our Raw Materials come from?

Almost 80% of soy produced worldwide is used as livestock feed, with much of it being cultivated in Latin America, placing its rainforests and other landscapes at risk.  Various soya substitutes exist that can support more local production. Crop rotation of these with Barley, Wheat and Oats can help reduce the use of fertilisers and herbicides, while improving soil health and productivity.

In Conclusion

Sustainability must become more than a word, and each sector within the Animal Production Industry must measure its effect on the planet. This will also allow us to show to our own legislators, the positive changes that are already happening.

By becoming more sustainable and reducing our overall environmental footprint; we can become leaner and a more circular based industry while supporting the local economy as well as safegaurding rural way of life into the future.

Any questions feel free to email John on For any measurement or sustainability related questions you can also email Seán on