Switching protein sources from the traditional soya and rapeseed meal to British wheat distillers could save a 300-cow dairy herd a colossal £830 plus per month.

That is the claim of Trident Feeds ruminant nutritionist Bethan May, who said that protein, which drives milk yields, is one of the most expensive elements of the ration.

“This cost is currently being compounded as global protein sources such as sunflower meal have reduced in availability, Hipro soya prices are volatile and uncertain, and rapeseed meal remains expensive due to seasonal reductions in supply," she said adding that producers should consider the UK grown high-protein, British wheat distillers (WDDGS), as an alternative.

Produced at the Vivergo plant in Hull, WDDGS is a high quality protein feed with a good level of by-pass protein, and is better value compared to some other mid-protein options.

“Farm delivered over the next few months, WDDGS is looking around £20/tonne cheaper than Rapeseed meal*,” said Miss May.

“Another advantage of feeding WDDGS is that it provides more metabolisable protein (MP) per kg of dry matter (DM), at a cheaper price per gram of MP than rapeseed meal and sunflower meal, ultimately giving you more MP for your money.”

MP comprises of rumen degraded protein being converted into microbial protein, and any rumen by-pass protein which can then both be utilised by the cow.

“For dairy rations, MP intake is a key driver of milk yield, so it’s important to look at the quantities provided by a particular feed as well as the overall levels of crude protein (CP). Ultimately if you can get more protein from a good value feed source, the ration will be more cost-effective,” she added.

“Prices per kg of CP from WDDGS are significantly cheaper compared to CP from competitor feeds. For example, CP from WDDGS is around 9% cheaper than the protein from rapeseed meal and 20% cheaper than the equivalent amount from sunflower meal.

“These individual cost savings help reduce the overall ration cost, meaning it’s cheaper to completely replace rapeseed meal with WDDGS1, which also provides 1.8 MJ/kg DM more energy than rapeseed meal. If replacing 3kg in a ration, this provides enough extra energy for 1litre milk, which equates to a potential £93.50/tonne* of additional value.”

Along with the cost savings that can be made and performance benefits to the herd, WDDGS provides further advantages.

According to Trident, it is a highly palatable feed, which stimulates the intake of less palatable components to the ration. The distillery product also contains high levels of yeast fragments, which stimulates rumen activity, promoting fibre digestion and overall feed efficiency.

“The cheaper cost to WDDGS does not mean that quality is compromised, with both nutritional and non-nutritional components outweighing that of alternatives, so it should definitely be a consideration for dairy rations,” concludes Miss May.

*Prices are correct at time of publication and are subject to change

*3kg= 5.4MJ ME which is enough for 1 litre milk, at 28ppl = £98.33 extra milk revenue per tonne fed

1. Replacing 2.5kg of rapeseed meal with 2.5kg of British wheat distillers (WDDGS) and balancing all nutrients, at prices of £3.07 per head per day for the WDDGS ration and £3.16 for rapeseed meal ration this would result in a saving of 9p per cow per day. This is a cost saving of £837 per month for a 300-cow herd.

Table: Ration below shows the cost savings when switching 2.5kg of rapeseed meal exactly to 2.5kg of British wheat distillers

British wheat distillers diet (kg fresh weight) Rapeseed meal diet (kg fresh weight)

Grass silage 32.50 32.50

Maize silage 13.70 13.20

Straw-wheat 0.50 0.50

WDDGS 2.5 0.0

Sugar beet pulp 2.45 2.80

Wheat-rolled 4.0 4.0

Rapeseed ext. 0.0 2.5

Soya-hipro 2.0 1.9

Vitamins and minerals 0.19 0.19

Dry matter intake (kg/day) 22.3 22.6

Metabolisable energy ruminants (MJ/day) 262.7 262.0

NDF:DM (%) 38.2 38.6

Starch+sugar (% DM) 20.0 20.0

Crude protein (% DM) 17.0 17.0

Metabolisable protein supply (g) 2357 2370