Calls for protein labelling in feeds to be updated for accuracy

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is being called on to update the method of protein labelling in animal feeds to give a more accurate reading of protein content.

The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) argued that feeds should include an indication of ‘protein digestible in the intestine’ (PDI), which, the group said, was “considered a much more accurate and useful indicator” for estimating protein content.

Lorcan McCabe, the association’s deputy president, said that combining this with the crude protein content measure would be a benefit to farmers, who would then be better informed on nutritional value and environmental impact.

One of the measures indicated by Teagasc as part of the effort to reduce greenhouse emissions is to reduce the amount of crude protein in the cow’s diet.

“A grass-based diet supplies all the protein a cow needs for the majority of the year, so we as an industry need to focus on reducing the amount of crude protein fed to cows in the concentrate, as excess protein is shed in the urine of cows,” argued McCabe.

He said that, in order to reduce the costs and environmental impacts of a cow’s diet, farmers required better indicators of the protein content of feeds.

“The crude protein measure itself is out-of-date and the PDI figure should be included, as it measures the protein in a feed that cows can readily digest,” he added.

The ICMSA wants the department to introduce a statutory requirement for millers to publish both the crude protein content and the PDI of feeds “so that farmers can make better decisions”.

“As farmers, we may need to substitute our concentrates with ones that have a lower protein content. This will be better for the cows, our pockets and the environment, so it is essential that this information be made available to us,” concluded McCabe.