Protein content in animal feed rations declining

There has been a downward trend in the protein content of animal feed rations since 2015. This is according to a survey carried out by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Irish Grain and Feed Association (IGFA).

Animal feed companies across the country have been participating in a survey of crude protein levels in feed rations and this provides accurate information on current practices.

80% of overall national animal feed production is represented in the survey.

Average crude protein content in rations

The survey showed that the average crude protein content of dairy, beef, pig and poultry feed in 2019 was 16.3%, 14.9%, 16.7% and 18.1% respectively.

Average crude protein content of animal feed rations in 2019:
  • Dairy – 16.3%;
  • Beef – 14.9%;
  • Pig – 16.7%;
  • Poultry – 18.1%.

The results also 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.

GHG emissions

Animals which are taking in crude protein levels in excess of their requirements for optimal health and production can be associated with increased greenhouse gas (GHG) and ammonia emissions.

Meeting animal and environmental needs

Maeve Whyte is an environment adviser with the IGFA and stated: “Irish feed manufacturers and their advisers have been encouraging customers to reduce protein levels where possible for years and these results show that our message is filtering through.

We constantly work in partnership with farmers to ensure that the needs of the animal and environmental concerns are considered.

“Higher protein levels are sometimes needed depending on the quality of the grass available and the age of the animal. This is why we continue to encourage farmers to discuss their feed options with their feed suppliers.”

Maeve noted that the downward trend in crude protein levels was positive, but added that stakeholders need to continue the journey towards “optimising dietary balance whilst minimising environmental impact”.

“The report is an excellent resource for all to use when discussing protein content in Irish feed stuffs. It contains invaluable information for all our members so they can continue to exercise best management practices in terms of diet and the environment,” she concluded.

Survey notes

The survey, coordinated and managed by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and IGFA, provided the opportunity to collect and collate reliable data on weighted average protein levels in feed and look at trends since 2015.