Molasses, a dark, sticky sweetener byproduct of sugar production, has been used as a supplement to livestock meals with good results for being a quick energy and rich mineral source for cattle, horses and even sheep and goats.
When the quantity and quality of available feed becomes low, an energy source (as well as protein) is required. Molasses can be a cost-effective energy source but it is low in protein.
It can reduce the dusty powdery nature of some finely ground feeds. In this role, it makes a feed mixture more palatable and edible to livestock. Molasses can be added to replace missing sugar and trace minerals and help with fermentation in cases of low quality forages especially with low sugar levels.
Research and Grazing experience have shown that molasses fed in open troughs with added protein can be used successfully for drought feeding of cattle. Molasses lends itself to bulk handling methods suitable for drought feeding large numbers of stock.
Below is the composition of Molasses
The basic composition of molasses is:
• Dry matter: 76%
• Sucrose: 46%
• Reducing sugars: 20%
• Protein: 5.6%
• Phosphorus: 0.07%
• Sulphur: 0.73%
Queensland molasses is grossly deficient in protein, phosphorus and zinc. Copper and sodium are marginal. Other minerals exceed nutritional requirements. In terms of energy, 1kg of molasses is equivalent to 0.7kg grain.
Apart from extra protein there have been no responses to additives for medium term drought feeding up to 6 months, unless in a recognized phosphorus deficient region.
It must be fortified (have added protein) to balance the feed. Feeding straight molasses is not cost efficient.
Sources of Protein
There are two main types of protein.
These are non-protein nitrogen (NPN) such as urea and true protein such as vegetable protein meals.
Urea is a cost-effective product for increasing the protein content of feeds, but the quality is less than that from vegetable protein meals.
Vegetable protein meals provide better quality protein to stock than urea. The total protein content, the amount of by-pass protein, amino acid composition and other factors such as energy and fat content vary between vegetable protein meals.
Proteins highly protected by processing (e.g. cottonseed meal) or formalin are relatively insoluble in the rumen (i.e. more by-pass protein). When digested by the animal they are of higher feed value compared to more soluble meals (e.g. rapeseed) that are easily broken down by the rumen microbes.
Benefits of including molasses in livestock meals
It is very sticky, which can help feed mixture be easier to eat for livestock. It also has a natural tendency of increasing your animal’s energy. Molasses can act as a catalyst for dairy cows to increase their milk production, and it can help strengthen the overall bone structure of livestock and weight gain for cattle, among other benefits.
Molasses usage is flexible, which means you don’t necessarily need to add it to a specific kind of feed mixture; both fresh and dry sources can be supplemented with molasses to boost up your livestock meals.
The Type of Molasses best for Livestock
There are many types of molasses, some of which can also be used for a range of things and can even be suitable for human consumption. Although molasses is beneficial to your livestock, in order to obtain the best results for livestock (and your pocket), your best option is to “fortify” molasses with additional proteins (such as urea and vegetable protein meals) that will ensure your feed mixture is balanced.
The inclusion of these additives into your regular feed mix will depend on the condition of your livestock, your facilities and budget. These are only a few variables that you will need to keep in mind for your strategy, so it’s important, as usual, to do your research before moving forward with your feeding plan. In the end, molasses can be an excellent addition to your livestock meals if used properly, as proven by numerous studies.
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