27 July 2001

Fishmeal ban likely to force

ration rethink

THE temporary ban on fishmeal in ruminant rations comes into force shortly and producers may need to alter rations to avoid compromising productivity.

Existing on-farm stocks of fishmeal cannot be used after Aug 1, according to ADAS nutritionist Bruce Cottrill. "There is no buy-back or compensation scheme planned because the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs believes producers had plenty of warning."

Fortunately, on-farm fishmeal stocks are minimal during summer because hot weather shortens its shelf life due to rancidity and it is not normally fed to cattle and sheep during summer.

"Fishmeal is mainly fed to high performance animals to meet their protein requirements. Many producers have relied on fishmeal to successfully feed high yielding dairy cows," says Dr Cottrill.

However, milk yields of more than 9000 litres can be produced without fishmeal, says ABNs ruminant specialist Duncan Rose. "But rationing becomes more complicated requiring a mix of several proteins to replace fishmeal without reducing performance."

These mixtures often include treated soyabean meal, groundnut meal, prairie meal and untreated soya. Expensive amino acid products may also be needed for exceptionally high yields.

"ABN compounds have been fishmeal free for some months, but 10% of customers were using fishmeal until recently."

Fishmeal also contains unsaturated fatty acids which are thought to enhance dairy cow fertility. Fish oil can be added to the ration, but small quantities are needed making it impractical on most farms, says Mr Rose.

However, Dr Cottrill believes that removing fishmeal from ruminant rations will have a greater impact on sheep producers. "The main concern resulting from banning fishmeal use is poorer ewe fertility and increased welfare problems."

Ewes in late pregnancy are under the same pressure as a high yielding cow producing 40kg of milk/day, says Mr Rose. "A source of high quality protein, such as fishmeal, is essential to meet ewe requirements."

Fishmeal is also a good source of calcium and phosphorus, stresses Dr Cottrill. "When removing it from the ration, check overall mineral supply is adequate." &#42