26 September 1997

Fishmeal fine for sheep says new ADAS report

By Emma Penny

THERE are no scientific or environmental reasons why fishmeal cannot be used in ewe and lamb diets.

Thats according to a new report prepared for MAFF on removal of fishmeal from sheep diets prepared by Gill Povey, Peterborough-based ADAS nutritionist.

Over-reaction after the BSE crisis caused widespread confusion over whether or not fishmeal should be included in rations, with many compounders deciding to discontinue its use in feed.

The review was carried out because MAFF wanted to find out where the pressure to ban fishmeal was coming from, the issues involved, and whether the protein could be removed from rations without affecting welfare.

"Everyone from feed compounders, abattoirs to supermarkets was asked about their concerns over fishmeal. These were consistent across the board; the issue of feeding animal-derived proteins to other animals, concern over industrial fishing, possibility of future revelations on effects on human health, and past worries about cross-contamination with meat-and-bone meal."

The issue of feeding animal proteins to other animals was the main cause for concern.

But Dr Povey says the pressure to ban fishmeal has not been so strongly driven by supermarkets as industry would suggest.

"It seemed everyone blamed everyone else for the ban – the feed trade and abattoirs blamed supermarkets. But at the time of the survey, five of the six multiple retailers asked were quite happy for livestock to receive fishmeal."

Assurance schemes, with the notable exception of the Scottish quality assurance scheme SQBLA, which has suspended fishmeal use in finishing diets, have not banned it in rations, although are regularly reviewing the situation, and neither has the RSPCA banned fishmeal for its Freedom Foods label.

Compounders such as Dalgety, BOCM Pauls and Bibby, however, removed fishmeal from lamb diets, as did many independent mills and co-operatives. Producers can request that rations contain fishmeal, but in the main, it remains only in high quality ewe rations.

However, Dr Povey points out that before the controversy started many diets contained inadequate levels of fishmeal. "Fishmeal accounted for only 0.5% of some diets. At that level, it is nutritionally questionable whether it did any good – it really needs to be 2% of the ration or more."

Fishmeal has a protein level of 74% on a dry matter basis, with half of that being bypass protein, coupled the amino acids methionine and lysine, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. This means it is a dense nutrient source – and cant be easily replaced in rations, she warns.

"There is no other single product which could replace fishmeal."

Attempting to formulate a similar product is expensive, she says. "It might be possible to use prairie meal, which is a high quality protein, but it lacks the other nutrients of fishmeal and is not widely available.

"Synthetic amino acids are available, but must be protected, and that makes them expensive. It might also be possible to increase soyabean meal content, but it doesnt contain the same levels of omega 3 fatty acids."

Where fishmeal has been removed from rations, compounders have attempted to maintain protein levels by using more soyabean meal, protected soyabean products and prairie gluten, but have taken no account of amino acid or omega 3 fatty acid content has been taken. This is because little is known about responses to either nutrient, says Dr Povey.

"Part of the difficulty with fishmeal is that we dont understand fatty acid or omega 3 fatty acid requirements in animals. But they have an important role to play."

Apart from pregnant and lactating ewes, Dr Povey says that lambs which are weaned and finished early will benefit from fishmeal, as will lambs which are sold as stores and finished late which respond particularly well to the amino acid content of fishmeal.

set in panel

FISHMEAL NUTRIENTS

* Bypass protein – tops up protein needs, particularly in high performance animals.

* Amino acids – needed for growth, development, health and fertility.

* Omega 3 fatty acids – research in dairy cows show they improve fertility and increase immunity.

* Vitamins – high levels of B vitamins and vitamin E, required for health

* Minerals – calcium, phosphorus and zinc at high levels.

FISHMEAL REVIEW

* No scientific reasons against feeding

* Currently little environmental concern

* Inclusion rate of 3-5% required

* Amino and fatty acids poorly understood

set in box please

WHICH STOCK BENEFIT FROM FISHMEAL

* Pregnant and lactating ewes

* Lambs weaned and finished early

* Dairy cows averaging over 40 litres/day

* Dairy cows fed rations low in amino acids

* Pregnant and lactating suckler cows

* All pigs, particularly those up to 40kg

* Poultry grown for meat – broilers and turkeys

There is no reason to ban fishmeal from ewe and lamb diets, says Gill Povey.Pregnant and lactating ewes and early finished lambs will benefit most from its inclusion.

FISHMEALREVIEW

&#8226 No scientific reasons against feeding

&#8226 Currently little environmental concern

&#8226 Inclusion rate of 3-5% required

&#8226 Amino and fatty acids poorly understood

Which stock benefit from fishmeal

&#8226 Pregnant and lactating ewes

&#8226 Lambs weaned and finished early.

&#8226 Dairy cows averaging over 40 .litres/day

&#8226 Dairy cows fed rations low in amino acids.

&#8226 Pregnant and lactating suckler cows.

&#8226 All pigs, particularly those up to 40kg.

&#8226 Poultry grown for meat – broilers and turkeys.

FISHMEALNUTRIENTS

&#8226 Bypass protein – tops up protein needs, particularly in high performance animals.

&#8226 Amino acids – needed for growth, development, health and fertility.

&#8226 Omega 3 fatty acids – research in dairy cows show they improve fertility and increase immunity.

&#8226 Vitamins – high levels of B vitamins and vitamin E, required for health

&#8226 Minerals – calcium, phosphorus and zinc at high levels.