Researchers have been evaluating what type of affect increasing almond hull concentration in rations for lactating dairy cows will have on milk production. Almond hulls have been shown to have positive nutritional aspects and are typically fed to dairy cattle at rates of three to five pounds per day. Because California produces an abundance of almonds, researchers have been evaluating methods for clearing the market of excess almond hulls by increasing consumption rates in dairy cows.
“What we found was, we could feed those higher levels of almond hulls and milk production was not affected. Basically, the milk production at 12 pounds was the same as when we feed four pounds, which is a positive when you’re feeding that high of level,” said Ed DePeters, Professor in the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis. “It’s high in sugar content, it’s fairly low in protein, and it’s got a good fiber content. So, it’s a good feedstuff for ruminants like dairy cattle.”
While overall yield was not affected by increasing the level of almond hulls in the rations, the fat content of the milk went up slightly, while protein content minimally decreased. DePeters explained the likely reason for that slight change had to do with the cows consuming rations with a higher almond hull concentration were chewing about an hour more each day compared to the control animals. “I think that hour more of chewing, more saliva production when the cows are chewing, the rumen was probably more stable, fiber digestion was higher, so milkfat went up,” said DePeters.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture has established a standard for what can be sold as almond hull feed, requiring it contains less than 15 percent crude fiber. The research that was conducted used what DePeters referred to as “pure almond hulls” that had been sorted, with all shells and sticks having been removed. The composition of the almond hulls used in feedstuffs can play an important role in the digestibility and energy value of the hulls. “It just makes sense for a dairy producer or nutrition consultant to test the almond hulls to see whether or not they are above the 15 percent crude fiber or below the 15 percent crude fiber,” DePeters noted.
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