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Feeding livestock with biofuel co-products

A recently published FAO document addresses the other side of the coin

 

Climate change and predicted shortages of fossil fuels present major challenges now and in the future. An expanding worldwide transport industry, potentially requiring increasing amounts of biofuels, could result in increasing amounts of co-products or by-products having potential for use as livestock feed and as a starting material for production of high-value products for use in food, pharmaceutical and other industries. Currently biofuel production is from agricultural crops grown primarily on arable land. Cereals especially maize, wheat and barley and sugar cane for ethanol production; and soya bean, oil palm and rapeseed for biodiesel production are used – all of them, in one or another form, can be consumed by humans.


The publication Biofuel co-products as livestock feed - Opportunities and challenges addresses the other side of the coin – bringing back by-products of the biofuel production into the generation of high-value human food by using them as livestock feed. In addition, resources that do not compete with human food and potentially can be used for biofuel production are also identified in the publication. A number of opportunities exist for producing animal products by feeding the by-products from the biofuel production.


This document explores the history of the biofuel industry, and collates, discusses and summarises the state-of-the-art knowledge of the use and future availability of by-products from the biofuel industry as livestock feed. Some of the by-products discussed are: distillers grains from various cereals, glycerol, cassava meal, camelina meal, plam kernel meal, pongamia meal, sweet sorghum residue, jatropha meal from toxic and non-toxic genotypes and algae residues. The levels at which the by-products could be safely used in livestock diets are also presented and discused. Throughout the document gaps in knowledge and research topics needed to fill them have been identified. These include standardisation of product quality to assist ration formulation, testing of new products, development of detoxification procedures, research on microalgae, and life cycle analysis linked to traditional nutritional appraisal. Predictions are also made as to how the industry is likely to develop over the next ten to twenty years.


This publication is a timely contribution as people’s aspirations are rising, evidenced by an increasing demand for livestock products and an ever greater reliance on transport, coupled with the challenge of maintaining agricultural production when faced with global warming. The information synthesised will be useful to policy makers, donors, science managers, researchers, the feed industry and non-government organizations in making information-based decisions on issues such as food-feed-fuel competition and emerging challenges of global warming, in addition to making efficient use of a wide range of currently available and future by-products from the biofuel industry as livestock feed. For policy makers the key messages are given in a box in every chapter and synthesis of all chapters is available at the end.