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Palm Kernel Cake (PKC) as a Supplement for
Fattening and Dairy Cattle in Malaysia

F.Y. Chin
Department of Veterinary Services, 8th Floor,
Wisma Chase Perdana, Jalan Semantan, Bukit Damansara, 50630 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Malaysia currently produces an annual quantity of 1.4 million tons of palm kernel cake (PKC) as a by-product in the milling of palm kernel oil. PKC is considered a medium grade protein feed, containing 14.6 to16.0% crude protein, useful for fattening cattle either as a single feed, with only minerals and vitamins supplementation, or mixed with other feedstuffs. It has also become the main ingredient in dairy cattle ration. Two types of PKC exist, the expeller pressed and the solvent extracted, because of different methods of kernel oil extraction and differences in their oil content: 5 to 12% in the expeller pressed PKC and 0.5 to 3% in the solvent extracted type.


Palm oil milling is a major industry in Malaysia. The total area under oil palm covers more than 2 million hectares.  The industry, besides producing palm oil, also produces by-products usable as animal feed. These are palm kernel cake, palm oil sludge (POS) and palm pressed fibre (PPF). The most useful is palm kernel cake, which is the solid residue left behind after the extraction of oil from the kernels of the palm fruits. It is now well entrenched as a major feed ingredient in beef and dairy feed in the country.

The PKC is obtained out from two stages of oil extraction from the palm fruit. The first stage is the primary extraction of palm oil from the pericarp portion of the fruit, which also produces the kernel and by-products POS and PPF.  The extraction of oil from crushed kernel then results in the production of PKC as by-product. Two methods are used for the extraction of oil from the crushed kernels. These are the conventional mechanical screwpress method that results in the expeller pressed palm kernel cake and the solvent (usually hexane) extraction method that results in the solvent extracted type. The estimated annual total production of PKC is at 1.4 million tons. This paper outlines the use of palm kernel cake for the fattening of cattle and as a supplement for milk production in dairy cattle.

Nutritive value of PKC 
Although PKC supplies both protein and energy, it is looked upon more as a source of protein. PKC by itself is a medium grade protein feed and with its high fibre content it is often consider as suitable for feeding of ruminants. PKC was ranked a little higher than copra cake but lower than fish meal and groundnut cake especially in its protein value (Devendra, 1977). The nutrient composition of PKC is presented in Table1.

Table 1. Nutrient Composition of solvent extracted and expeller pressed PKC.


    Solvent extracted

     Expeller pressed







Dry matter (%) 89.0 91.0 91.0 92.7 93.0 89.1
Crude protein (%) 15.3 15.2 15.0 14.6 14.8 16.0
Crude fibre (%) 14.3 16.0 15.6 12.1 15.7 16.8
Acid detergent fibre (%) 46.1 46.0 40.0 41.8 44.0 39.6
Neutral detergent fibre (%) 66.7 - - 66.4 - -
Ether extract (%) 2.9 1.8 0.9 9.1 9.8 10.6
Ash (%) 4.1 3.8 3.5 4.3 4.2 4.1
Nitrogen free extract (%) 63.4 63.2 65.0 59.9 55.5 52.5
Total digestible nutrient, TDN (calculated, %) 75.0 70.0 75.0 72.0 67.0 70.0
Metabolisable energy (cattle, MJ/kg) 13.1 12.2 13.1 12.5 11.7 12.2
Calcium (%) 0.20 0.25 - 0.21 0.20 -
Phosphorus (%) 0.54 0.52 - 0.52 0.32 -
Magnesium (%) - 0.16 - - - -
Copper (ppm) 34.0 28.5 - 18.0 - -
Ferrous (mg/kg) - 4.05 - - - -
Manganese (mg/kg) - 225.0 - - - -
Zinc (mg/kg) - 77.0 - - - -

Source: Mustaffa et al. (1987), Chin (1991)
Department of Veterinary Services Malaysia
Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute, MARDI
Universiti Putra Malaysia, UPM

The main difference between the solvent extracted PKC and the expeller pressed type is in the ether extract or oil content. The oil content of the former is low, around 0.5 to 3 percent, while that in the latter is higher and ranges between 5 to 12 percent, depending on the extent of oil extraction. No difference can be found in the crude protein contents between the two types, which range from 14.6 to 16.0 percent on dry matter basis.

Work to evaluate the potential usefulness of palm kernel cake through chemical and biological determination has been pursued quite extensively by several researchers in Malaysia. Digestibility of solvent extracted PKC was determined, using Kedah-Kelantan breed of cattle at 65.1% for dry matter, 72.7% for organic matter, 69.7% for crude protein and 86.7% for the nitrogen – free - extract component (Miyashige et al. 1987). Digestibility coefficients for expeller pressed PKC of 70.0% for dry matter, 63% for crude protein, 52.0% for acid-detergent fibre (ADF), 53.0% for neutral detergent fibre (NDF) and 88% for gross energy were obtained using sheep (Suparjo and Rahman, 1987). The expeller pressed PKC thus had 11.0% digestible crude protein (DCP), 21.0% digestible ADF, 40.0% digestible NDF and 14.89 MJ/kg of digestible energy (DE). These figures show that PKC is a reasonably an efficient feed for ruminants.

Suitability of PKC for fattening and in supplementary feeding
Suitability of PKC as feed for cattle has been much proven. Invariably, it has become the basic feed in most rations for fattening cattle in feedlots. It is also the primary constituent supplementary feed for dairy cattle, mixed together with other ingredients such as ground maize and soybean meal.

Cattle fattening with PKC
The feasibility and practicability of commercial feedlotting using PKC as the sole feed where minerals and vitamins are the only other supplement given has been reported (Mustaffa et al. 1987). Comparing breeds fattened using expeller pressed PKC, it has been found that the beef characteristics of Droughtmaster cattle put it in good stead to perform better than the dairy type Local Indian Dairy crossbreds and the Sahiwal-Friesian animals (Yusoff et al. 1987). Their respective daily gains were 0.85, 0.63 and 0.65 kg, though their feed conversion ratios were not significantly different at 7.37, 7.80 and 7.83 respectively, indicating a higher intake of feed by the Droughtmaster cattle.

The average daily gain of the Australian Commercial Cross (ACC), another beef breed, fed with PKC was found to be very promising at about 0.84 kg, with a feed conversion ratio of 6.96 (Hutagalung et al. 1986).  Sahiwal-Friesian animals were fed with solvent (extracted PKC and expeller pressed PKC, with a low fat content of 7% (Yusoff et al. 1987). No significant difference in performance was found between the two groups of animals, with 0.75 kg daily gain for those fed expeller pressed PKC and 0.69 kg for those on solvent extracted PKC.

PKC is often used in combination with other oil palm by-products for cattle fattening. PKC had been mixed with PPF for feeding growing dairy bull calves, where the PPF primarily served as a fibre source (Cameons, 1978). The performances of Droughtmaster animals was compared with Brahman bull calves fed a ration of PKC with palm oil mill effluent (POME), another term commonly used for POS, in the ratio of 60/40 (Yahya and Ibrahim, 1985). Droughmaster were also found to be superior compared to the Brahman in terms of a better carcass analysis.  In the same study, Droughmaster fed with the above diet were compared with Droughmaster grazing only Brachiaria decumbens pasture. The animals fed with PKC/POME ration achieved 0.81 kg daily gain as compared to only 0.25 kg obtained by those grazing pasture. Local indigenous Kedah - Kelantan cattle were fed in a feedlotting experiment with rations involving both the solvent extracted and expeller pressed PKC with POME and a ration of solvent extracted PKC and POME in a 50/50 ratio was observed to be the best treatment with a daily gain of 0.60 kg and a corresponding feed conversion ratio of 6.29 (Shamsuddin et al. 1987). 

Sahiwal-Friesian animals had been fed with both the solvent extracted and the expeller pressed PKC in combination with dried sago pith at 50/50 ratio of PKC and the sago pith (Yusoff et al. 1987). No significant difference in daily gains was found between the solvent extracted PKC/sago pith group and the expeller pressed PKC/sago pith group.  However, it was reported that animals on these diets produced better weight gains of 0.83 kg for those on expeller pressed/sago pith and 0.82 kg for those on the solvent extracted PKC/ sago pith, as compared to animals fed 100% PKC without  the sago pith. This was obviously due to the higher energy availability of diets with sago pith inclusion.  It has been earlier found out that there was no significant difference in the daily gain among Sahiwal-Friesian dairy heifers fed with napier grass plus 2 kg of supplementary rations comprising PKC alone or with either cassava or molasses as energy supplement (Yusoff, 1985).

Results of weight gain performance of various breeds of cattle fed PKC and PKC based diets in different trials and observations undertaken by various workers have been cited (Hawari and Chin, 1985; Mustaffa, 1987; Mustaffa et al. 1987) and these are summarized in Table 2. Average daily liveweight gains ranged from a lowly 0.39 kg achieved by the indigenous Kedah-Kelantan cattle fed a 100% expeller pressed PKC diet to 0.83 kg obtained by Droughtmaster cattle fed a mixed ration comprising 60% solvent extracted PKC and 40% POME.Supplementary Feeding of PKC to Dairy Cattle.     

Table 2. Weight gains of cattle fed 100% PKC1 and PKC mixed diets

                    Feed diets

Breed of cattle

Daily weight gain (kg)

100% solvent extracted PKC Zebu cross 0.793
100% solvent extracted PKC Sahiwal Friesian crossbred 0.760
100% solvent extracted PKC Local Kedah-Kelantan 0.560
100% expeller pressed PKC Beef crosses 0.629
100% expeller pressed PKC Local Kedah-Kelantan 0.338
100% low fat2 expeller pressed PKC Sahiwal Friesian crossbred 0.740
100% low fat2 expeller pressed PKC Australian Commercial cross 0.600
50% solvent extracted PKC
50% fodder grass
Zebu cross 0.650
50% solvent extracted PKC
50% expeller pressed PKC
Sahiwal Friesian crossbred 0.700
60% solvent extracted PKC
40% POME
Brahmam 0.790
60% solvent extracted PKC
40% POME
Droughtmasters 0.830
60% expeller pressed PKC
40% POME
Local Kedah-Kelantan 0.510
60% low fat2 expeller pressed PKC
40% POME
Sahiwal Friesian crossbred 0.590

Source:  Hawari and Chin (1985); Mustaffa (1987); Mustaffa et al. (1987); citing various workers.
1All diets were supplemented with the required minerals and vitamins
2Low fat expeller pressed PKC has about 7 % ether extract.

 The performance of Sahiwal-Friesian cows fed with conventional dairy concentrate mixture without PKC was compared with those fed with identical amounts of solvent extracted PKC (Ganabathi, 1983). Cows fed PKC performed almost similarly to those fed  with the conventional ration, obtaining 7.7 kg of milk daily over a 200-day period, the difference was not significant compared  with the 8.4 kg of daily milk production for the conventional ration.

The advantage is in the cost of feeding the PKC mixture being cheaper at 0.28 sen per kg as compared to 0.43 sen per kg for the conventional dairy ration. In the same trial, when comparing the use of solvent extracted PKC and expeller pressed PKC for milk production, it was found out that solvent extracted PKC gave significantly better milk production than the expeller pressed type. Over a 170 days milking period, cows fed solvent extracted PKC produced 7.9 kg milk daily while those fed with expeller pressed type produced only 4.8 kg milk daily.

Strategy of using PKC for fattening and supplementary feeding of cattle

Cattle fattening with PKC
The strategy  in using PKC for cattle fattening is three-fold stages. This is to use it as a sole feed; in combination with other oil palm by-products such as POME and PFF; and in combination with other feedstuffs, preferably local by-products such as  sago waste, soya bean hull or corn gluten feed. Invariably all these need to be supplemented with minerals and vitamins. The rationale is to use as much of locally available feedstuffs as possible. In order to assist farmers  and  entrepreneurs, the Department of Veterinary Services is developing a manual for feedlots in which the strategy for feedlot feeding is outlined. Table 3 shows examples of formulations that includes PKC as the major ingredient.

Supplementary feeding of PKC ration to dairy cattle
All dairy farms run by the government had converted to use PKC in their dairy ration since the seventies after it was shown in studies that mixtures with PKC are cheaper than those using conventional feedstuffs and there is no decline in milk production or quality. Farmers participating in the government assisted Dairy Industry Development Scheme (previously known as the Milk Collection Centre scheme) are also recommended to use PKC mixtures, preferably together with local by-products available in their area, to reduce cost of feeding. Commercial feedmills which manufacture compounded feeds for dairy cattle, such as the Dairy Cattle Pellet (DCP), which is also popularly fed to dairy cows as a supplement, also use PKC as the major ingredient. The strategy however is to encourage farmers to mix their own feed in order to reduce the cost of feeding.

Impact from use of PKC for fattening and supplementary feeding of cattle

PKC plays a significant role in the feedlotting programme undertaken to increase the supply of meat in the country. In fact, the feedlotting activities thrive mainly because of the availability of this economic feeding material. Currently, there are 96 feedlots throughout the country, of which two are major ones, fattening 41,227 cattle annually. Similarly, being the major ingredient in formulated rations for supplementary feeding of dairy cattle, PKC is thus important in the development of the local milk industry. Its utilisation has effectively reduced the cost of milk production as a result of substituting expensive conventional feedstuffs, such as fishmeal, with a more economical and locally available one that also meets  the nutrient requirements of livestock. PKC has enabled the economic development of the cattle fattening and milk production sectors of the livestock industry. Its advent as a feeding material has also increased profitability to farmers undertaking feedlotting and dairy production; improving their income, standard of living and social standing in society. 

Table 3.  Recommended formulation.


Percent in Mixture



Ground maize


Soyabean meal




Tricalcium phosphate




Trace element  vitamin premix



PKC is a reasonably good economic feed for cattle, both for fattening and supplementary feeding. It is an agro-industrial by-product that is being produced locally and within the Southeast Asian region in sizeable quantity and should thus be exploited fully.


The author wishes to thank the Director General of Veterinary Services, Malaysia, permission to present and publish this paper.


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