With two, large hog processing plants coming on line last year and a third in construction, a lot more blood meal, and at cheaper prices, are coming onto the market.
That’s the good news. The concern: The quality of this by-product feed, like other types of by-products, could vary by plant and by lot, says Ken Griswold, a senior dairy technical service manager for Kemin. Full disclosure: Kemin does produce a rumen-protected amino acid, USA Lysine.
Nevertheless, it’s a fact that commodity blood meal, just like distiller’s grains, can vary widely in quality. The problem is that because these are by-product commodities, processing plants try to dry them as quickly as possible to simply get them out the door. If excessive heat is used, the protein and amino acids can be denatured and become unavailable to the cow.
Kemin tested 22 blood meal samples last year, and found the average digestibility of the nitrogen in the rumen-unprotected portion averaged about 62%, but ranged from less than 40% to more than 80%. Of those, nine of the samples were from the same processing plant, and ranged from 40% to 83% digestibility.
Just a 1% drop in protein digestibility can decrease milk revenue by $250 per month for a 500-cow herd, according to Cornell University research. And that’s when milk prices are at $12/cwt. At 17.50/cwt milk prices, losses are $383 per month. At $25 milk, losses jump to $562/month. If protein digestibility varies by 5 or 10%, losses mount quickly. Multiplied over 12 months means losses can climb into the thousands of dollars.
Testing of blood meal for protein availability is possible. But tests take time and money, and sometimes a batch of blood meal can be fed before tests come back and rations adjusted.