An agriculture scientist at the University of Missouri-Columbia; is of the view that glycerin, a by-product of bio-diesel, could be a good source for cattle feed.
In his study, Monty Kerley, a professor of ruminant nutrition at the College of Agriculture, is examining the effectiveness of glycerin as cattle feed.
Through November, Kerley will monitor the growth habits of 60 calves from various breeds to determine if bio-leftovers provide a healthy main course to cattle.
The study has two main priorities: first, to determine if glycerin has a positive or negative effect on calves i.e. growth performance, and second, to assess its impact, if any, on meat quality.
Kerley has separated the cows into groups of three, each consuming differing amounts of glycerin during their daily diet. The amounts are 0, 5, 10 and 20 percent.
In addition to monitoring feeding limits and growth patterns, Kerley is also analysing how cattle metabolise the varying amounts of glycerin.
Kerley says glycerin is liquid based and comes mostly from the processing of soybean oil. He also said it meets stringent FDA regulations.
"We're really looking at the energy value and how it compares to corn. When the animal consumes glycerin, it's absorbed, and the glycerin is used to make glucose. Actually, it's like feeding sugar to a cow. Because it's liquid, there are two things we worry about - one, how much can be used in the diet before it changes the form of the diet; and two, is there a limit to how much glycerin can be processed by the animal," said Kerley.
In recent years, academic scientists and private-sector companies have been racing to find solutions and applications for the by-product. An alternative food source for cattle is but one possibility. However, it's likely only a short-term option for the cattle industry.
He said economics is another factor because glycerin is currently less expensive than corn, which is most commonly used as cattle feed. Glycerin can be procured for about four cents per pound; whereas corn costs around eight cents a pound.