Sunflower Meal
in Beef Cattle Diets

 

Vern Anderson

Carrington Research Extension Center

North Dakota State University

 

I

ntroduction  Sunflowers were domesticated for commercial use concurrently in the former Soviet Union and in North America during the 1950s and 1960s.  Two types of sunflowers are currently produced, oil type and confectionary type.  Sunflower oil is a major edible oil for humans. Oil sunflower varieties dominate U.S. production, accounting for 84 percent of the total sunflower crop from 1994 through 2000.  Only 62 percent of the oil seeds grown were crushed for edible oil during the same period (Hesley, 1994).  The remaining 38 percent was used for seed, birdfood, other domestic uses, and export.  During the past few years, exports have decreased. 

 

Sunflower Meal

Sunflower meal is the fourth largest source of protein supplement behind soybean, cottonseed, and canola meals (Hesley, 1994).  Sunflower meal is generated when the black oil seeds are “crushed”.  The pre-press solvent extraction method is by far the most common method for oil removal, however, there are a few smaller scale mechanical expeller/extrusion plants in operation.

 

The supply of sunflower meal in the US may vary by year according to acres planted (Table 1).  The sunflower crush is somewhat seasonal, with a majority of the processing occurring from October through March (Table 2).  The two major sources of sunflower meal in the U.S. are Archer Daniels Midland  (Decatur, IL, 217.424.5439, www.admworld.com), and Cargill, Inc. (West Fargo, ND, 701.282.1676).  Processing plants are located in regions where sunflowers are grown, primarily eastern North Dakota and western Kansas. 

 

Table 1. US Sunflower meal supply and disposition (thousand tons)

 

Crop year production

 

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

Total Supply

641

461

411

505

622

558

443

Domestic Use

515

432

388

490

575

531

426

Export

89

25

18

13

41

21

15

National Sunflower Association

 

Table 2.  US Sunflower crush by month (thousand tons) for 1999 and 2000 crop production years.

Month

1999 Crop

2000 Crop

October

117,133

103,717

November

148,810

126,703

December

133,710

113,807

January

108,216

103,853

February

105,726

96,606

March

108,775

95,378

April

85,014

64,211

May

63,151

37,991

Jun

69,795

52,093

July

56,498

39,787

August

63,631

46,889

September

42,257

40,975

Year total

1,102,716

922,100

National Sunflower Association

 

Nutrients in sunflower meal can vary depending on several factors.   The amount and composition of meal is affected by oil content of the seed, extent of hull removal, and efficiency of oil extraction (Hesley, 1994).  The proportion of hull removed before processing can differ among crushing plants.  In some cases, a portion of the hulls may be added back to the meal after crushing.  The amount of hull or fiber in the meal is the major source of variation in nutrients (Table 3).   Pre-press solvent extraction of whole seeds with no dehulling produces meal with a crude protein content of 25 to 28 percent, partial dehulling yields 34 to 38 percent crude protein content, and completely dehulled sunflower meal commonly yields 40+ percent crude protein, but up to 50 percent crude protein has been observed (National Academy of Sciences, 1971). 

 

Sunflower meal is marketed and shipped as a meal or pellets.  Bulk density of 40 percent crude protein meal is approximately 0.513 kg/l with higher fiber/lower protein meals slightly less (Lusas, 1991).  Sunflower meal is dry (Table 1) and can be stored for extended periods of time without significant loss or degradation (Hesley, 1994). 

 

Protein in Sunflower Meal

Nitrogen required by rumen microbes can be provided in the form of rumen- degradable protein from sunflower meal.  NRC (1996) reports an exceptionally low crude protein value for sunflower meal (Table 4).  This value is not typical of current commercial meal production (Table 3).  Heat treatment or toasting of meal from the solvent extraction process may increase the proportion of undegradable protein but there is little information on effects of temperature and time.  Sunflower meal is more ruminally degradable (74% of crude protein) than soybean meal (66%) or canola meal (68%) (NRC, 1996) (Table 4).  

 

Table 3.  Nutrient content of solvent extracted sunflower meal based on amount of hulls retained

 

No

Hulls

Removed

 

Partially

Dehulled

 

 

Dehulled

Dry Matter, Percent

90.0

90.0

90.0

 

Percent, dry matter basis

Crude Protein

28.0

34.0

41.0

Fat

1.5

0.8

0.5

Crude Fiber

24.0

21.0

14.0

Ash

6.2

5.9

5.9

Calcium

0.36

0.35

0.34

Phosphorous

.97

.95

1.30

Potassium

1.07

1.07

1.07

Magnesium

0.80

0.79

0.79

Hesley (Ed.) National Sunflower Association, 1994  

 

Table 4.  Protein and energy fractions for sunflower meal, soybean meal, and canola meal.

 

Meal

Item

Sunflower

Soybean

Canola

 

Percent, dry matter basis

Crude protein

26.0

49.9

40.9

 

Percent of crude protein

Rumen degradable

74.0

66.0

68.0

Rumen undegradable

26.0

34.0

22.0

 

Percent, dry matter basis

Crude fiber

12.7

7.0

13.3

Neutral detergent fiber

40.0

14.9

27.2

Acid detergent fiber

30.0

10.0

17.0

Digestible energy, Mcal/kg

2.87

3.70

3.04

Metabolizable energy, Mcal/kg

2.35

3.04

2.49

Net energy, maintenance

1.47

2.06

1.60

Net energy, gain

.88

1.40

1.0

Total digestible nutrients

65

84

69

NRC, 1996

 

Energy in Sunflower Meal

Energy values of sunflower meal are lower than canola or soybean meal (NRC, 1996) (Table 4).  Energy varies substantially with fiber level and residual oil content.  Higher levels of hulls included in the final meal product lower the energy content and reduce bulk density.  The mechanical process of oil extraction leaves more residual oil in the meal, often 5 to 6 percent or more, depending on the efficiency of the extraction process.    Elevated oil content in mechanically-extracted meals provides greater energy density, which may be more valuable for animals with higher nutrient requirements or where limited amounts of supplement are fed.  Pre-press solvent extraction reduces residual oil to 1.5 percent or less (Hesley, 1994). 

 

Sunflower Meal in Feeder Calf Diets

Sunflower meal can be used as the sole source of protein in beef rations (Richardson and Anderson, 1981).  In trials comparing sunflower meal with other protein sources, equal animal performance is commonly observed based on isonitrogenous diets from different sources.  Dinusson et al. (1980), fed  growing heifers a forage-based diet, supplemented with either dehulled sunflower meal (43% crude protein) or soybean meal.  Heifers fed dehulled sunflower meal gained 1.81 lbs/day compared to 1.83 lbs/day  for heifers fed soybean meal.  Gain per unit feed was .077 for both treatments. 

 

Landblom et al. (1987), compared sunflower meal (34% crude protein) to soybean meal and barley distillers grains in growing heifer diets.  ADGs were 2.40, 2.47, and 2.47 lbs., respectively, for sunflower meal, soybean meal, and barley distillers grains.    Gain per unit feed numerically favored barley distillers grains at .070 with soybean meal at .067 and sunflower meal at .066.  In this trial, feed cost per unit gain was equal for sunflower and soybean meals due to a lower price per unit protein for sunflower meal.       

 

Richardson et al. (1981), substituted sunflower meal for cottonseed meal in growing and finishing diets for steers at 0, 5.5, 11 and 22 percent of diet dry matter.  They reported equal total diet digestion for steer calves fed cottonseed meal and sunflower meal when fed at isonitrogenous and equal fiber levels up to 11 percent sunflower meal.  Digestibility of dietary dry matter and organic matter was highest (P < .05) for the 22 percent sunflower meal treatment.  The same authors also reported equal digestibility of high forage diets for steer calves when sunflower meal was substituted for urea as a nitrogen source and fed at 0, 5, 10, and 20 percent of diet dry matter. 

           

In more recent work by Patterson et al. (1999a), 33.5 percent crude protein sunflower meal was fed to provide 91 g/d or 182 g/d of protein compared to 182 g/d of protein from canola meal, edible beans, or a mixture of edible beans and sunflower meal.  In this trial, medium quality forage (8.3% crude protein) was fed to steer calves in confinement to determine in situ digestion kinetics.  No differences (P > .10) were observed due to supplement treatment in degradation of dry matter, neutral detergent fiber, or acid detergent fiber in the forage. However, differences were observed in the digestibility of the protein supplements with edible beans (P = .02) and canola meal (P = .13), more digestible than sunflower meal.

           

Jordan et al. (1998), compared soybean meal with a sunflower meal (81.2% of protein supplement, dry matter basis) feather meal (11.2% of protein supplement) mixture for calves grazing cornstalks.  Feather meal provided the rumen undegradable protein with the degradable requirement from sunflower meal.  Gains were equal (P > .05) during the two-year trial.  Economic comparison using 1996 prices strongly favored the feather meal-sunflower meal combination, with a cost savings of $.05 per head per day.

           

Sunflower meal was compared to soybean meal and a sunflower-soybean meal mixture in isonitrogenous supplements in corn-based finishing diets that also contained 1 percent urea.  The urea and sunflower meal provided adequate ruminal degradable nitrogen with the undegradable nitrogen provide by the corn (Milton et al., 1997).  No differences were detected for gain (3.53 lb/day, P = .18, carcass corrected P = .72) or gain per unit feed (.147, P =.85, carcass corrected P=.64) due to treatment.

 

Sunflower Meal in Diets for Cows

Cows consuming low quality forages such as winter range, crop aftermath, or other low- quality forages can utilize supplemental degradable protein to increase total intake, forage digestibility, and performance (Kartchner, 1980; Gray, 1995).  Protein can be supplemented with a number of feeds, co-products, or oilseed meals.  Least cost sources are critical to profitability and sunflower meal is often very price competitive per unit protein.  Sunflower meal has been widely used in beef cow supplementation programs, but few research trials document comparative animal performance.  Gray (1995) reported that sunflower meal will minimize weight and condition score losses for beef cows. 

           

Patterson et al. (1999b), fed cows grazing winter range in Eastern Colorado protein supplements from edible beans, sunflower meal, a mix of edible beans and sunflower meal, or canola meal at 182 g/d crude protein or sunflower meal at 91 g/d.  Cows fed sunflower meal at 91 g/d lost more weight during gestation (P < .05) but no other differences were detected, suggesting supplemental protein levels of 182 g/d may have been higher than requirements.  No differences were observed in weaning weight or pregnancy rate (P >.05).  Edible beans fed alone resulted in some palatability problems, however, mixing edible beans and sunflower meal eliminated the problem. 

           

Jordan et al., (1997) compared protein supplements with equal amounts of metabolizable protein and rumen undegradable protein from soybean meal or feather meal-sunflower meal combination.  Supplements were fed to cows grazing cornstalks at 1.5 lbs. per day as fed.  The combination supplement was 81.2% (DM basis) sunflower meal and 11.2 percent feather meal.  Cows and heifers gained the same (P > .15) on the two treatments.  Protein costs were $.04 per head per day lower for the feather meal-sunflower meal supplement.

           

Lactating mature beef cows were fed 4.55 lbs. sunflower meal (38.1% crude protein), 5 lbs. lupines (33.2% crude protein) or 10 lbs. wheat screenings (16.6 % crude protein) in straw-based diets.   No differences (P > .05) were observed for weight change, cow condition score, or reproduction due to supplement treatment (Anderson, 1993).  Calf gains were 2.11 lbs. daily compared to 2.00 for wheat screenings and 2.01 for lupines (P > .05).   Sunflower meal was used successfully at 57 percent of the protein supplement (1.80 lbs./hd./day) as a degradable protein source in lactating cow diets (Anderson et. al., 2000).

 

Summary

It is apparent from the limited research that sunflower meal is a biologically and economically useful protein source for growing and finishing cattle.  Similarly, beef cows can be provided supplemental protein effectively with sunflower meal.  Sunflower meal may be especially useful in diets where degradable protein is required, such as lower quality forage, or high corn rations.  The increased bulk of this relatively high fiber meal may affect logistics, but ruminants are positioned to be more tolerant of high fiber levels than other species.  Additional research is warranted to evaluate practical and economic aspects of using sunflower meal in beef cattle diets. 

 

Literature Cited

Anderson, V. L., J. S. Caton, J. D. Kirsch, and D. A. Redmer. 2000. Effect of crambe meal on performance, reproduction, and thyroid hormone levels in gestating and lactating beef cows.  J. Anim. Sci. 78:2269-2274.

Anderson, V. L. 1993. Low input drylot beef cow/calf production with alternative crop products.  In: Ruminant production systems inter-related with non-traditional crop management.  Final report to NC Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education.   ND Ag. Exp. Station. Carrington Research Extension Center pp 16-23..

Dinusson, W. E., L. J. Johnson, and R. B. Danielson.  1981. Protein sources for growing beef heifers.  Annual Report. p 10-11. Dept. of Anim. Sci. North Dakota State University, Fargo.

Gray, K. S. 1995. Effects of sunflower meal and whole sunflower seed on winter grazing performance and on intake, digestibility and dry matter disappearance of low-quality forage in beef cows.  M. S. thesis.  Colorado State Univ., Ft. Collins.

Hesley, J. (Ed). 1994. Sunflower meal use in livestock rations.  National Sunflower Association, Bismarck, ND.

Jordan, D. J., Terry Klopfenstein, and Mark Klemesrud. 1997. Evaluation of feather meal for calves grazing cornstalks.  Nebraska Beef Reprot, pp 13-14.

Jordan, D. J., Terry Klopfenstein, Mark Klemesrud, and Drew Shain. 1998. Evaluation of feather meal for cows grazing cornstalks.  Nebraska Beef Reprot, pp. 40-42.

Kartchner. R. J. 1980. Effects of protein and energy supplementation of cows grazing native winter range forage on intake and digestibility. J. Anim. Sci. 51:432-438.

Landblom, D. G., J. L. Nelson, L. Johnson, and W. D. Slanger. 1987. A comparison of barley distillers dried grain, sunflower meal and soybean oil meal as protein supplements in backgrounding rations.  ND Cow/calf conference proceedings. pp. 22-26.

Lusas. E. W. 1991. Sunflower meals and food proteins.  pp. 26-29. in Sunflower Handbook, National Sunflower Assn. Bismarck, ND.

Milton, C. T., R. T. Brandt Jr., E. C. Titgemeyer, and G. L. Kuhl. 1997. Effect of degradable and escape protein and roughage type on performance and carcass characteristics of finishing yearling steers.  J. Anim. Sci. 75:2834-2840.

National Academy of Sciences. 1971. Atlas of nutritional data on United States and Canadian Feeds. National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C.

NRC. 1996. Nutrient Requirements of Beef Cattle. 7th Revised Edition.  National Acadamey of Sciences, Washington, D.C.

Patterson, H.H., J. C. Whittier, L. R. Rittenhouse. 1999a. Effects of cull beans, sunflower meal, and canola meal as protein supplement to beef steers consuming grass hay on in situ digestion kinetics. The Prof. Anim. Scientist 15:185-190.

Patterson, H. H., J. C. Whittier, L. R. Rittenhous, and D.N. Schutz. 1999b. Performance of beef cows receiving cull beans, sunflower meal, and canola meal as protein supplement while grazing native winter range in eastern Colorado. J. Anim. Sci. 77:750-755.

Richardson, C. R. and G. D. Anderson. 1981. Sunflowers: beef applications. Feed Management. 32(6):30.

Richardson, C. R. and R. N. Beville, R. K. Ratcliff and R. C. Albin. 1981. Sunflower meal as a protein supplement for growing ruminants. J. Anim. Sci. 53:5577-560.

 


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