RED DEER — Adding camelina to a laying hen’s diet could improve the omega 3 content of eggs.
“It is not a perfect seed, it is not a perfect feedstuff, but it has some advantages that will represent good opportunities for broilers, layers and eventually turkeys,” Eduardo Beltranena told the Western Canada Poultry Research Workshop in Red Deer Feb. 29.
Camelina oil is already used to make biofuel, bioplastics, lubricants, paints, cosmetics and cooking oil.
Beltranena and Matt Oryschak, researchers with Alberta Agriculture, hope their work provides enough proof to list the oilseed as an approved feed ingredient.
The crop is approved in the United States, where the Food and Drug Administration allows a 10 percent inclusion rate in cattle feed, 10 percent in broilers and layers and two percent in pigs.
A 12 percent inclusion rate was approved last year in Canada in broilers, and the industry is waiting for approval of up to 20 percent in layer diets.
The researchers have tried various levels in feed rations for the last three years to see how much birds and hogs are willing to eat and if it affects growth rates.
Ten percent of the oil is left in the cake when the seed is crushed, and this byproduct is full of fibre, energy, protein and beneficial fatty acids.
It is not perfect. It contains glucosinolate, a compound that affects taste and once caused thyroid problems in animals that were fed canola meal. However, that property has been bred out of canola.
The compounds found in camelina seem different, and the researchers did not notice toxicity or thyroid problems in dissected birds.
Canadian experiments with pigs showed 12 percent was enough because the animals would not eat feed containing higher levels.
“We learned some lessons with pigs,” Beltranena said.
“They went on a hunger strike. Pigs were 28 days late to market, feeding camelina.”
Oryschak’s feed trials showed that poultry would eat feed with levels of 12 and 16 percent.
“The main goal of the study was to see if the birds would actually eat camelina,” he said.
“Feed efficiency suffered as soon as you went over 12 percent.”
The researchers also learned that seed processing was important. Seeds must be rolled rather than placed in a hammer mill because the cake stuck to the birds’ beaks.
“The birds went off their feed because they were walking around with beards of camelina cake around their mouths,” Oryschak said.
Other experiments showed an increase in polyunsaturated fats in chicken breast and thighs in birds that were fed camelina.
They also studied the effect of increasing camelina cake in laying hens and found higher levels of omega 3 fatty acid in the eggs.
“If the cake can enrich the eggs at 15 percent dietary inclusion, that means you can probably do the same with five percent full fat seed,” he said.
Beltranena said camelina has a good fit in the brown and light brown soils of southeastern Alberta, southern Saskatchewan and southwestern Manitoba.
“This crop has the opportunity to be grown in some marginal lands and not displace canola,” he said.