Canola sector must find new markets for protein

If all goes according to plan, prairie farmers will be producing 26 million tonnes of canola by 2025.

If that does happen, as the Canola Council of Canada hopes, production will be 7.4 million tonnes more than 2016.

Most people in the canola trade are on board with the expansion plan, but the industry will need to find new buyers for the additional canola meal.

“Today, all the canola meal we’re producing in Western Canada is finding a home, (but) the primary concern is that the dairy markets in the U.S. are becoming saturated, quickly… so there’s not a lot of room for growth,” said Chris Nowlan, canola products market manager with Dow AgroSciences.

“If you overlay that with the (production) growth … we’re going to be in a spot where there is more supply than there is foreseeable demand, given the quality parameters that we have today.”

Nowlan, who participated in a discussion on protein at the Agricultural Bioscience International Conference, held late September in Winnipeg, said canola meal production will increase. The canola council has a target of 3.3 million tonnes by 2025.

Eighty-five percent of Canada’s canola meal is now used to feed dairy cows, he said. If that market is saturated, the canola trade will need to find alternate buyers, perhaps fish farms.

Another option is changing the protein content of canola so it’s better suited for hogs and poultry. Canola meal currently has limited use for pigs and chickens because it’s too low in protein and too high in fibre.

Dow AgroSciences is already moving the industry in that direction by developing a canola variety with higher protein and less fibre.

ProPound, the brand name of the canola variety, is now being grown in Western Canada. It’s part of Dow’s line of Nexera canola.

Meal from ProPound has around 44 percent protein, compared to 37 percent in traditional canola and 47 percent in soybean meal.

The variety represented 15 to 20 percent of Dow’s Nexera acres in Canada this year, Nowlan said.

“Our plan, over time, would be to convert that entire crop over to ProPound material,” he added.

Prairie hog producers are the most obvious market for higher protein canola.

Nowlan said Western Canada imports 1.5 million tonnes of soybean meal from the United States. Replacing that with canola meal would save on trucking and cut costs for hog producers.

The higher protein canola might save hog farmers $20 per tonne for baby pig rations, Florian Possberg, chair of the Saskatchewan Pork Development Board, said in a Western Producer story in March last year.

“That would be a real advantage. Unless this new canola meal is priced way up there, it would really work for us.”

ProPound canola meal could also replace soybean meal in turkey production, based on University of Minnesota research.

However, other feed trials showed that chickens are more sensitive to canola meal. ProPound could be used up to a 24 percent inclusion rate without negative effects on chicken performance.

In the short term, the higher protein canola meal could supplant soybeans in Canadian hog rations, but there is a larger opportunity to compete with soybean meal in the U.S. hog and poultry sectors, Nowlan said.

“Our aspirations would be that we’d also be converting some major markets in the U.S. … those (areas) that are logistically disadvantaged for soybeans,” he said.

“Think about California, Minnesota, even to the east coast.”

Bigger picture, Canada’s canola trade needs to focus on the opportunities in the expanding protein market, Nowlan said.

If a larger percentage of canola has improved protein content and better meal, it’s a win for growers and a win for buyers who have an insatiable appetite for protein.

“How do we do more? How do we meet the growing need?” he said.

“We can extend this technology into all the regions where canola seed, or rapeseed, is produced today.”

The Canola Council of Canada was contacted for comment on this story, but there was no response by press time.

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