More meat and milk from straw

Project

More meat and milk from straw

Worldwide, approximately 2.000 million tons of straw are produced per year. The use of straw as a feed ingredient for ruminants is limited due to its low nutritional value caused by a high concentration of indigestible lignin. Wouter Hendriks and colleagues discovered a pioneering method to break down the lignin and increase the nutritive value of straw. The results: more milk and meat.

The more lignin a plant contains, the lower its digestibility. By breaking down the lignin, valuable nutrients and energy become available for ruminants. Hendriks: “Certain fungi produce enzymes to break down the lignin. You must allow these fungi to grow and then feed the treated straw to the ruminant at the right moment.”

It is an ingenious process of fungi that Hendriks enthusiastically talks about. “The WUR research group working on edible mushrooms has a large database of fungi. Breaking down lignin is done by a complex of enzymes in combination with oxygen. By eating straw treated by an oyster mushroom-fungus, a cow could gain twice the amount of energy from the rice straw. It is an art to match the right fungus with the right by-product. Only then can the nutritive values of the by-product be significantly increased.

Hendriks explains that there is still much work to be done before reaching his goal. Research is required to find the best combination of fungi and by-product, and to determine the nutritional value of fungi treated by-products for cows, goats, buffalo and sheep. But also the development of practical application methods for farmers in the tropics and development of an effective ensilaging process is needed. “The impact of this approach could be enormous and could contribute significantly to the global food problem, the protein challenge, and in combating hunger. Straw can be delivered to small factories set up by farmer where the entire process of fungal treatment and ensiling is conducted. Farmers can bring straw to such factories and pick up ensilaged fodder to feed their animals. That would be an amazing development which I fully support.”

Prof. Dr. Wouter Hendriks, Professor of Animal Nutrition
Prof. Dr. Wouter Hendriks, Professor of Animal Nutrition

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