Molasses and molasses based liquid feeds have been fed to cattle both dairy and beef for as long as there has been sugar production.

Historically, molasses was supplied in 45 gallon drums, fed as it came from the sugar factory and was often thick and difficult to handle. Liquid technology has moved on and now there is a wide range of molasses blends ranging from Standard Molasses through to high protein, high energy blends containing oils, vitamins and minerals and amino acids.

As molasses is a liquid, it needs to be treated differently from conventional dry feeds in terms of storage, handling and feeding. To be able to use a molasses-based liquid feed the first requirement is to have a storage tank suitable to receive the product.

This will depend of the delivery size, which in turn is driven by the number of cattle to be fed. Typically the smallest storage tank is a 1,000 litre IBC and the largest will be big enough to take a full truck delivery (29mts).

Price is usually driven by delivery size with larger loads being more cost effective than small deliveries.  ED&F Man are able to offer cattle farmers a range of purpose-built storage solutions, ranging from 1mt to 40mts with the option for stands and ground operated valves.

There are a number of advantages of using a molasses-based feed in that it does not take up valuable dry feed space. There is almost no waste in terms of spoilage and dosing the product into a diet is easier than with dry feeds.

Types of molasses for cattle

There are a wide range of products suitable for cattle with specific options being available for dairy and beef cattle and some more generic “cattle” products available. The particular choice depends on a number of factors, with the main factor being what other ingredients are available to the farmer? This includes home grown forages, cereals and purchased feeds.

The base forage type can dictate whether a higher or lower protein molasses feed is required. Typically, diets including maize, whole crop or straw will need a higher protein molasses blend to provide a balanced ration. Products such as Regumaize 44, Regumix and Regupro 38 are ideal for these situations.

Where the ration is based on grass silage, a lower protein higher sugar option is likely to be the best fit with products such as Stockmol 20 and Molale being particularly popular.

ED&F Man are able to offer bespoke advice on product choice and ration formulation to ensure the cattle farmer makes the best product choice to get the desired level of performance and optimise herd performance.

Methods of feeding molasses

There are a number of feeding options available to cattle farmers which will depend on the type of feeding system employed on the farm.

Top Dressing

The simplest and most traditional method is to top dress the forage with the molasses allowing it to soak into the forage before allowing the cattle access. This method works well with big bale silage.

Using this feeding method encourages forage intake and can help fibre digestion particularly if the forage quality is below average.

Lick/ball feeders

The use of free access feeders has developed in popularity due to its ease of use, flexibility and cost effectiveness. The feeders can be left in situ and filled from an IBC our brought into the yard and filled from a bulk tank.

ED&F Man offer a range of lick feeders designed specifically for cattle which can hold up to 1.3mts of product and are capable of feeding 100 cattle for more than a week, removing the need for daily feeding.

Mill & Mix

On farm mill and mixing is still popular, especially on beef units where high cereal diets are fed.

Including a specially formulated oil enriched molasses blend can help eliminate dust, benefiting both the farmer and the cattle receiving the feed as well reducing the need to clean down the mixer.

Various protein options are also available to allow the production of a protein enhanced cereal mix, ideal for high-performing beef cattle. Producing high cereal mixes on farm without the addition of molasses can lead to reduced feed intake and subsequent reduced performance.

TMR Feeding

This is probably the most popular way to feed molasses to cattle and works extremely well with purpose-built molasses tanks.

Having the tank on a stand allows for easy addition of the molasses directly into the TMR Wagon. This approach allows easy accurate addition, with no need to handle the product.

Today, there is a wide range of molasses blends available to cattle farmers for use in a TMR ration, with products available to balance all types of rations. These products are free flowing even in colder weather and can be added quickly to the mixer.

Using molasses in a well-balanced TMR allows every part of the mix to become coated in molasses and research has shown this reduces feed sorting, leading to better performance.

ED&F Man can offer advice of tank location and orientation of pipe work to suit individual farms and help with the cost of a new tank by offering 2 years interest free credit

Robotic Milkers

It is now possible to feed a molasses blend via the liquid dosing system built into to most milking robots.

Robomol is specifically formulated to be free flowing while still being high in energy and sugar. Its use has been shown to increase robot visits which in turn drives milk yield. Compared to other options such as mono propylene glycol (MPG) which is around twice the price of Robomol.

How much molasses to feed to cattle?

Typically, on farm molasses-based feeds are fed at between 1 and 2kg per head, per day to adult cattle, with younger growing cattle fed proportionately less.

Recently published research has identified 1.4kg per head per day as the “sweet spot” inclusion level for dairy cows, allowing all of the key proven benefits of molasses to be achieved – including increased dry matter intake, improved fibre digestion and better milk quality in a cost-effective way.

Today, nutritionists target 6% sugar in a well-balanced diet and the only way to achieve this is to include at least 1kg of a molasses-based liquid feed.

How to mix molasses with feed

Without doubt, the best feeding results are achieved when the molasses is well mixed with the feed, either by allowing the top-dressed molasses to soak through big bales before feeding, mixing the molasses with home grown cereals in a mill and mixer or by adding to a well balanced TMR.

Research as shown smaller particles such as vitamin and mineral premixes are better retained in a ration when molasses is included and cattle are less likely to sort long fibre from the ration.

In summary

There are a large number of different molasses blends available from a number of manufacturers, it is therefore important to understand exactly what product is needed.

Like compound feed, products can look the same but have very different formulations and nutritional analysis. It is therefore vital to ask the supplier for a full nutritional breakdown specification.

ED&F Man ensure every delivery is sent with a formal feed declaration and as well as this we can provide more detailed information to allow effective rationing. Its important to remember that all molasses blends are not the same.

If you’d like to know more about how molasses can benefit your cattle or would like support around incorporating molasses into your feed, get in touch.