Eco-Friendly and Efficient: How Coconuts Are Changing the Game in Animal Feed

February 9, 2024

Coconuts are not just a tropical treat; they serve as a vital resource for millions worldwide, offering food, job opportunities, and business prospects. Renowned for their nutritional richness, they are often dubbed a ‘wonder fruit’, contributing significantly to human health.

In addition to its culinary uses, coconut is a versatile ingredient in various commercial products, including desiccated coconut, coconut oil, coconut milk, raw kernels, and coconut water. These products yield valuable by-products like coconut cake or flour, prized for their high fibre and protein content, particularly glutelin.

Amid escalating prices for traditional animal feed ingredients, Professor Dr Goh Khang Wen of INTI International University’s Faculty of Data Science and Information Technology (FDSIT), together with a Malaysian research team, embarked on a study named ‘Coconut Palm: Food, Feed, and Nutraceutical Properties’. This research aimed to uncover the potential of coconuts within the animal feed industry.

Professor Dr Goh Khang Wen from INTI International University’s Faculty of Data Science and Information Technology (FDSIT) and a team of researchers have found that adding coconut to animal feed reduces costs and offers significant benefits, including improved digestion, growth, and health. This discovery holds great promise for the animal feed industry.

Including coconut in animal, diets promise reduced feed costs and boast considerable benefits such as improved digestion, growth, lipid metabolism, and antioxidative activities. Despite its promising attributes, the journey is not devoid of hurdles, notably the anti-nutritional substances found in coconuts. However, pioneering pre-treatment techniques for coconuts are seen as a beacon of hope in overcoming these obstacles and enhancing the efficacy of coconut-based products.

Prof. Dr Goh stated, “Numerous studies have explored the potential use of agricultural by-products, including coconut palm, in aquaculture. Such insights are crucial for tackling the significant challenge of feed costs, which account for roughly 70% of the total feed production costs. There is an urgent need to identify affordable, locally sourced, eco-friendly feed alternatives.”

The integration of coconut oil in cow diets has significantly reduced methane gas emissions by 18-30% and decreased daily feed consumption by as much as 4.2kg. In fish farming, coconut palm enhances digestion, accelerates growth, and improves the overall health of the fish. However, its infrequent application in poultry feed is attributed to high cellulose, galactomannan, and mannan, which can impede chicken digestion.

The significance and potential of coconut as an alternative feed ingredient across various livestock sectors stem from its abundance of nutrients and functional qualities, leading to reduced feed costs and increased production. Yet, addressing the presence of anti-nutritional substances in coconut presents an opportunity for research in technological innovation, such as coconut pre-treatment. These advancements aim to mitigate the effects of anti-nutritional substances while improving the nutritional profiles of coconut-based products.

Prof. Dr Goh highlights the importance of leveraging various parts of the coconut in animal feed, citing the fruit’s antioxidant, antibacterial, medicinal, and immunomodulatory properties as key factors in boosting animal health and nutrition. He added, “Including coconut in animal feed reduces costs and benefits digestion, growth, and health through improved lipid metabolism and antioxidative responses, demonstrating the potential in the animal feed sector.”

It is crucial to optimise the processing, extraction, and treatment of coconuts to mitigate negative factors and enhance the functional properties of coconut products. There is a need for further research to refine the integration of coconut products into animal diets, which will ultimately improve the quality of animal products.