This post is part of Farmeron Lessons, series of posts dedicated to spreading knowledge of farmers from all over the world. It’s written by our associates and Farmeron’s users.
For a cattle or dairy producer, it’s often very hard to determine the optimal structure of livestock feeding. When faced with periods of underperforming results, farmers are forced to look out of their typical set of feeding components. And there is one interesting plant we suggest you add to your daily livestock feeding routines right away: nettle.
Nettle contains high levels of vitamins A, C and D, as well as different minerals: iron, calcium, magnesium, followed by phosphorus, sodium, potassium and silicic acid. Furthermore, substances like tritarpenns, phytosterols, flavonoids, niacin and thiamine, significant amounts of chlorophyll and vitamin B6 are very effective substances of nettle. Nettle’s burning substance (contained in the hair) is consisted of biogenic amines like histamine, serotonin, and choline.
Nettle’s root contains steroids, phenylpropan, rare lignans, coumarin scopoletin, a number of amino acids, and polysaccharides or glycoproteins that bind to carbohydrates on the cell surface. The plant contains about 21-23% crude protein, 9-21% crude fiber and 37% of non-nitrogen extracts. It has been proven that plants which grow in shady areas contain more carotene.
As a livestock feeding ingredient, nettle’s quality is exceptional. Nettle herb contains 4% of proteins and fibers, 50 micrograms / gram of carotene, 4 micrograms / gram of riboflavin, and 10 micrograms / gram of vitamin E. Studies have shown that the addition of nettles in poultry feeding can increase protein intake by 15-20% and vitamin intake by 60-70%, while reducing the need for green food of 30%.
In average humidity conditions nettle contains 8.3% of proteins, 27.2% of mineral matter and 7% of fat. It also contains selenium, zinc, magnesium, boron, sodium, iodine, sulfur, chromium and copper, 16 forms of free amino acids and high levels of silicon. Amino acids in dried minced nettle are far more nutritious than in minced clover!
The composition of the entire stem and leaves of nettle is as follows:
Nettle, which has long been considered to be not useful for livestock, has proven to be very nutritious after all. When mowed and dried out in the right way, and added to hay or silage, production results are definitely improving. After eating the hay with nettle, cows show a significant increase in milk production and increase in milk fat – up to 15-20 %. Dryish nettle contains 25-40% of proteins in dry matter, which is a lot to be given to your animals as a separate meal. Because of that, it is regularly added as a feeding supplement with silage or hay. There are certain claims which state that nettle improves cow’s resistance to diseases, and increases the animal’s weight and overall health.
Nettle actually contains more proteins than any other green plant, and is one of the richest plant by the iron contents. One should always avoid giving fresh nettle to animals, as well as adding fresh nettle to silage – plant’s fermentation creates very large amount of toxic nitrates.
In general, seed of nettle isn’t very easy to obtain. In case you need small quantities, we recommend an effort to reap the wild nettles, dry and use them to save the seed for future planting. Nettle is extremely convenient for growing because it requires almost no agro-technical operations (it’s a weed itself, a perennial plant, very resistant one).
Keep in mind that nutritional values of animal feeding are measured by its productivity (fulfilling the metabolic needs of animal’s organism, and giving the optimal amount of net energy for lactation), and not by it’s price. Also, we recommend that you perform regular analysis of animal feeding components – analyze the ones you produced but also bought components as well. If you are a dairy farmer, it is very important to be aware of the nutritional composition of animal feeding – and its utilization in the metabolism of animals, as well as the nutritional needs of the organism to produce a kilogram of milk (which is why there are different nutritional groups with their specific characteristics).
Written by Ana Herman, Farmeron’s Chief Product Strategist