Copra meal is a valuable feed for ruminants and can be used as a protein supplement for grass-fed animals, either alone or in combination with other protein sources. While theoretically inferior to other common oil meals due to its lower protein content, it is often a better feed resource than other local products such as cocoa by-products or brewer’s grains (Aregheore et al., 2003). It is as effective as cottonseed meal for growth performance despite having half of the protein content, suggesting that the protein quality of copra meal has a higher biological value than that of cottonseed meal (Gulbransen et al., 1990).
Digestibility and energy values
In vivo OM digestibility of copra meal has been measured several times, particularly in studies comparing in vitro and in sacco the nutritive value of copra meal with other ingredients (Orskov et al., 1992; Chandrasekharaiah et al., 2001; Nguyen Nhut Xuan Dung et al., 2002; Woods et al., 2003a; Woods et al., 2003b; Carvalho et al., 2005; Chapoutot et al., 2010). Due to the low level of lignification of its cell walls, the NDF digestibility in copra meal is high, comparable to that of maize by-products and soybean hulls. As a consequence, in vivo OM digestibility of copra meal is good (75-85%) considering its relatively high NDF content (Woods et al., 1999; Sauvant et al., 2004; Aregheore et al., 2005). Higher values have been proposed for solvent-extracted meal than for expeller meal (85% vs. 79%, Schiemann, 1981). For the expeller meal, an OMD value of 76% (12.1 MJ/kg DM) has recently been proposed (Sauvant et al., 2004).
The fraction of rapidly fermentable N in the rumen of coconut meal is low, with values ranging from 19% (Sauvant et al., 2004), 20.1% (Kiran et al., 2007), to 22.4% (Mondal et al., 2008). Therefore, if transit is taken into account, the effective degradability of copra protein is fairly low, about 50% (Woods et al., 2003a; Woods et al., 2003b, Sauvant et al., 2004, Mondal et al., 2008). The intestinal digestibility of copra meal by-pass protein, about 90%, is rather high compared to other feed ingredients (Woods et al., 2003c; Sauvant et al., 2004; Carvalho et al., 2005; Pereira et al., 2010).
There are conflicting reports about palatability of copra meal. It was found to be very palatable and readily accepted by cattle (Gulbransen et al., 1990) but other authors observed that it decreased voluntary intake (Oliveira et al., 2010; Camacho Diaz et al., 2006). In one experiment with dairy cows, copra meal was not palatable initially and required about two weeks training to achieve satisfactory intakes, which then started to decrease (Ehrlich et al., 1990). The susceptibility of copra meal to rancidity after prolonged storage could cause such palatability issues, even when no obvious signs of rancidity are noticed (Oliveira et al., 2010; Ehrlich et al., 1990).
Copra meal is a useful ingredient of dairy rations, supplying both energy and by-pass protein. A daily feed allowance of 1.5-2 kg has been recommended as the maximum safe amount (Göhl, 1982), but cows have been fed more than 3 kg/d without adverse effects (Ehrlich et al., 1990). Copra meal has been shown to be a suitable supplement for cows grazing tropical pastures in Fiji, where adding 1.8 kg/day of copra meal to the diet increased milk production by 70% (McIntyre, 1973). Cows grazing Napier grass (Pennisetum purpureum) and copra meal, providing 300 g/d of protein, increased production by at least 1 kg/day (Muinga et al., 1993). Less impressive results have been obtained on richer pastures, but copra meal could still replace sorghum grain and increase the fat content of the milk (Ehrlich et al., 1990). Earlier research suggests that copra meal makes butterfat harder, lending it a pleasant flavour, but large quantities of copra meal may result in tallowy butter (Göhl, 1982).
Copra meal is a good supplement for grazing steers. Steers fed up to 1 kg/day of pelleted copra meal had a much higher growth rate than unsupplemented animals (0.41 vs. 0.11 kg/d) (Gulbransen et al., 1990). In growing steers grazing on giant stargrass (Cynodon plectostachyus), supplementation with copra meal gave higher growth rates than soybean meal (Ramos et al., 1998). Steers grazing Imperata cylindrica supplemented with copra meal, alone, or treated with molasses and urea, also had higher growth rates (Galgal et al., 2000). Average daily gains of 0.99 kg/day and diet intake of 3.2 kg/day were recorded on grazing buffaloes fed a supplement containing 70% copra meal. While these performances were satisfactory, they were lower than those obtained with a maize/soybean meal supplement and a 70% palm kernel meal supplement, possibly due to the lower palatability of copra meal (Oliveira et al., 2010). Copra meal at a daily rate of 500 g/head, and with rumen soluble nitrogen from urea, was found to be an effective supplement for improving growth of steers fed hay made from low quality forage (Hennessy et al., 1989).
Using copra meal in growing heifers resulted in decreased performance compared to a barley-soybean meal diet supplemented with copra oil. It was as efficient in reducing CH4 production as the control diet, but the environmental benefit was cancelled by a longer finishing time (Jordan et al., 2006).
Copra meal can be a suitable supplement for sheep and other ruminants consuming tropical pastures (Hammond et al., 1993; Galgal et al., 1994). Copra meal inclusion at 7.5% of the diet does not have negative effects on digestibility but decreases voluntary intake due to its poor palatability or other unknown effects (Camacho Diaz et al., 2006). Pelleted copra meal given to pregnant ewes increased birth weight of twin lambs, milk yield and ewe live weight after lambing (Bird et al., 1990).
Copra meal is often used as a protein supplement for grass-fed goats. Supplements containing up to 75% copra meal have been used successfully in goats fed Napier grass (Pennisetum purpureum) (Aregheore, 2006). Furthermore, supplementary diets consisting of 50% copra meal and 50% leucaena hay increased daily gain and diet digestibility (Mousoon et al., 1997). Copra meal could also be replaced by 75% of dried brewer’s grains (Aregheore et al., 2006).
Copra meal could replace up to 50% of soybean meal for goats fed corn silage, but 75% replacement reduced performance (Paengkoum, 2011).
Coconut waste from the extraction of fresh coconut flesh
The by-product of oil extraction from fresh coconut flesh is a good feed for ruminants and can be used fresh or dried. It provides an acceptable and very useful protein and energy supplement (Aregheore, 2005). Voluntary feed intake, live-weight gain and digestibility coefficients were mesured for goats receiving diets based on increasing levels of desiccated coconut waste meal. An optimal level of 38.5% replacement was found. This result is noteworthy because this material is available as a local feed source in the Pacific Islands (Aregheore et al., 2000).
Coconut orchards can be grazed when the leaves can no longer be reached by the grazing animals. It is often necessary to apply extra fertilizer to orchards that are being grazed as the coconut leaves tend to become yellow (Göhl, 1982).
Coconut water is sometimes fed to cattle in place of ordinary drinking water. At first it has purgative effect, but cattle soon become accustomed to it (Göhl, 1982).