The nutritive value of date seeds has been quite extensively studied due to their widespread availability in the countries where date production is important. It should be noted that most of the research concerning the utilization of date pits in ruminants is relatively old, not readily accessible and, therefore, difficult to assess. The renewed interest in these products is already resulting in new research work and this datasheet will be updated once enough contemporary literature becomes available.
Ground date seeds can be used up to 75% of the diet of ruminants provided that a good protein supplement (such as cottonseed cake) or urea is added. They are also useful to balance a diet that is too rich in protein, such as young pasture (Al-Wash et al., 1982). The crude protein and crude fat of date seeds are low but not negligible, and the seeds need to be processed so that the hard seed coat is no longer an obstacle to their digestion (See Processes above) (Barreveld, 1993).
The nutritive values of date seeds reported in the literature are variable, with in vivo DM digestibility in sheep ranging from 58% to 70% (El Shazly et al., 1963; Al-Yousef et al., 1993). Organic matter digestibility values higher than 80% have been reported (Richter et al., 1956; Al-Kinani et al., 1975 cited by Al-Wash et al., 1982). In vitro DM digestibility using the rumen fluids of goats, sheep and dromedaries were found to be much lower for dromedaries and sheep (30-35%) than for goats (52-60%) (Genin et al., 2004). Protein digestibility was generally low (less than 40%) or not measurable (Al-Yousef et al., 1993; Al-Wash et al., 1982; El Shazly et al., 1963). Date pits have a higher value than leaves and pedicels (Al-Yousef et al., 1993).
In 2011, there was no recent research on the use of date pits in cattle feeding, even though such utilization is attested to in the literature for dairy and beef cattle (Al-Wash et al., 1982). The daily gain of calves was not affected when the percentage of date pits in the diet increased from 30 to 60% in a concentrate mixture of wheat bran, barley and sesame meal (Farhan et al., 1969 cited by Al-Wash et al., 1982).
The optimal level of date pits in sheep diets is disputed, probably due to the large variety of experimental protocols used by researchers. In a fattening trial where lambs were given 0 to 75% date pits, the largest gain was obtained at the 75% level (with 25% alfalfa hay) (Al-Kinani et al., 1975 cited by Al-Wash et al., 1982). Another trial found that daily gain and carcass traits were improved when 50% crushed date pits were supplemented with urea and incorporated in a mixture containing alfalfa, a concentrate and molasses (Younis et al., 1981 cited by Al-Wash et al., 1982). An inclusion rate of 30% date pits gave the largest weight gain in sheep fed Atriplex halimus hay and a concentrate. The isonitrogenous replacement of barley grain by ground date pits, included at up 45% in the diet had no effect on total feed intake and in vivo DM digestibility despite a high increase in the NDF and ADF content of the diet. Fibre digestibility increased with the inclusion of date pits, which suggests that fibre digestibility of date pits was higher than that of barley grain. Feeding date pits may reduce the occurrence of acidosis more effectively than barley (Al-Owaimer et al., 2011).
Raw date pits are an excellent slow release energy feed for camels during long desert journeys (Barreveld, 1993).