Rice as a Livestock Feed (DBIRD_NT) by lindahy


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                                                                         No. J22

                                                                         April 1998

                                                                         Agdex No: 121/10

                                                                         ISSN No: 0157-8243

Rice as a Livestock Feed
D. Ffoulkes, Animal Production Officer, Darwin


In Asia rice has been cultivated for many centuries as the staple feed for human consumption
and farmers value the by products of the rice mill as livestock feed. Furthermore, they often
keep a proportion of the grain harvest to supplement their buffaloes and cattle during pregnancy
and lactation or prior to the ploughing season. Rice straw is also fed as a basal diet to these

It is only relatively recently in Australia that rice millings have been incorporated into commercial
stockfeeds, particularly for horses. In the NT there is interest in retaining part of the crop as
supplementary feed for livestock on the farm as well as grazing the stubble during the dry


The proportions of byproducts arising from processing the grain for human consumption are
shown below. As there are no commercial processing plants in the NT we will only deal with the
nutritive value of rough rice and brown rice for livestock.

The chemical composition of rice grain
(with and without the husk) and rice straw
are presented as approximate values in
Table 1. The crude protein levels are not
high but the quality of the protein
components is good. On removal of the
husk the fibre content of the grain is
reduced. A large proportion of the
carbohydrate is in the form of starch and
there are significant amounts of fat (present
as oil) in the grain.

Rice straw retains reasonable levels of
protein and digestible dry matter should
reach 40-50% for cattle. There may
however be high oxalate levels in the straw

which binds calcium making it unavailable to the ruminant animal. Sulphur is also a critical
nutrient for cattle and the levels in straw will depend on soil characteristics and fertiliser

The comparison in Table 2 of rice with other cereal grains grown in the NT shows there is little
difference between chemical composition except for higher levels of the protein components
(amino acids).


Rice is high in energy and rich in vitamin B complex especially niacin (required for cell
metabolism) and vitamin E (antioxidant). It is also a good source of linoleic acid which is an
essential fatty acid required to maximise egg production. The oils in rice are unsaturated (ie.
have a lower melting point) and tend to form a softer fat tissue in animals if large amounts of
grain are fed. This may be overcome by reducing the level in the diet during the final weeks of
fattening. Rice hulls are of little nutritive value to livestock but are sometimes used to dilute high
energy diets.

Rations for growing and fattening pigs contain 50-70% grain as maize or sorghum or a mixture
of both, and any proportion of these cereals may be replaced by rice. However if more than 50%
of these cereals in pig and poultry rations is replaced by rough rice then feed efficiency is likely
to fall although growth rates may not be affected. In preparing rations, uncracked grains may be
fed to chickens but both the rough and dehusked grains should be finely ground for pigs.


The energy fraction of rice is easily digested by horses and can be fed according to the animal’s
exercise load. Animals which tend to exhibit a hot temperament on high energy rations appear
to be more manageable when fed rice. The high quality of the rice proteins means that they are
used efficiently for muscle growth, and the vitamins and oils give animals a characteristic lustre
and bloom that is associated with rice feeding.

Although rough rice is similar in energy content to oats, it is less palatable due to the presence
of the husk and should not be fed at more than 20% of the ration. Brown rice however can be
used to replace the traditional cereals in rations for feeding pregnant and lactating mares and as
a supplement for working horses. Both rough and brown rice should be cracked before feeding.


Farmers in Asia and Latin America
traditional feed 1-2 kg per day of rice to
their pregnant or lactating cattle, and in
India it is used as a grain source in home-
made molasses lick blocks for dairy

In the NT it is envisaged that a major use of
cereals as a livestock feed in the future will
be for finishing cattle or buffalo under semi-
confined or feedlot conditions. The results
of a feeding experiment done at Berrimah

Research Farm showed no differences in performance of animals fed 84% of the fattening
ration as either crushed sorghum, crushed rough rice or unprocessed brown rice whereas
growth rates and feed efficiency were distinctly poorer with uncrushed rough rice presumably
due to the indigestibility of the husk.

Feeding strategies based on the forage of the rice crop appear to be promising for finishing
cattle during the dry season.

Table 1. Approximate chemical composition (% as fed) of rice straw, rough rice grain and
dehusked grain

                             Straw             Grain Rough            Grain Brown                Husk
Protein                        5                     7                     8                       3
Fibre                         33                    10                     1                      40
Carbohydrate                  48                    78                     82                    Low
Fat                            1                     2                      1                     0.4
Ca                            0.4                  0.06                   0.04                          0.04
P                            0.15                  0.28                   0.38                   0.06
Na                           0.14                  0.05                     0                      -
S                            0.04                  0.04                   0.13                     -

Table 2. Comparison of Chemical composition (% as fed) of rice grain with sorghum and maize

                         Rice Rough             Rice Brown              Sorghum                 Maize
Protein                      7-9                    8-9                   9-11                  9-11
Methionine *                0.12                   0.21                   0.13                  0.18
Lysine *                    0.25                   0.31                   0.21                  0.25
Fibre                       8-11                    1-4                    1-3                   3-4
Carbohydrate                 78                     82                   68-74                   80
Fat                           2                      1                      3                    3-4
Ca                          0.06                   0.04                   0.04                  0.02
P                           0.28                   0.38                   0.30                  0.20
Na                          0.05                     -                    0.04                  0.03
S                           0.04                     -                      -                   0.10
* Amino acids of high nutritive value

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