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Case Study: Feeding sustainability into the supply chain – DAABON’s palm kernel expeller animal feed brings profitability to farmers


Do you give your dairy cows palm kernel expeller (PKE) animal feed?

 Our latest case study shows it can deliver real benefits in terms of sustainability and profitability.


By: Astrid Duque, DAABON UK Director

From a splash of milk in a cup of tea to freshly buttered bread and creamy cheeses, dairy plays an integral role in our day-to-day dietary requirements and wouldn’t exist without the millions of domestic cattle milked every day by the dairy industry.


Demand for this essential commodity has caused the dairy industry to experience an exponential growth over recent decades. This has led to concerns about its environmental impact, and it is currently under pressure to improve sustainability credentials and reduce its carbon footprint.


For dairy farmers, this means examining their current supply chain to see what changes can be made – and this includes switching to sustainable feed.


High-producing dairy cows, for example, will eat a remarkable 50 - 55kgs fresh weight or 15 - 20 kgs of dry matter (or 3% of their bodyweight) per day. Sourcing a sustainable yet effective feed is essential if the industry is to become more environmentally friendly whilst continuing to fulfil current demand levels without compromising the quality of the end product.

Happy Cows = Happy Dairy Farmers

A well-maintained cow will deliver good-quality results. Farmers can ensure that milk of a suitable standard is being produced by going straight to the source and making sure that their cows are healthy and happy.


We all know PKE is widely use in the ruminant sector, however DAABON headquarters’ NPD department led by Dr. Maria del Pilar Noriega is actively working to identify the value added of the existent feed materials and other potential blends.


“Our aim was to examine the milk’s butterfat content, as one of the primary markers of a cow’s health and overall wellness. A cow requires high-quality, well-balanced nutrition to produce milk and be profitable,” says Dr Noriega.

DAABON UK Part of the solution

DAABON is the main source of organic and sustainable PKE in the UK. We are FEMAS and RSPO IP accredited – ensuring full traceability of this feed material all the way back to the growing plantations in Santa Marta, Colombia.


As part of our research, in 2021 we partnered with Barrington Organic Partnership Ltd and Daykin Partnership to carry out an experiment using DAABON PKE as a straight feed alongside the compound option in ratio formulation.


“The aim of the study was to prove the hidden benefits of DAABON’s PKE, offering insight into how this commodity is practically and financially a better choice for dairy farmers looking to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability. The results were mind blowing,” says Astrid Duque, Managing Director of DAABON UK.



Barrington Farm – PKE Animal Feed

Barrington Organic Partnership Ltd founder, Andy King, is well known in the organic feed space for his nutritional and formulation expertise. Barrington has been using DAABON’s PKE in their 250 year-round calving heard since May 2021.

Barrington Farm was initially on a white-water contract regarding butterfat, but in May 2020 moved to a contract that not only had a minimum specification for fat, but also was paid more for higher fat levels.

Whilst the farm produced an average annual butterfat level of 4%, there were several months in the summer where fat levels were low and sometimes near the milk contract minimum.


The farm’s recent butterfat levels for the summer months and annual averages are seen below, where levels drop off in May about six weeks after turnout. Despite heavy buffer feeding with silage from July, the levels do not usually rise until September.

% of butterfat levels results in recent years’ summer


Year Average








































Barrington Farm – Results

The daily butterfat levels over the summer period for the last two years are seen below. These are shown in relation to the contract target and contract minimum from May to July.


“My approach is always to look at the wellbeing of the cow and the farmer reward, understandably PKE had a role to play in the dairy nutritional plan, however based on my studies, I anticipated this raw material was underestimated and that perhaps it required an approach on to farm where farmers are not necessarily used to it” says Andy King. 

“The purpose of the experiment was to look into a different use of PKE and to compare against historical data, the results have been encouraging” says King.


In 2020 cows were turned out in early April and it was decided to feed 1.5kg of lucerne pellets added to the outside blend of 2kg 16% protein meal and silage from early May. When this failed to stop the butterfat decline 400g / day of organic protected fat (no longer allowed) was fed from late June. Whilst this did increase butterfat above the minimum level, overall fat levels were still low.


In 2021 cows were turned out again in early April but depleted silage stocks ensured only 5kg of round bale silage was fed as a forage buffer. A maximum of 2.5 kg was fed as a concentrate with 1kg coming from straight palm kernel and 1.5kg coming from the 16% protein blend. The diet was fed from 2 weeks after turnout (mid-April).



In 2020 milk fat declined from early May and stayed at the low level until late July. In 2021 there was no milk fat decline until late May. Butterfat levels in 2021 remained significantly higher than in 2020. This was especially evident in the trough of June and July.


Monthly Butterfat % difference from 2021 to 2020















Economic value of increased Butterfat

Milk pricing changes on a frequent basis and is multifactorial. Using the monthly pricing mechanism for butterfat in place in 2020, the following differentials are seen when comparing 2021 monthly butterfat values.


Monthly Butterfat ppl difference from 2021 to 2020














“I believe a combination of practical rationing and feed modelling is needed to get the best from the product and to understand its limitations. Ultimately the ultra-mix rationing programme used in conjunction with nutritional experience has delivered these results and met farmer needs,” says King.


Adds King: “This year’s approach has been to look at its use as a straight on three other farms. These have had broadly the same requirements concerning milk quality and have demonstrated similar results.”