Range Cattle Station
Mimeo Series RCS 68-8 May 1968
SUGARCANS BYPRODUCTS AND THEIR FEEDING VALUE FCR ;EEF CATTLE/
H. L. Chapman, Jr.2/
Sugarcane is grown around the world for the production of sugar. During
1967-68 an estimated 40,489,000 tons of raw cane sugar were produced, world-
wide with approximately 22,696,0002/ tons coming from North, Central, and
South America, including Puerto Rico and Hawaii. Production of sugar is
accompanied by the accumulation of a number of by-product materials,
including cane molasses, bagasse, filter cake and in some cases, sugarcane
tops. For example during 1966-67 there was 5.4 gallons of blackstrap
molasses produced for each ton of sugarcane cut in Florida, for.a total
of 39,570,000 gallons or 476,000,000 pounds of blackstrap molasses.A/
For every ton of sugarcane that is cut for sugar there will be 20 to 24%
fresh bagasse produced.
Many of the sugar-producing areas of the world also have considerable
numbers of beef cattle. Sugarcane, sugar and the by-products of sugar
production all are potential feeds for beef cattle. There are a number of
factors affecting the degree to which each one is used. For example,
molasses can be used for alcohol production, 'bagasse for fuel to run sugar
mills, filter cake for fertilizer, etc. Economics often control the extent
to which the various materials are used in beef cattle feeds. However,
factors are occurring today which will probably result in more of these
products being used for cattle feeds in the future. Improved sugar
I/ Presented at 1968 Beef Cattle Short Course, University of Florida.
SAnimal Nutririonist and Head, Range Cattle Experiment Station, Ona.
J/ U.S.D.A. Foreign Agricultural Circular. Sugar. FS 4-67. December 1967.
l/ Fla. Sugar League, Inc.
production practices, resulting in greater supplies of by-products, a
projected shortage of roughage material, increased use of liquid feed
supplements, the effect that the world-wide population explosion is having on
the use of land and other natural resources all are creating conditions
wherein these materials will be more widely used fo' feeding beef cattle.
The purpose of this paper is to present a summary of information about
the nutritional value of the various materials from sugarcane and their
utilization in cattle production programs.
Whole Sugarcane and Sugarcane Tops
The entire sugarcane plant can be fed to cattle either on pasture or
in drylot. It can be fed whole or chopped in pieces, fresh or ensiled, or
it can be grazed. Factors that affect"the extent to which"it will be used
for cattle feed include its location in relation to cattle, cost of equipment
and labor for harvesting and feeding the material, availability of other
forages or feeds and factors affecting the use of the sugarcane for sugar
Su3arcane tops. In many countries sugarcane tops are an important feed
for the workstock used in the harvesting of the cane. In Florida sugarcane
tops have not been as potentially important because of our harvesting
procedures which leaves the burnt top in the field.
Whole sugarcane. Sugarcane may be grazed or it may be cut and fed -
chopped or whole. It is high in sugar content and will yield a large
amount of total digestible nutrients (TDN) per acre. Chopped sugarcane was
used as a pasture supplement at the Everglades Experiment Station as long ago
as 1932. A later study demonstrated that the performance of beef cattle
was improved when cottonseed meal was included with chopped sugarcane.
In a 3-year wintering trial at the Main Station,. Gainesville, mature grade
cows fed cut shocked sugarcane remained in a thriftier condition than.did
those fed either sugarcane silage or grazing carpetgrass as a source of
roughage. More recent studies have demonstrated that the value of sugar-
cane as a supplemental feed will vary annually and also with the kind of
pasture grass. During other recent experiments yearling cattle were grazed
on Roselawn St. Augustinegrass, paragrass or bahia pastures, with and
without chopped sugarcane during the winter. No protein supplement was
included. The sugarcane was. very. palatable to the cattle but as previously
mentioned,the rate of consumption and changes in body weights of the steers
were affected by the type and amount of available forage. The, average weight
changes attributed to chopped sugarcane are summarized for three different
winters in Table 1. Benefit from sugarcane was greatest during the severest
winter and for cattle grazing paragrass.
Table 1. Average weight increase from feeding sugarcane during 3 different
Experiment Days on Kind of grass .
number feed Para St. Augustine Bahia
1 70 45.6*-1- .34.4*- 27.5.
2 84 39.4* -7.5 1.2
3 84 70.0" -1.2 1.9
Average 51.7* 8.5 15.3
Significant at 0.05 level of probability..
48- Significant at 0.01 level of probability.
4/ Sugar Journal 26:47. 1963
Commercial varieties of sugarcane grown in Florida do not have to be
chopped when fed to mature cattle. If fed whole, however, the degree of
utilization as compared to chopped cane may depend upon the size of cattle
and variety of cane. Also, if sugarcane:is to.be used as a pasture supplement
it may be more economical to mechanhic"aly harvest, chop and deliver the cut
material to the cattle than to use hand labor to feed the cane whole.
Sugarcane on the Sverglades Experiment Station has been handled this
way using a Lundell 606 forage harvester'with a row crop head. The feed roll
and spring loaded shields normally used for corn were removed in order to
furnish an..unobstructed pathway for the cane to enter the throat of the
harvester. All knives except one were removed from the cutting cylinder
and ,a counterweight added forbalance. A cylinder speed of 1170 to 1200 rpm
worked best. Lower speeds allowed the chopper spout to plug and higher
speeds chopped the cane finer than necessary and required more power.
A tractor rated at 50 to 60 PTO horsepower was required to properly operate
The varieties, C.P. 48-126, C.P. 57-475, and US 54-24-5 were used in
mechanical harvesting tests. Variety C.P. 48-126 was difficul'to harvest
mechanically due to its larger barrel, greater height and high yield. The
greatest problem was plugging of the gathering snouts of dried leaves that
formed a layer of material on the ground that'.he snouts coull.nbt penetrate.
This problem can be minimized by making two passes over a row at two cutting
heights or by burning. However, burning may result in more lodging, if
rodent damage is high,and more of the lodged cane will be missed by the snout.
Also cane should be fed as soon as possible after burning"as burnt cane will
spoil within several days. The palatability of sugarcane was not reduced
by burning. Plant crops were easier to harvest than ratoon crops.
Cattle readily graze standing sugarcane. The main problems are correct
management procedures during the grazing period as it is very easy to over-
graze sugarcane. Overgrazing is probably more detrimental to sugarcane than
to most other forage crops and must be avoided by controlled grazing. The
sugarcane should be grazed only once, for a short period each year. Several
blocks of sugarcane can be used in succession to secure longer periods of
grazing. It is also important that sugarcane fields be located a short
distance from the cattle that are to graze it.
Sugarcane has been successfully grazed by cattle on frozen pasture.
However, sugarcane varieties vary widely in their barrel size, sugar, .fiber
and protein content and other factors that might affect animal acceptance.
During a study of the Zve~glades Station seven selected varieties were'tested
for acceptability by cattle. The cattle showed a distinct preference.for the
C.P. 57-475 variety during.the first grazing season, when the sugarcane
plants were immature. However, during two other grazing seasons no variety
preference was noted among the seven varieties for mature ratoon crops.
If raised for forage the sugarcane variety that gives the greatest yield of
forage"and carbohydrates and that is best adapted to the local growing
conditions should be used. Commercial varieties that grow well may be
used for this purpose.
S-garcane silage. Cane can be fed to cattle for 30-60 days after being
frozen, but then it will become sour and unpalatable to cattle. The
chemical composition o' fresh sugarcane is not appreciably altered by
freezing (Table 2). Frozen cane can be preserved by ensiling if desired..
Much of the sugar is lost when cane is ensiled and experiments have
demonstrated that less weight gain is obtained from sugarcane ensilage
than from fresh sugarcane. Sugarcane silage has been estimated to be
approximately 70% the feeding value of Texas Seeded Ribbon cane sorghum
silage in steer fattening programs. A recent report from California
indicated sugarcane silage to have 73% the feed value of sorghum silage.
However, the digestibility of cane silage has been shown to be fairly good
except for protein and to contain 43.5 to 46.0% TDN. Ensiled sugarcane could
provide emergency supplies of feed. It should be remembered that sugarcane
should be supplemented with a source of protein when used as cattle feed
in order to assure optimum performance of the cattle.
Table 2. Chemical composition of mature sugarcane (%).5_6/
Dry matter 28.69 29.47
Crude protein 3.68 3.06
Ether extract 1.02 1.38
Crude. fiber 27.77 30.75
Ash 5.16 4.89
Nitrogen-fr ee-extract 62.37 59.22
j/ Oven-dried basis.
SFlorida Agr. Exp. Sta. Circ. S-117. 1959.
Excluding sugar, the three materials available from the sugarmill for
cattle feed is blackstrap molasses, bagasse, filter mud.
Blackstrap molasses. This is the by-product (or end product) of either raw
sugar manufacture or sugar refining. It is the heavy, viscous liquid
separated from the final low-grade- massecuite from which no further sugar
can be crystallized efficiently or economically.
The composition of blackstrap will be affected by-variety and maturity
of canes, climatic and soil conditions, and clarification techiic. Molasses
coming fromthe centrifuge varies from 850 to 920 Brix, '25 to 40% sucrose,
12 to 35% reducing sugar, 2.5 to 9.0% crude protein ard 7 to 15% ash.
In addition to the above -variations there is' also considerable lack
of uniformity in the way'the molasses is handled after leaving the centrifuge
and in grades and definitions of molasses. Care should be taken to define
the composition when discussing molasses or a molasses product. Blackstrap
molasses is often diluted with water to facilitate handling. This product
contains 79,50 Brix and isireferred to as cane feeding molasses or cane
molasses for feeding.
Blackstrap molasses has been used for the production of beverage
or industrial alcohol, certain organic chemicals, low grade yeasts and for
or in livestock feeds.
Considerable information is available concerning the use of blackstrap
in cattle fattening feeds. It is a good source of readily available energy,
will increase;.the palatability of feeds, will increase the activity of
cellulose-splitting microorganisms when fed at proper level, is a good
source of trace; minerals and unidentified growth factors, will reduce
dustiness in feeds, can be used as a binder in pellets, is a good carrier for
other;materials, and has been shown to have 75 to 85% the feed value of'corn
A number of studies have been conducted-in Florida concerning the value
for beef cattle of:blackstrap molasses produced'on organic soils. In an
early study at the Everglades Experiment Station cane molasses compared
favorably with ground snapped corn and citrus pulp when used as a supplement
for steers fattened on pasture. In a later study gains were slightly less
than from ground snapped corn and citrus pulp when fed to steers on pasture
at the rate of 6 pounds a day per head, but economic comparisons were
favorable due to relative feed costs. The relative value of molasses in
steer fattening programs on pasture will be affected by the quality of
available forage and also by the relative cost of feedstuffs. Drylot
feeding studies at the Range Cattle Station have demonstrated blackstrap
molasses to be comparable to citrus molasses when citrus pulp and either
of the molasses were fed at the same rate to fattening steers.
Filter mud. Also referred to as rotary filter cake or cachaza, this material
is a residue collected during the filtration of cane juice during
clarification. It consists mainly of a mixture of sugarcane, fibers, sucrose,
coagulated colloids, albuminoids and other insoluble solids. Its chemical
composition will vary with sugarcane variety, climate and type of soil upon
which the cane is grown. It is a soft, spongy, lightweight, dark-brown to
black material, usually containing 55 to 70% moisture when coming from the
mill. Usually it is discarded as waste material or sometimes used for
fertilizer. This material has also been processed for cattle feed by
fermenting it in ammoniacal gases, drying and adding molasses. / Results
of a study at the Everglades Station to evaluate this material, mixed with
two different levels of blackstrap molasses indicated the molasses-Molakane
Feed mixtures to be less effective than dried citrus pulp in steer fattening
rations. It is possible that further study may more clearly demonstrate
how this material might be profitably utilized in cattle feeds.
_/ ..Commercially referred to as Molakane Feed. ;
Bagasse. This is the fibrous residue remaining after the stalk has been
crushed and the juice pressed out. Sugarcane yields approximately 20 to 24%
bagasse per ton of fresh weight. The bagasse is approximately 50% moisture.
Variations in the amount of bagasse produced per ton of fresh cane are
related to environment and variety of cane.
Bagasse is widely used as fuel for factory boilers. It also has been
used for the production of low-grade paper, insulation board, plastics,
alpha-cellulose, chicken litter and cattle feeds. When used for the latter
purposes the bagasse is often screened into two or three fractions according
to particle size. Sometimes the bagasse pith is separated for use in
explosives, production of bone black and cattle feeds. In order for
bagasse to be utilized for other purposes however, it must either exceed.
its values fuel or must be available in greater quantities than needed
A series of.experiments were initiated in 1952 at the.Range Cattle
Station to evaluate bagasse for use in cattle feeds. Products studied
included whole bagasse, chicken litter, bagasse pith, camola (4 parts pith
and 10 parts cane molasses), ammoniated bagasse and a mixture of 25%
pith and 75% molasses. The chemical composition of these materials are
presented in Table 3. It was concluded from these earlier studies that
bagasse could be used for 70 days at 20 to 30% of the ration after which time
it should be partly replaced with ingredients containing more energy.
In a more recent study two fractions of bagasse, dehydrated chicken
litter and bagasse pith, were compared to ground corn cobs as a roughage
source for steers being fattened in drylot at the Everglades Station.
The roughages were included at 15% of the ration. Steers fed dehydrated
chicken litter gained faster, had a greater dressing percent and slightly
higher carcass grades than the other groups. There were no harmful effects
from any of the roughage materials.
Table 3. Chemical coirposition of bagasse products (%).
Whole Chicken Bagasse Ammoniated 75% pith
bagasse litter pith Camola bagasse 25% molasses
Dry matter 89.75 92.30 90.00 78.91 91.89 90.04
Crude protein 1.75 2.63 1.69 1.73 11.66 4.31
Crude fiber 35.88 41.38 28.82 '8.69 39.31 24.23
Ether extract 0.85 0.65 1.23 0.41 1.01 0.35
Ash 2.73 2.00 14.31 11.03 3.12 5.01
N.P.e. 48.54 45.67 '43.95 57.05 36.79 56.14
/ Fla. Agr. Exp. Sta. Bull. 641.
Dehydrated chicken litter and bagasse pith -serve as excellent carriers
for molasses and it is conceivable that this combination can be supplemented
with other nutrients to provide excellent cattle feeds. This may become
a factor in determining the economics of utilizing more bagasse in cattle
feeds as roughage feeding materials become scarce.
Sugarcane and molasses are excellent sources of energy, and bagasse
an excellent source of roughage. The extent to which they will-be used
S will probably continue to- be controlled by relative availability and
economics. However, sugarcane and the by-products of .sugar-milling
offer a potential supply of feeds for beef cattle production.
I 1i0O 2
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