Azolla Benefits For Animals: Nutritional Content And Potential As A Livestock Feed - May 2023

Azolla Benefits For Animals: Nutritional content and potential as a livestock feed

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By Samuel Ansah

Last Updated March 22, 2023

If you are here to find answers to Azolla benefits for animals then this post will serve you with the right answers you are looking for. A colleague and I had challenges in feeding our chickens, so, we took it on to find alternative feeding strategies to sustain the chicken and the solution was to feed them with the Azolla plant.

What is the Azolla plant? The Azolla plant is an aquatic fern of the Azollacea plant family which grows in marshes, freshwater lakes, and ditches, it is considered an invasive plant and also has the potential to change aquatic habitats and biodiversity.

Out of our research, we discovered that the Azolla plant is not limited to feeding chickens only, you can feed cattle, fish, and pigs with the Azolla plant.

Azolla Benefits For Animals

What are the benefits of Azolla for animals? Azolla plant has proven to increase feed efficiency, promote animal growth, and increase milk and production because it is easily digested and contains rich nutrients for the well-being of farm animals.

Are there nutrients in Azolla? Azolla is high in protein and provides numerous critical benefits to livestock and poultry when used in or as feed. Azolla has a high amino acid and vitamin (A, B12, Beta Carotene) content. It is also low in lignin. As a result, animals digest it quickly.

Can Azolla be used as a feed? Azolla is a potential animal feed because of its fast rate of growth in water without the need to replace current crops or natural ecological systems making it a cheap source of animal feed. It takes 2 to 3 weeks to harvest after stalling the Azolla culture in the pond.

Though this plant can be fed to animals in both dried and wet forms, it is best to dry it when cultivating because it is extremely degradable in wet form. Azolla has been found to be a less expensive and organic source of substitute for animal feed. 

What are the essential nutrients in Azolla and how do they contribute to livestock nutrition?

Protein, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids are in excess in Azolla. Protein, a component in Azolla, helps animals build worn-out tissue and regenerate tissues. The Azolla plant contains vitamins A, B12, and beta carotene. These vitamins are necessary for regular physiological processes such as growth, body development, and reproduction, as well as livestock animals’ well-being and general health.

The minerals in Azolla are beneficial to livestock nutrition because they support growth, development, productivity, immunological function, and reproductive growth. They are also required for the proper functioning of various enzymatic reactions in livestock animals.

Is Azolla a good source of protein for livestock?

Azolla is a good source of protein for livestock, because of its ability to synthesize amino acids from a wide range of readily available raw materials, azolla has the most plentiful potential source of proteins. On a dry weight basis, it contains 20-25% protein.

How does Azolla compare to other traditional feed sources in terms of nutrient density?

There isn’t much of a difference between the Azolla plant and other traditional feed sources but the protein content of Azolla is comparable to or higher (19-30%) than most traditional feed sources. 

Can Azolla be used as a sole source of feed for livestock, or does it need to be supplemented with other feed?

Azolla must be supplemented with commercial feed for livestock to get familiar with the taste of the plant for a while. Azolla can also be used as an alternative nutrient supplement for livestock to boost output in terms of growth, milk, meat, and so on with great economic efficiency. Because it contains critical nutrients and may be fed dry or wet, the plant can be utilized as a sole source of feed for livestock.

How does the nutritional value of Azolla change as it grows, and does it vary based on growing conditions?

Azolla survives and multiplies, but with varying growth rates depending on the availability and content of nutrients and minerals in the various growing conditions. Azolla has been shown to contain trace amounts of anti-nutritional elements such as cyanide, tannin, and phytic acid, which can reduce the nutritional value of the plant when utilized as a feed source. The nutritional value of the plant varies depending on the growing medium. 

Azolla Benefits For Animals
Azolla plant growing in a pond

What is the optimal growth and harvest stage for Azolla to maximize its nutritional value for livestock?

The plant requires sunlight for photosynthesis and grows well in moderate shade. Azolla, in general, needs 25 to 50% full sunshine for normal growth. Water is essential for Azolla’s development and proliferation. Under ideal conditions, Azolla will reach maturity in two to three weeks. It can be harvested daily after full growth to avoid overcrowding. Azolla is an excellent feed for livestock. If grown properly, you can collect high-quality weed every day, lowering your feed costs while increasing the nutritious value of your livestock feed.

Are there any concerns or limitations with using Azolla as a feed source for livestock?

The taste of the Azolla plant takes some time for livestock to become used to. As a result, when first using this plant as a feed source, it should be blended with commercial feed in a 1:1 ratio to neutralize the flavor. After a while of feeding your livestock concentrate feed in addition to Azolla, you can provide them Azolla alone. Azolla cannot tolerate drying. So, still water or a pond is always required. However, due to environmental constraints such as extremely high or low temperatures, low humidity, limited water availability, and poor water quality, growing the Azolla plant to be used as a source of livestock feed becomes a significant limitation. 

What is the cost-effectiveness of using Azolla in comparison to other feed sources?

Unlike other feed sources, Azolla proliferates at a high rate in natural ponds and, if necessary, for large supply, can be grown at a very low cost. Azolla can be grown or found in ditches, ponds, and wetlands of warm temperate and tropical regions, therefore it is cost-effective to cultivate and be used as a source of feed as compared to other feed sources.

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