Molasses in poultry diets – an unusual ingredient with potential

Animal Nutrition Views

Ioannis Mavromichalis, Ph.D., gives his views on poultry, pig and dairy nutrition based on his experience as a nutrition consultant with clients around the world.

Molasses is used in diets for ruminants and
less so for pigs, but when quantities and price are favorable it is often
considered as an ingredient for poultry diets.


Molasses is a well-known by-product of the
table sugar industry, and it can originate from sugar beets or cane. It is a
viscous, semi-liquid ingredient that requires heating during cold times or its
high viscosity will not allow it to circulate easily from storage tanks to the
feed mixer.


Some nutritionists consider molasses an
appetizer (it contains about 50 percent sucrose) but this is probably not the
case with poultry, where taste perception is influenced more by texture. Nevertheless,
adding 2 percent molasses in any poultry feed can enhance pelleting quality,
reduce feed intake and perhaps reduce feed cost, albeit only slightly. If feed
intake is indeed enhanced, this is considered a beneficial but not required
effect in order to consider molasses in poultry feed formulation.


Adding more than 2 percent molasses can be
achieved and most typical feed formulas can “absorb” up to 6 percent molasses
without problems. But, as molasses is quite rich in potassium, this may
increase water intake (it depends on overall formula electrolyte balance) and
lead to wet-litter associated problems.


It should be kept in mind that the protein
quality in molasses is rather low as not all nitrogen present (used to
determine crude protein) is actually bound into proteins. Usually, a moderate
level of 4 percent is preferred for the above reasons, assuming overall
molasses quality is acceptable.