Undecorticated safflower meal can be used in ruminant rations as a protein source, as a replacement for soybean meal, cottonseed meal or linseed meal, if used on an isonitrogenous basis and if adequate energy is supplied (Kohler et al., 1965). When high levels of safflower meal are included in ruminant diets, lower performances have been observed (Walker, 2006).
Safflower meal is slightly bitter and less palatable than other common ingredients (Smith, 1996). However, its palatability is variable and it may be readily eaten by ruminants when mixed with other feeds (Göhl, 1982). Early trials in the 1950s and 1960s showed that sometimes it presented palatability problems with beef cattle but that dairy cows found it palatable (Smith, 1996). Safflower meal was palatable and well accepted when fed to rams (Sudhamayee et al., 2004).
Undecorticated safflower meal has a low in vivo digestibility in ruminants, but its in vitro digestibility value is equal to that of sunflower meal (Chandrasekharaiah et al., 2002). The in vivo OM digestibility was about 45% (calculated from Dixon et al., 2003a), with a ratio of 0.60 or 0.70 when compared to barley or linseed meal respectively. It provides less energy than soybean meal, sunflower meal, rapeseed meal and cotton meal, due of its high fibre content (Walker, 2006). The OM digestibility of decorticated safflower meal was found to be much higher (68%) (Goss et al., 1954).
Safflower meal is reported to have a highly degradable protein (Walli, 2005), though it is less degradable than that of groundnut meal (Sudhamayee et al., 2005). Only few values are given in the literature for protein degradability: it varied between 60%, with a ratio of 0.90 or 1.16 when compared to rapeseed meal or soybean meal respectively (Chandrasekharaiah et al., 2001), and 70%, with a ratio of 1.16 when compared to linseed meal (Dixon et al., 2003a). Safflower meal is a poorer source of protein than groundnut meal, due to its lower digestibility and lower nitrogen retention (Sudhamayee et al., 2004).
Past research has shown safflower meal to be a valuable ingredient for dairy cows, with no noticeable effect on flavour or odour of milk produced. It was a good substitute to linseed meal for instance (Smith, 1996). Adding 1 kg of safflower meal in the rations of dairy cows increased milk yield and milk fat and the substitution of 1 kg of concentrate by similar amount of safflower meal gave similar results (Juknevicius et al., 2005). With low-producing Friesian cows and buffaloes (less than 10 kg milk/d), 3.75 kg of safflower meal successfully replaced 3 kg of undecorticated cottonseed oil meal, and slightly increased milk fat content (El-Shinnawy et al., 1979).
Most of the research concerning the use of safflower meal in beef cattle was done in the USA before the 1960s. Steers fed expeller safflower meal or linseed meal had similar live-weight gains. Comparisons with soybean meal were satisfying only when safflower meal was fed at low amounts (Smith, 1996). In wheat silage rations for steers (285 kg BW), inclusion of safflower meal in compound feed at 18 and 35% in the diet had no adverse effect on feed intake and feed palatability, and resulted in an average daily gain of more than 1.4 kg/d (Voicu et al., 2009).
In young sheep rations based on low quality grass hay or cereal straw, supplementation with safflower meal gave higher live-weight gains and increased wool growth more than a barley/urea supplement (Dixon et al., 2003a; Dixon et al., 2003b). In hay-fed lambs (18 kg BW), adding 350 g/day of concentrate mix with 25% safflower meal resulted in an improvement of intake, digestibility, feed efficiency and body weight gain (Dessie et al., 2010).
Safflower seeds are less palatable than other common oilseeds. Whole safflower seeds can be fed to beef cattle without processing. Due to their fibre content, higher levels of safflower seeds in the diet can result in lower animal performance. The maximum inclusion rate for safflower seeds is 1.1 kg/cow/d (Walker, 2006).
The incorporation of safflower hulls in cattle rations lead to a reduction of feed efficiency because of their low digestibility, but growth is not impaired when adequate energy and protein are supplied by other sources. Safflower hulls are used to provide bulk in high grain rations for beef cattle (Kohler et al., 1965).