Flaxseed has been used as a livestock feed or feed ingredient for several thousand years in Europe, Asia and Africa and much more recently in Canada and the U.S.
Linseed meal or linseed cake is a by-product of the industrial processing of flax in which the linseed oil is extracted. It is considered a premium protein feed, especially for ruminants. It is utilized in some dairy cow rations and can be a component of beef cow, calf, hog, sheep, goat and horse diets.
Recent interest in omega – 3 fatty acid depositions in protein products has created attention to the utilization of flaxseed in a variety of livestock diets. Poultry, beef, pork, milk and milk products and eggs can all have modified omega-3 fatty acid levels through the addition of flax in any of its various forms to the diet.
This enhanced diet is also reported to have a beneficial impact on the animal’s overall health. Specific benefits such as improved coats and hoof condition, decreased illness (such as shipping fever in beef calves) and stronger conception and reproductive rates have been reported.
Research is on-going to determine the optimum form and amount of flaxseed that could comprise a portion of the ration in a wide diversity of animals and/or fish. Those interested in creating a formulation are encouraged to contact a university or feed specialist.