Estimated value of cranberries as a livestock feed

Current cranberry market conditions have made it difficult for growers to market any fruit over their federal marketing order allotment. In the past in states such as Wisconsin, excess fresh berries were buried near production areas and/or plowed into the soil. If excess berries could be fed to livestock, it would eliminate the need to dispose of the fruit and would help another agricultural industry.

Incorporation of fresh cranberries into ruminant diets could prove beneficial to both industries, thereby helping the economy on the southern Oregon coast. Fresh cranberries are an unusual feed since they are grown in only a few regions of the United States and would be available as a feed for a short period of time, approximately September through January.

The following table shows nutrient values of cranberries.

Nutrient Value USDA % as fed OSU lab % as fed Avg 100% dry basis
Moisture 87.9 86.7 0
Crude protein 0.4 0.4 3.1
Ache 0.2 0.2 1.5
Ether extract (fat) 0.7 1.7 9.2
Fiber 1.4 --- 10.7
Acid detergent fiber --- 2.1 16.1
Calcium 0.014 --- 0.1
Phosphorus 0.010 --- 0.075

Research on feeding cranberries to ruminants is limited. In Massachusetts, digestibility trials were conducted with sheep fed cranberry cake, a residue of juice production. They found that feeding more than 12.5% cranberry cake to sheep diets depresses digestibility. Total digestible nutrients (energy) were calculated at about 60%. U.S.D.A. tables indicate the energy content to be about the same as raw citrus fruit. California milk producers have fed 20 to 30 pounds of fresh citrus fruit per day successfully. However, the citrus is only fed in season with no preservation and is provided free to the feeders. While experience feeding cranberries is limited, it is unlikely that feeding 20 pounds of cranberries per day mixed in the forage portion of the diet or in a total mixed ration would result in feed refusal or off feed problems.

The Massachusetts group reported high palatability of whole berries for dairy cattle. A study in Wisconsin found that fresh cranberries added whole to high moisture ensiled ear corn, corn silage, or corn stalk silage made a highly acceptable feed for dairy animals one year and older in all stages of growth or lactation. Mixing the fresh cranberries with corn silage seemed to be the best and most convenient way to feed the excess cranberries. Fresh cranberries were shown to enhance the corn silage since they added water and some fermentable sugar that are both needed for higher quality. They found that fresh cranberries could be added at a rate of 30% to corn stalk silage and 20% to normal corn silage if harvested at approximately 60% moisture.

The high moisture content and time at which the cull cranberries are available are the major drawbacks to feeding the fruit. Producers harvesting silage corn may benefit, however, because of timing of harvest of both crops. If the berries were available in the summer or early fall, they could be mixed with grass hay to make acceptable silage for winter feeding. One part cranberries to two parts hay or straw would make 35% dry matter silage. When compared to other feeds available, such silage would have a feed value of about $18/ton laid in the silage pit. If straw were used at a cost of $30/ton delivered, there would be almost $20 worth of straw in the silage mix. Ensiling cranberries with straw or silage corn may be worthwhile. Unfortunately for cranberry growers, most livestock feeders are going to want the cull cranberries for very little or no cost. Feeding cranberries to animals may help growers faced with few choices of fruit disposal.


  • Larson, H.J., N.A. Jorgensen, and G.H. Tenpas. 1980. The effect of fresh whole and crushed cranberries and cranberry cake when added to whole plant corn silage, corn stalk silage and ground high moisture ear corn upon production of dairy animals. University of Wisconsin, Marshfield Agricultural Research Station, Marshfield, WI.
  • Lyford, S.J. 1976. Evaluation of cranberry pulp as a source of pesticide residue in milk and body tissue. 71st American Dairy Association Annual Meeting.
  • Planer, T.D. 2001. Personal Communication.

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