2 April 1999

Clover & lupins best for home grown protein

RED clover and lupins are the best options for UK livestock producers wishing to grow their own protein on farm.

IGERs Roger Wilkins said that red clover grew well in moderately acid soils with impeded drainage, producing high yields where lucerne would not grow. It also resulted in higher animal intakes and greater protein nitrogen retention than lucerne.

"Red clover suffers less true protein breakdown when ensiled than other forages."

In red clover silage, 60% of the protein is preserved compared with about 40% for other legumes and grasses. "The likelihood is that this extra protein will be used efficiently in the animals rumen," said Prof Wilkins

The main concern with red clover is that crop yields fall in the second year and are poor in a third season. But Prof Wilkins hopes that breeding will help improve persistence. Bloat is a concern when red clover is grazed, but is rare with silage.

Lupins offer potential for producing a grain crop at about 31% crude protein. "Most livestock areas are well suited to lupin growing," he said.

"Its by-pass level is similar to soya and better than rapeseed. But we do not know enough about it."