despite slow start

1 May 1998

Encouraged by crop

despite slow start

PERFORMANCE of beef cattle fed a lupin-based ration is encouraging one Hereford producer to grow his own.

Chris Hill who farms 50ha (125 acres) at New House Farm, Ross-on-Wye, is one of 10 producers growing lupins in the Welsh Marches 5b-funded project. This project aims to reverse the decline in profitability of beef and sheep -often reliant on imported proteins – by encouraging use of home-grown protein crops.

Mr Hill is running a feeding trial where Belgian Blue cross beef cattle fed a lupin-based ration at 14% protein are achieving daily liveweight gains of 1.6kg. Cattle fed a 14% protein soya-based ration have achieved daily liveweight gains of 1.8kg.

Difference in liveweight gain between soya and lupin rations is offset by a £30/t difference in cost. The lupin ration costs £80/t – compared to £110/t for a soya ration – to give a MOPF of £120 a head. "By growing our own lupins that margin should improve," he suggests.

But growing lupins isnt as clear cut as the feeding them, says Mr Hill. Drilled in last week of September, lupins have proved susceptible to compaction. "Its particularly evident along wheelings and near to gateways."

The crops dormant status during autumn and winter is also of concern. "It seems very slow to get going in spring," he adds. But ADAS agronomist, John Spink, says thats not uncommon. Lupins need warm spring conditions to kicks-start new growth, he says.

Despite early concerns, Mr Hill is optimistic about the crop. "Lupins act as a break in the cereal rotation and will hopefully be much easier to combine than peas – especially in wet weather when peas hug the ground."

If lupins prove economic to grow, Mr Hill will be looking expand his acreage from the 2ha (5 acres) currently grown. "But more work must be done on the agronomy – especially for drilling dates – before Ill be convinced," he adds. &#42

Chris Hill:Remains to be convinced of the advance in lupin agronomy.

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