Home-grown lupins are
competing against soya in a
bid to oust imported proteins
and improve traceability in
the Welsh Marches 5b area.
Simon Wragg reports
BEEF cattle fed a ration containing home-grown lupins are achieving a similar margin over feed of 41p/kg, and weight gain and feed conversion performance as cattle fed on imported soyabean meal at ADAS Rosemaund.
Head of livestock, Mervyn Davies, believes lupins are a viable protein crop now that better varieties are available which are also easier to grow.
"Older varieties had high alkaloid contents of about 3%. As a toxin it is poisonous and so restricts lupin inclusion into feeds," says Mr Davies. But newer varieties, with alkaloid levels of about 0.05%, have overcome this and inclusion rates over 15% are common, explains Mr Davies.
To establish the potential of lupins as a traceable and potentially cheap protein source, 10 producers are each growing up to 2ha (5 acres) as part of a trial funded with EU 5b cash.
Although lupins at about £100/t are cheaper than soya at a market price of £140/t, they have a lower protein value on a dry matter basis, 35% versus 50%, and are, therefore, comparable. "Lupins are as cheap as soya where its market price is no greater than about two-thirds that of soya.
"And many producers could grow lupins for a lower cost than the market value. Up to half the country could grow them."
According to ADAS agronomist John Spink, lupins suit arable rotations including crops such as potatoes. "Lupins like acid soils, typically below pH7, can be used as a break crop and attract full area aid."
He suggests lupin plants can be grown using a conventional drill from early to mid-September at a seed rate of 40/m sq (4/ft sq).
"Lupin seed must be treated with a rhizobium inoculant to encourage nitrogen fixing. After sowing, the crop requires only maintenance dressings of P and K."
Pest and diseases include bean seed fly and aphids, rust and powdery mildew. Seed-beds should be treated with a pre-emergence herbicide for broad-leaved and grass weeds.
New varieties have overcome the problem of lodging and are harvested in late August/early September. Yields vary from 2.5-4.0t/ha (1-1.6t/acre).
Institute of Arable Crops Research, Rothamsted, figures show lupins have a gross margin of £515/ha. This assumes a yield of 4t/ha (1.6t/acre) with a market value of £100/t for a 38% protein crop, and including full area aid.
"The potential is there for lupins to provide a fully traceable protein feed for beef and sheep," says Mr Davies. He believes traceability could be a strong selling point given retailers concerns about imported proteins which may be contaminated with genetically modified material.
Feeding trials at ADAS Rosemaund are seeing Simmental x Holstein Friesian bulls fed lupins achieve daily liveweight gains of over 2kg and feed conversion efficiencies of 5.1, both close to those for cattle fed a soya-based ration.
Mr Davies hopes the success of the lupin trials will encourage more producers to grow them.
Another 10 producers are expected to join the EU-funded trial this year, with several conducting on-farm trials feeding lupins to livestock and monitoring performance.
• Still cheaper than imported soya.
• Low alkaloid increases inclusion.
• Equivalent feeding performance to soya.
• Need more agronomic research.
Trials at ADAS Rosemaund using Simmental cross bulls are fed lupins seeing weight gains of over 2kg a head a day – close to cattle fed soya.
New lupins varieties make home-grown protein crop a more viable alternative to imported feed.
Mervyn Davies, head of livestock at ADAS Rosemaund: "Up to half of UK producers could grow lupins."