Protein crop cash-savers

21 August 1998

Protein crop cash-savers

This years National Forage

Maize Day probably

incorporates the biggest

range of protein crops on

one site. Jessica Buss looks

at whats on offer

HOME-GROWN protein crops could help producers balance maize rations, and more importantly, reduce reliance on imported proteins, which can often be expensive.

The need to reduce costs and improve feed traceability has encouraged researchers and producers to look at the potential of home-grown protein feeds, many of which will be on display at CEDAR. A bi-cropping demonstration of maize and sunflowers, and maize and kale will also feature.


The aim of a bi-crop is to produce a mixed forage which is higher in protein than maize grown alone, using crops which can be harvested at the same time.

At CEDAR, maize and dwarf sunflowers have been drilled in alternate rows. However, maize and kale have been drilled in alternate blocks, with the intention of harvesting across the plot, mixing maize and kale in the forager and so producing a mixed silage.

Animal intake and digestibility results from bi-crops made at CEDAR last year will be revealed at the event.


Soya forms a large proportion of imported protein coming into the UK. Mature beans are high in crude protein, 40-55% depending on treatment, with a good proportion of quality protein and high energy content.

The crop has had limited success in the UK because it doesnt reach maturity early enough. However new, earlier-maturing varieties and the option of whole-cropping soya for forage give the crop renewed potential for UK production. Variety trial plots will be on display (see p51).


A wide range of sunflower types are available and many will be on display at the event. Sunflower seeds typically have a crude protein content of 17.4%, which is mostly rumen degradable.

Sunflowers grow well on many soil types, except heavy, wet soils, and need little nitrogen. Unfortunately birds and rabbits find them tasty, which has caused some difficulties with establishment at CEDAR.


A high oil content means linseed is not recommended for feeding whole, and grain needs careful storage which is not found on many livestock farms. Linseed is usually about 24% crude protein.


Lupins are about 40% crude protein, which is low in degradability, making it a possible substitute for soya. However stock find lupins unpalatable and they are high in oil, so feed rates are limited.

Forage peas

Peas grown for forage can produce a crop of about 19% crude protein which is mainly degradeable. It is important to avoid contamination of silage at harvest.

Pea and bean plots on the National Forage Maize Day site were attacked by birds and rabbits and some had to be re-drilled in late June.

Winter beans

Beans are easy to manage and grow well on wet, heavy land. They can produce a crop of about 27% crude protein, with a high rumen degradable protein content.

Forage legumes

Legumes – which fix nitrogen – such as sainfoin, vetches and lucerne could have potential to produce hay or silage of 19-21% crude protein. There is currently little ongoing research into these low input crops in the UK, but a range of forage legumes will be displayed at the event.

&#8226 Compiled with reference to the Home Grown Proteins for Animal Feeds report from MAFF, Scottish Office, MLC and MDC.


Listen to Julian Park (bi-cropping) at 10am, 11am, noon, 2pm, and 3pm; Geoffrey Gent (peas and beans) at 11am, noon, 2pm, 3pm, and 4pm; and Simon Broddle (soya) at 11am, noon, 2pm, 3pm, and 4pm.

Protein crops and varieties

Crop Variety Company

Soya Armour Nickerson

Major Nickerson

Montir Pioneer

Fefkiv Pioneer

Casimir Pioneer

Sunflower Corsun G & B

Mainline Sharpes


San Luca





Winter Oliver Semundo

Spring Jupiter Semundo

Spring G & B


peas G & B


beans Tick Sharpes

Tick G & B

Horse G & B

Lupins Winter G & B

Spring G & B



rape Aries Semundo


Sainfoin Sharpes

Vetches Sharpes

Runners Enorma

Spring wheat

Navy beans


See more