FG BUY&SELL        FARMERS WEATHER       ARABLE FARMING        DAIRY FARMER      FARMERS GUARDIAN        AGRIMONEY        OUR EVENTS        MEMBERSHIP BENEFITS        BLOGS        MORE FROM US
You are here: News > Insights
Search

You are viewing 1 of your 2 free articles

You’ll need to join us by becoming a member to gain more access.
Already a Member?

Login Join us now

Lucerne as a long-term alternative protein source

Insights

Increasing global demand for cereals and soya, coupled with future climate changes, means identifying long-term alternative protein sources will play an important role in reducing forthcoming feed costs.

Twitter Facebook

As Dr Debbie McConnell, DairyCo’s research and development manager, explains, lucerne could be one of these alternative protein sources and new DairyCo funded research has looked at developing optimum strategies for using lucerne in GB dairy systems.

Growing lucerne

Dr McConnell says lucerne, commonly known as alfalfa, is a high-protein nitrogen-fixing legume and the most widely grown forage crop in the world. “It is known for its drought-tolerant nature, due to its deep tap root and, as a result, the crop flourishes in lower rainfall areas with free draining, light soils.

 

“The main growing period in GB is from April to September and, under good management, yields can reach up to 10-15 tonnes per hectare per annum, with a typical crop being harvested four to five times each year,” says Dr McConnell.

 

In addition, due to its nitrogen-fixing capacity, lucerne does not require any inputs of N fertiliser, ensuring production costs can be comparable to those of grass silage.

 

Although there is an estimated potential of 600,000 hectares (1.5 million acres) of land in Britain which could support lucerne production, difficulties in establishing the crop mean little lucerne is used here, with only 20,000ha grown annually.

 

Once established, the crop typically persists for four to six years under correct management. However, if a poor establishment seen, it can be difficult to recover the crop as lucerne is auto-toxic and will not support overseeding.

 

Dr McConnell says: “As part of the DairyCo grassland, forage and soils research partnership, a number of DairyCo-funded trials are being started at Harper Adams University, SRUC and the University of Reading, to address issues with establishment and provide information on different strategies to ensure successful establishment.

 

“As part of a three-year programme of work, the researchers are investigating whether spring or autumn establishment is preferential for lucerne production.”

 

“In addition, one of the biggest challenges at establishment is weed infestation, so a cleanseed bed is key to successful establishment. Researchers are currently investigating how the presence of a cover-crop [such as spring barley] can reduce the weed burden.

Feeding

Lucerne can act as an excellent complement to maize silage and Dr McConnell says the crop, if harvested at the leafy stage, can contain more than 20 per cent protein. As a result, it can be an excellent protein source in dairy cow diets, although ME content of lucerne is typically lower than what is found in grass silage (9-11 ME). Normally, lucerne has a high level of rapidly digestible fibre and, similar to most legumes, a high buffering capacity in the rumen due to its mineral composition.

 

Dr McConnell says: “Studies in the United States have shown use of lucerne silage, compared with red clover, can result in an increase in dry matter intake, plus milk yield, fat and protein levels. However, there has been little research on the feeding value of lucerne.

 

“Researchers at SRUC and HAU have been investigating the optimum rate of inclusion in the diet of high yielding cows when combined with grass and maize silages and this winter they will also be conducting trials on the impact of lucerne silage chop length on animal performance and rumen health.”

Twitter Facebook
Rating (0 vote/s)
Post a Comment
To see comments and join in the conversation please log in.

More Insights

Livestock and vegetables are a good mix for Suffolk farm business

Dorset sheep, pigs and beef cattle play an integral part in the sustainability of intensive vegetable production for one farming enterprise in Suffolk. Jennifer McKenzie reports.

User story: Organic matter preservation drives drill choice

After several years of experimentation, one Northumberland farm has settled on a drilling regime which suites its soils and farming principals.

Handy Hints: Tackling weeds in grassland

Keeping on top of grassland weeds can be frustrating. Chloe Palmer seeks the best advice for minimising weed incidence and effective control.

User story: Weigh cells offer improved payload accuracy

When it comes to making the most of payload potential, one Northants contractor has opted for on-board weighing on his trailers.

New entrants hatch successful Happy Hen enterprise

First-generation farmers Alaistaire and Fiona Brice started their free-range egg business in 2003 with just 300 hens in a converted pig hut on rented land. Since then they’ve expanded their flock hugely and created a successful brand supplying 740,000 eggs a week to more than 600 retailers across the region. Clemmie Gleeson finds out more.
FG Insight and FGInsight.com are trademarks of Briefing Media Ltd.
Farmers Guardian and FarmersGuardian.com are trademarks of Farmers Guardian Ltd, a subsidiary of Briefing Media Ltd.
All material published on FGInsight.com and FarmersGuardian.com is copyrighted © 2016 by Briefing Media Limited. All rights reserved.
RSS news feeds