by Dr William Stiles, Farming Connect Knowledge Exchange Hub, IBERS, Aberystwyth University
DEVELOPING alternative sources of home‐grown protein for livestock feed is currently of considerable importance to increase UK food security and reduce vulnerabilities from potentially volatile international supply chains. In recent years the value of imported high protein livestock feed such as Soybean meal (SBM) has increased significantly due to growing demand from developing countries, resulting in increased cost to UK businesses. In addition, SBM production is a concern due to its sizeable environmental impact. A recent multi‐partner industry led research project involving IBERS, Aberystwyth University ‐ LUKAA project ‐ investigated the potential of lupins as a crop for use in ruminant, poultry and fish feed and has demonstrated favourable results in each category. Some species of lupins (Lupinus spp.) are of agronomic importance as grain legumes for use within agricultural systems, due to their high protein and high energy contents. As leguminous plants, lupins have the ability to fix and utilise atmospheric nitrogen which means additional inputs of nitrogen fertiliser will not be required, offering both economic and environmental advantages. In addition, this plant characteristic can improve soil nitrogen content and availability, reducing the requirement for fertiliser input in crops that follow lupins in rotational systems. In comparison to crops such as peas or beans, lupin grain contains relatively high crude protein (up to 42 per cent) and oil contents, with comparatively large amounts of Digestible Undegraded Protein (DUP) in relation to their Effective Rumen Degradable Protein (ERDP). In the case of DUP, which is considered highly valuable in terms of livestock production, lupin grain content can be as much as double alternative crops such as peas. Growing lupins for animal feed may therefore offer a realistic alternative to imported soya as a UK‐grown grain protein source. Lupins could therefore offer a safe, cost effective and supply chain secure source of high protein feed for livestock as an alternative to imported feed such as soya. However, regardless of the potential benefits of lupins as a crop demonstrated by research, uptake on UK farms has remained limited. If the benefits anticipated by the engagement with this crop including those relating to food security and the reduced environmental impact from a shorter supply chain are to be realised, then suppliers and feed manufacturers need to work together to establish a stable platform for production.