I was very honoured and privileged to be chosen as one of 19 people from the UK to be presented as a Nuffield Farming Scholar for 2017, in Newcastle in late November last year, at the Nuffield Annual Conference.
The Nuffield Farming Trust
The Nuffield Farming Trust was established as travel awards for farmers in 1947, by the Nuffield Foundation.
As part of my scholarship I will receive a bursary of approximately £7,000 to fund the study. This will allow me to prepare a report of my findings that I will present at the annual conference of the Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust, in 2018. I would like to take this opportunity to thank The Royal Welsh Agricultural Society and McDonalds Restaurants. This amazing opportunity would not be available to me without their kind sponsorship.
My study is entitled ‘Exploring sustainable sources of protein for the UK dairy industry, whilst increasing rumen nitrogen efficiency’. I chose this topic because the use of protein supplementation in ruminants’ diets is often overestimated, particularly in the dairy industry. This compensate for the lower quality raw materials that we feed. This, in effect, can have a negative impact on cow health and have a huge environmental impact.
I chose my topic given my background; growing up on a mixed dairy, beef and sheep farm, supported by my role as a Dairy Specialist for Wynnstay. I feel exploring this subject area could be beneficial to both the farmer and the ruminant feeds industry. I am very much looking forward to sharing my findings over the course of the scholarship.
Sustainable protein sources
The UK has become very reliant on purchasing protein feed sources such as soya bean meal and rapeseed meal. Materials such as these are often used as the primary dietary component, particularly in the dairy industry. This can become very expensive as markets are very volatile, with huge swings in feed costs from year to year, predominantly due to protein. With an expanding world population and a probable increase in world demand for dairy products, can these sources of protein be sustainable in the future?
During the project I will explore which protein sources can be grown on farm and how best to utilise the protein we grow, with grassland for grazing and ensiling, and how best to supplement. Looking into alternative sources of sustainable protein for the future, such as insects or algae, could be a possibility but, at present, seems like too far away of a concept.
Protein has historically been overfed in the UK, with crude proteins in diets being far higher than required. Crude protein is a measure of nitrogen and published figures show that the rumen is only 25-30% effective at utilising the nitrogen that we feed (O, Donovan et al, 2013). The remainder of Nitrogen is lost in the urine, faeces and milk and this can have a huge environmental impact.
I will look at reducing the amount of protein we feed, and achieving higher nitrogen capture in the rumen. In doing this I will not impact on yield and production. The main objective of the study will be to reduce feed costs on farm and increase profitability. The study will help me answer the following questions:
- What feed sources should be considered to achieve this goal?
- Will it be target amino acid feeding, increasing fermentable carbohydrates in diets?
I plan to travel to many different countries during my study. Starting with Brazil in March, for the Contemporary Scholars Conference (CSC), where scholars from the world over will meet. The conference is followed by farm visits to Mato Grosso, where there is huge scale soya bean and beef farming.
Following this, I plan to visit China and other parts of Asia as part of the Global Focus programme, in May. Towards the end of the year I plan to visit the United States and New Zealand. Along side this I will be conducting some study around Europe, predominantly the Netherlands and Denmark.
I look forward to updating you on my findings (and travels!) along the way.