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Feed Management on Livestock Farms - AC0119

In the UK, agriculture contributes about 8% of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, of which more than half is attributed to farmed livestock. These are predominantly as nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4), with lesser amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2). Total agricultural GHG emissions have declined by 17% since 1990, but the UK Government have set ambitious targets for further reductions in GHG emissions from all sectors. Ruminant livestock are responsible for most of the CH4 emissions, whilst a number of factors contribute to N2O, including inefficient use of the nitrogen (N) in feed and fertilisers. Because ruminant livestock account for a significant proportion of GHG emissions, this project will focus principally on ruminants.

The UK is committed to reducing GHG emissions in all sectors. There is now a considerable body of evidence to show that, for many livestock systems, increasing the efficiency with which feed is converted into product can result in a reduction in GHG emission per unit of output. It follows therefore that increasing feed use efficiency. There is also substantial evidence that for many livestock systems, increasing the efficiency of feed utilisation can result in an improvement in the economic performance of the enterprise. Therefore, both financial and environmental benefits may accrue from optimising feed use.

For many years, Defra, the livestock levy bodies, Devolved Administrations and other organisations have supported a considerable number of projects that have examined methods of improving feed utilisation and the productivity of livestock. Within the context of this project, these have included studies on grazing management, forage production and utilisation, and feed characterisation and diet formulation. This project will review studies undertaken in these areas of research, principally - but not exclusively - over the past 10 years. Although the focus will be primarily on UK studies, relevant recent research undertaken in Europe and North America will also be considered. Since the composition of feed consumed is intrinsically linked to animal health and welfare, the project will also explore those areas where a inefficient feed management may compromise animal health and welfare.

Having reviewed the research, and working in conjunction with practicing livestock advisors and the relevant levy bodies (DairyCo and EBLEX), guidelines on best practice in feed management for livestock farmers and their advisors will be produced. In the UK there is considerable variation in ruminant production systems, and it would be impractical within the context of this project to prescribe best practice to deal specifically with all methods of feed production and livestock production. However, the guidelines will be practically based, and targeted at the main ruminant production systems described in Task 1.2.

It must be recognised that in some circumstances ‘best practice’ as it relates to feed management and utilisation may not always equate with maximum profitability of the enterprise. This project will identify those production systems where this might be the case and the major drivers that influence their production and feed management policies.

The output of the project will be detailed guidelines, written specifically for farmers and their advisors, describing best practice for efficient feed management in each of the main ruminant production systems.
7. (b) Objectives

On UK livestock farm, feed accounts for more than half of total input costs. A considerable amount of research, much of it supported by Defra, has repeatedly demonstrated that improving feed utilisation and feed conversion efficiency on livestock farms may have the duel benefits of improving the economic viability of livestock enterprises and reducing the environmental footprint of milk and meat production. However, there is concern amongst farming industry stakeholders that the results of this research have not been translated effectively for feed manufacturers and farmers. The overall objective of this project is therefore to improve the environmental and economic efficiency of UK milk and meat production through better utilisation of home produced and purchased feeds. This would be achieved through two sub-objectives:

a. To acquire, review and synthesise relevant information on livestock feed management from research projects supported by Defra and other organisations;
b. To prepare and publish guidelines on best practice in livestock feed management for farmers and advisors.

The project will focus primarily on ruminants. However, where appropriate feed utilisation for non-ruminant production, particularly on mixed livestock farms, would also be considered
Project Documents
• FRP - Final Report : 2013 08 10 FFG1101 final report   (571k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2011

To: 2012

Cost: £57,220
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Agriculture and Climate Change              
Sustainable Farming and Food Science