NIAB Scientists Advise Farmers on Feeding "Rocket Fuel" To Livestock

3 May 2008

Innovative research scientists at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany are evaluating new forage crops to provide “rocket fuel” for livestock.

They will share their skills and expertise at Grassland & Muck 2008 and showcase the latest in crop technology. A high ranking NIAB team will attend the event at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire next Wednesday and Thursday, 21 and 22 May, led by Forage Manager, Don Pendergrast. Grassland is aimed at challenging producers to plan grass and muck as an essential asset for profitable meat and milk production.

Mr Pendergrast believes that the doubling of wheat prices, once a cheap source of energy to feed livestock, means that producers must consider alternative feed for livestock so they can remain profitable. A new booklet is to be launched at Grassland advising on this. The list compares new varietal developments with the current best.

Mr Pendergrast said:

“Producers need to reduce the cost of feed, but maintain or even improve productivity, and this is a huge challenge for them with today’s escalating prices, which are ultimately passed on to the consumer. For many years livestock producers have selected their pedigree animals carefully, always looking for better genetics to improve yield, as well as improve ruminant efficiency. Today we have a highly tuned animal capable of producing 10,000L of milk a year, but in many cases they have not given this animal the best fuel, but instead fed it the cheapest fuel source.

“At NIAB we have been working for over 50 years to give growers the best chance of giving their animal rocket fuel, be it beef, dairy, pig or poultry production. And today, more than ever, this work is critically important so that producers can implement the best crop technology solutions to ensure they are improving their productivity. This will help ensure a better future for UK farming.

“I hope farmers and producers will study our free booklet closely, the NIAB Descriptive and Recommended Lists. It is an important evaluating tool to help them decide on the most suited forage crop. Good grassland production will mean improved productivity and profits. Over the last 12 years, the recommended lists have seen average increases of 5% in yield and over 2% in digestibility, equating to 10% in animal output. It is a win-win situation.”

Good grassland also means having varieties which stay free from foliar diseases. There are many diseases which occur on grasses and resistance to them is a valuable trait. NIAB pathologists evaluate resistance in the national trials programme and the NIAB/BSPB testing system provides the only comprehensive source of information on resistance to grass diseases.

Plant breeders are also studying the impact that different animal feed and forage types have on the environment once it has been excreted, in view of new stricter legislation covering environmental pollution. Nitrogen and phosphorus are present in large quantities in animal excrement and levels discharged on to the land and water courses must be restricted to meet new set levels. NIAB has been studying the genetics and agronomy of feed and forage crops in order to overcome these difficulties and maintain economic returns of livestock farmers.

Further information is available from Don Pendergrast or press consultant Ellee Seymour on 01353 648564 or 07939 811961