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, at the Nuffield Annual Conference.
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 and prepare a report of my findings that I will present at the annual conference of the Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust, in 2018. I must thank The Royal Welsh Agricultural Society and McDonalds Restaurants for sponsoring me on this amazing opportunity.
My study is entitled ‘Exploring sustainable sources of protein for the UK dairy industry, whilst increasing rumen nitrogen efficiency’. This is a topic I chose to apply for as, in my opinion, the use of protein supplementation in ruminant’s diets, especially dairy, is overestimated to compensate for lower quality raw materials that we feed. This, in effect, can have a negative impact on cow health and have a huge environmental impact.
Growing up on a mixed dairy, beef and sheep farm, along with my role as a Dairy Specialist for Wynnstay, I feel exploring this subject area could be beneficial to both the farmer and ruminant feeds industry and I look forward to sharing my findings.
The UK has become very reliant on purchasing protein feed sources such as soya bean meal and rapeseed meal as the main protein source on dairy farms. 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?
Sustainable protein sources
Within the project I will explore the avenues of what protein sources can be grown on farm and how we can have better utilisation of protein, with grassland for grazing and ensiling, and how best to supplement. Looking to alternative sources of sustainable protein for the future, such as insect and algae, could be possible but seems too far away at the present.
Protein has historically been overfed in the UK, with crude proteins of 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 is lost in the urine, faeces and milk and this can have a huge environmental impact.
I will look to reduce the amount of protein we are feeding, but achieve higher nitrogen capture in the rumen without impacting on yield and production. The study will help me answer this question: what feed sources can be considered to achieve this goal? Will it be target amino acid feeding, increasing fermentable carbohydrates in diets? The main objective of the study will be to reduce feed costs on farm and increase profitability.
I plan to travel to many different countries during my study. Starting off with Brazil, in March, for the Contemporary Scholars Conference (CSC), where scholars from all over the world will meet. The conference will then be followed by farm visits to the state of Mato Grosso, where there is huge scale soyabean and beef farming.
This will then be followed by a visit to 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, whilst also conducting some study around Europe, predominantly the Netherlands and Denmark.
I look forward to updating you on my findings (and travels!) along the way.