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    Expert to discuss work at AHDB Dairy Research Day

    Posted 24 October 2022

    A cow in a field with red clover

    Expert advice on dairy cow dietary protein levels which has been presented across the globe is set to be discussed at an AHDB farm open day in Gloucestershire.

    The Dairy Research Day event on November 1 is one of a series set up by AHDB to enable farmers to hear how the latest research can benefit them on their farms.

    Hosted by the Carter and Pugh families, farmers are invited to join the day to find out more about AHDB’s work and research as well as wider research which can help both them and the wider industry.

    Liam Sinclair, Professor of Animal Science at Harper Adams University, is among the speakers during the day.

    He will be discussing how farmers can lower dietary protein levels and increase the use of home grown forage legumes such as red clover and lucerne silages in the diet of dairy cows – research which has been picking up international attention this year.

    He said: “The recent increase in the cost of purchased protein feeds such as soyabean and rapeseed meal has focussed attention on protein levels in dairy cow diets and whether we can feed less. Equally important is the effect of over-feeding protein on the environment.

    “Only about 25 per cent of the protein that a cow consumes on a daily basis goes into milk, with 75 per cent being wasted. This can cause problems with water quality, particularly in nitrate vulnerable zones. More recently there has been a focus on ammonia, which can cause fine particulate material in the atmosphere and lead to respiratory problems in humans”.

    In addition to feed costs, the recent increase in fertiliser costs has also focussed attention on legumes such as red clover and lucerne as they can fix nitrogen directly from the atmosphere.

    “Forage legumes also have the advantage of being high in crude protein at around 20per cent of the DM, compared to grass silage at 12-14per cent,” Liam added.

    “This further increases the opportunity to reduce purchased protein supplements”.

    There is however a challenge with red clover and lucerne silages as most of the protein is degraded by the microbiome in the rumen  - or first stomach, yet high yielding cows require more by-pass protein to meet their requirements for milk production.

    “Our work has been focussing on how we can include forage legume silages in the diet of dairy cows and at the same time reduce dietary crude protein levels, with the objective of a win-win for the dairy farmer”.

    See more from Liam here:

    Dr Jenny Gibbons, Senior Animal Health and Welfare Scientist at AHDB added: “Court farm is an apt setting to showcase the latest research findings.

    “The day will consist of a number of presentations from leading scientists on topics of importance to levy payers and their staff.

    “There will be plenty of opportunity to engage with the experts and ask them questions on mastitis, lameness, Johne’s disease, silage slippage and alternative protein sources”.

    Anyone wishing to book a place can do so here.

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