Godminster Farm, which produces award-winning cheddar cheese, is working with McArthur Agriculture to remove soya bean meal from its rations.
The trials are part of the recently announced Nitrogen Efficient Plants for Climate Smart Arable Cropping Systems (NCS) Project to help farmers reduce agricultural emissions by 1.5Mt Co2e a year.
Pete Cheek, who is in charge of the farm’s 300-head organic dairy herd, aims to replace the soya with homegrown roasted pulses.
“Climate change is a huge issue and by practising organic farming methods, we are already farming ‘in-tune’ with the environment,” explained Mr Cheek. “However, another important factor for us is to be able to fully validate the provenance of the components of our cows’ rations to consumers.
“Godminster Farm’s overall aim is to reduce the carbon footprint of our cows’ diet and deliver full traceability of all their rations by growing beans here on the farm.”
The NCS project is a four-year, £5.9 million research programme which will involve 200 farms and 17 industry partners. It is funded by Defra’s Farming Innovation Programme and delivered by Innovate UK.
The twin aims are to increase pulse cropping in arable rotations to 20% across the UK and enable livestock farmers to substitute up to half of imported soya meal.
“Godminster Farm is already engaging with the guiding principles of the NCS project by adding beans to its crop rotations for inclusion in its cows’ rations, working towards the replacement of imported soya bean meal in organic dairy,” said John McArthur, MD of McArthur Agriculture.
Mr Cheek came across McArthur Agriculture at Groundswell in June 2022 and the company committed to visiting Denmark to see how farms were substituting soya meal with roasted beans and cereals.
“I was staggered as to the results achieved by the Danish farmers. They were achieving double the milk yield we get at Godminster by including roasted beans in their cow’s diets and without using soya,” he said.
“One famer was conducting circular rations – he grew the beans, lupins, maize and cereal and fed them and sold the milk produced. Everything he wanted to feed his cows; he grew. Danish organic dairy farmers seem to have it sussed.”
Since then, Godminster Farm has trialled post-harvest bean processing, supplied by Organic Arable. “We roasted the beans with a Mecmar T05 roaster from McArthur Agriculture, they were then milled and incorporated into the cows’ diet as part of the parlour feed and in the total mixed ration (TMR),” explained Mr Cheek.
He is now planning to permanently include roasted beans in the ration, as well as considering the inclusion of roasted lupins to boost protein levels.
“The next phase of our trial will be to roast the beans we are growing on-farm this year straight from the combine, rather than roasting beans we have bought-in, this will allow us to store them safely and increase the amount we are able to add to the rations,” added Mr Cheek.
“We are looking forward to working with the team at Godminster this harvest. Learning from the Danish farmers we will process the beans at a higher moisture content than before. This should improve gelatinisation and further improve protein quality, said McArthur “Moving to 100% home grown protein is a big move for any farm business, it is a decision the NCS Project is aiming to de-risk for farmers like Pete in the future,” concluded Mr McArthur.
For more information go to www.mcartheragriculture.co.uk