The Policy Commission report on the Future of Farming and Food, published January 2002, highlighted the need for livestock farming in the UK to address the large gap in farm profitability between the bottom and top third of producers. The report also addresses the need to optimise efficiency of livestock production and to deliver traceable, environmentally-friendly products that meet consumer demands. The Commission encourages a Regulatory framework that includes whole farm plans/audits maintained by the producer in order to improve the balance between sustainable production and environmental impact. Our research project LS0301 (July 1997- June 2002) on the use of alternative forage crops for livestock production has addressed both nutritional and economic benefits of producing home grown protein and energy crops. In order to meet the new challenges facing the agricultural industry, there is a need for scientific studies to assess the impact of nutrient flows from these alternative forage crops in terms of soil/plant/animal interactions. Nutrient budgeting is now a widely used tool for managing nutrients on farms and as an indicator of the sustainability of farming practices. Balancing the input and output of nutrients within the farm system is critical to ensuring both short-term productivity and long-term sustainability. Maximising the efficiency of use of nutrients within a system is also key to reducing bought-in inputs, which are potentially costly in both economic and environmental terms. There is currently no information available on the effects of incorporating home-grown, high-protein forages into production systems on the flow of nutrients within that system. The overall aim of this research proposal is to provide a scientific basis for the development of decision-support systems that facilitate the best practice for the integration of alternative forages within livestock production systems in the UK.
|Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
|Published - 2007