David Johnston from Portaferry, Co Down has returned from a British Society of Animal Science conference in Chester with the Industry Association Award for ‘Best Student Presentation with a high industry impact,’ writes Rodney Magowan.
Currently completing research leading to a PhD with support from AgriSearch, the NI Agricultural Research and Development Council, David is investigating the role of home grown high protein crops and forages in dairy cow diets.
This is work with potentially a huge positive impact on the competitiveness of dairy farming and hence the whole rural economy in this region.
To sustain milk production dairy cows need adequate dietary protein and in higher output systems must be offered additional protein in the form of concentrate supplements.
Protein supplements are expensive and subject to price volatility with no guarantee that the non-genetically modified protein currently compulsory in the EU will remain available on the world market. Hence the interest by many producers in developing locally grown protein crops to help stabilise costs, reduce imports and lower carbon foot prints.
While home grown protein crops can be high yielding, have a high nutritive value and by fixing atmospheric nitrogen reduce reliance on imported fertiliser nitrogen they can be difficult to grow in Northern Ireland.
Previous experience at AFBI, Hillsborough where David Johnston is conducting his Doctoral research, suggests that protein crops such as lucerne and lupins can be unreliable under NI conditions. Nevertheless, a small number of progressive Ulster farmers are successfully growing other protein crops and David aims to develop guide lines for more wide spread use of these alternatives.
To update on David Johnston’s protein crop research browse www.agrisearch.org or e mail firstname.lastname@example.org AgriSearch was established by the beef, sheep and dairy sectors to help ensure applied research of practical value to NI farm businesses is conducted in association with other funders.