Access to high quality feed protein is a challenge in organic livestock production. Forage legumes are rich in protein and can be used by ruminants, but they are not suitable in large amounts for pigs and poultry. By separating easily digestible and protein-rich fraction from less digestible fibre-rich fraction, forage legume crops may be utilised by monogastric animals. Such fractionation could supply organic swine production with protein feed whereas the fibre fraction may be utilised by dairy cows.
The ProRefine project aimed to establish knowledge on how local food systems in organic animal production can be developed. This includes knowledge about forage legume production, techniques for fractionation and preservation of the crops, economic and environmental impacts, and farmers' attitudes and willingness towards self-sufficiency and cooperation in more sustainable food systems. This was done by means of field experiments, laboratory experiments, animal feeding experiments, qualitative interviews, modelling, and sustainability assessment. The project group consisted of partners from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, France, Italy and Turkey. The new knowledge can help the organic agricultural sector to reduce the volume of imported feeds in Europe by increased utilisation of regional biological resources through novel technological solutions and improved cooperation between farmers.
In the ProRefine project, we compared two fractionation techniques. First, protein-rich leaves were separated from fibre-rich stems of forage legumes by applying a leaf stripper at harvesting. In the second technique, a screw press was used to produce protein-rich juice and fibre-rich pulp from fresh forage after harvest. The basic idea is that feeds can be fractionated on-farm and products not used can be sold as feed to other farms with other animal production. Alternatively, pre-processed and stabilised fractions can be sold to the feed industry for further processing. This may enable feed producers to develop mixtures with a high proportion of locally produced protein. The development of such a new food system with local feed supply requires economically and environmentally sound performance, and support by the social community.
We produced press juice and pulp of forage legumes from field experiments in Umeå, Sweden and Tingvoll, Norway. On average juice accounted for 44% on dry matter basis after fractionation. Alsike clover and lucerne had the highest relative juice yields and red clover cv. Gandalf the lowest. Red clover gave the highest juice yields per hectare.
At Aarhus University, Denmark, we produced silages of leaves, stems and pulp, and protein concentrate using lucerne and red clover. The protein-rich feeds were included in four experimental diets for pigs at INRAE in France and the fibre-rich feeds were tested using lambs in Italy. The feeding experiments with pigs showed that the total tract energy digestibility was higher in silages than in protein pastes and lower in red clover than in lucerne products. The standardised ileal digestibility of total essential amino acids was higher in protein concentrates than in silages. The results of the present study show that protein pastes obtained from lucerne and red clover are valuable protein source for pig, whereas legume leaf silages have to be considered as an energy source rather than a protein source.
We explored different views on self-sufficiency in feed through focus group interviews with actors in the value chains for meat and milk production in Norway and Sweden. The actors expressed that self-sufficiency in feed can have positive impact on food security, ecological cycles, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and employment in rural areas. Among the identified barriers for increased self-sufficiency in feed were shortage of land, demanding logistics, high investment costs and general knowledge gaps. The understanding of self-sufficiency in feed among the actors in the value chains was quite diverse and we will compare these results with the interviews carried out in the other participating countries.
Two scenarios have been developed for how fractionation of forage legumes can be integrated in livestock production. In the first scenario, fractionation and preservation of protein-rich and fibre-rich feeds are carried out on farm and feeds are used on the farm or sold to cooperating farms. In the second scenario, farmers only harvest and pre-process forage legume crops, while the feed industry carries out further processing and incorporates the products in compound feeds for different livestock. We will assess the economic and environmental consequences of these two scenarios. We have also through dialog with actors in the value chains of dairy and meat production in Norway and Denmark, identified barriers and possibilities for these two scenarios to be successful for increasing local production of feed in organic agriculture.
Prosjektets norske deltagere har jobbet i et tverrfaglig og internasjonalt forskningsprosjekt. Deltagere med forskjellig faglig bakgrunn har fått økt forståelse for tekniske detaljer på den ene siden og verdien av å bruke et systemperspektiv på den andre siden. Utdannelse av en stipendiat i prosjektet vil bidra til utvikling av viktig forskerkompetansen innen bioraffinering i Norden. Kommende vitenskapelige publikasjoner fra prosjektet vil fylle et etterspurt behov. Industrien er interessert men avventende fordi det er store kunnskapshull og fordi en forventer at fraksjonering vil være kostbar. Samtidig er en klar over at kunnskap om bærekraftig fôrproduksjon er viktig når tilgangen på fôrressurser fra andre land forventes å avta. Bønder har stor bevissthet rundt selvforsyningsgrad med fôr samtidig som de viser skepsis mot å ta i bruk metoder som ikke er demonstrert i fullskala. Et styrket internasjonalt nettverk er verdifullt for videre arbeid med bioraffinering av engvekster.
Protein supplementation is a challenge in organic livestock production. Use of imported protein feeds on organically managed farms limits the recycling of nutrients. Fractionation of forage legumes, through novel harvesting and biorefining techniques, into protein- and fibre-rich feeds for monogastrics and ruminants, respectively, can increase farm self-sufficiency with feed. Economic, environmental and social sustainability needs to be taken into account when developing concepts for localised food systems.
Mathematical models will be developed for protein yields of lucerne and red clover. Leaf stripping and juice production will be studied in experiments located in different regions in Europe and Turkey and assessed for feed value in monogastrics and ruminants. Concepts of local food systems based on fractionations of lucerne and red clover will be assessed for sustainability. A participatory approach will be used to involve stakeholder groups in the project, and to ensure an effective dissemination of the results. Farmers will be interviewed to study attitudes towards self-sufficiency and barriers for cooperation that may be required in implementing localised food systems.
The proposed project will establish important knowledge about how to improve self-sufficiency in organic livestock production. Farmers and feed industry will learn how to produce local feed for both monogastrics and ruminants by fractionating forage legumes. An assessment of economic, environmental and social aspects can be used to adapt sustainable local food systems in different regions.
Through this new knowledge, the organic agricultural sector will be able to reduce the amount of imported feeds in Europe by increased utilisation of regional biological resources. This complies also with the social demand from consumers requesting 100% of the feeds to be derived from the farm or region (EC, 2013), and the Bioeconomy Strategy of the European Commission (EC, 2015).