Chairs: Andrew Trump (Organic Arable) and Neil Rowe (OMSCo)
This session seeks to explore the challenges that are currently facing the animal feed sector. With significant growth globally in the demand for organic cereals and relatively static production area in Western Europe the sector is becoming further reliant upon imported supplies from outside the EU. The market for livestock products is increasingly interested in feed sourcing for provenance and quality criteria such as mycotoxins. We will explore how both livestock and arable producers can work together to face these challenges making both sectors more resilient.
Organic farmers in the UK are increasingly reliant on imported organic feedstuffs. This exposes them to price volatility as well as being out of line with organic principles. Organic Arable have been working firstly with BQP and now with OMSCo to link UK production with UK demand as well as bringing transparency to the supply chain through pricing structures that recognise the cost of production as well as the retail value of the end product. The benefits are stronger integrity from known feed provenance – as well as meeting consumer expectation that feed is home produced. The challenges of expanding these projects include the logistics of feed production, transport and storage and the willingness of farmers – and ultimately the market – to pay more.
The discussion that followed the presentations brought out the following points:
- For ruminants we need to increase production from grass/forage and minimise concentrate feeding, and then think about the source of that concentrate feed.
- There is potential for UK arable farms to grow crops specifically for feed – not just selling “failed” milling wheat and malting barley to the feed trade. This could include co-product crops like wheat and beans, or cereal crops that are made up of several varieties – easier crops to grow for the farmer.
- In theory organic farmers should be growing more of their own feed, but many livestock farmers are not set up, or do not have the knowledge to be good arable farmers.
- The additional cost for a UK based feed for dairy farmers is around £20 per tonne – or around 0.5ppl
- We need more link ups between arable producers and livestock producers to the benefit of both – heifer rearing on leys in arable rotations brings fertility, cereal crops can be sold back to the dairy farms.
- On an individual level farmers need to maximise production from forage (reflect on some of the outcomes of the Sustainable Organic and Low Input Dairying (SOLID) project and put them into action).