Reaseheath students look for alternative to soya in sheep feed

Agricultural students from Reaseheath College are helping to carry out a trial to replace soya with a more sustainable UK grown protein in ewe feed.

Thirty Level 3 Extended Diploma in Agriculture students are assisting Reaseheath Sheep Unit Manager Oliver Bagley and Course Manager Richard Wheeldon to run the trial during the Nantwich, Cheshire college’s busy lambing period in March and early April. Data will be evaluated to see if replacing soya with alternative sources of protein affects the growth weight and kill weight of lambs.

Soya is traditionally imported into this country from South America and is often fed in meal form to pregnant ewes and lambs. Experts believe that the UK needs to produce its own sources of protein to improve the long term sustainability of its sheep production.

The project is funded by EBLEX, the organisation for beef and lamb levy payers in England, and run by ADAS, the agricultural and environmental consultancy. It was offered to Reaseheath because of the college’s partnership with the National Sheep Association.

The trial involves feeding different rations to six groups, each containing 40 twin bearing ewes. All groups are fed TMR rations based on home-produced grass silage. In addition, the control group receives supplementary barley and soya which is replaced in the other groups with blends of rape and fodder beet, barley and wheat dark distillers grains, barley and beans, rape and barley or wheat dark distillers grains and fodder beet.

Callum Pitchford and Laura Bellis fit an EID tag to a lamb

Callum Pitchford and Laura Bellis fit an EID tag to a lamb

Uneaten food is methodically gathered and weighed. All lambs are systematically weighed at birth, four and eight weeks, at weaning and at sale. The lambs are EID tagged, enabling the students to record the data efficiently. The ewes are also weighed directly after lambing.

Kate Phillips, Principal Livestock Consultant with ADAS explained: “There is a need to find  viable and alternative sources to soya which are more sustainable to the UK feed industry. We are delighted that Reaseheath’s agricultural students are helping to carry out this important project for us and we are very much looking forward to receiving their feedback.”

Richard Wheeldon said: “Our students complete investigative projects which include research and data collection as part of their Level 3 course. We believe that these projects, which are similar to a dissertation, encourage our students to continue their studies to degree level and to look at the many science based careers within the industry.

“Taking part in a real life, hands-on trial like this also gives them the unique opportunity to deliver results which will hopefully benefit the industry.”

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