Research project Low protein feeding for beef cattle

In progress ELP-BEEF
beef cattle

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Framing introduction

How can livestock producers provide substantiated evidence for the correct application of low protein feeding of beef cattle as an ammonia emission reduction measure based on a user-friendly and efficient methodology? That is the central research question in ELP-Beef. Previous research has shown that lowering protein in beef cattle rations has a significant impact on NH3 emissions from these beef cattle farms. A low protein diet for the beef cattle sector even shows promise for achieving the targeted NH3 emission reduction of 15% at the industry level, without farm closures or drastic culling of livestock. However, the rollout assumes that the bottleneck of monitoring low protein nutrition has been resolved. The ultimate goal of this project is to get low protein nutrition recognized as a source-oriented, effective and controllable ammonia emissions reduction measure for Flemish beef cattle farms.

Research approach

The project has 4 stages:
1. In dialogue with the competent authorities, we determine which conditions must be met on the cattle farm to demonstrably apply low protein nutrition.
2. We make a user-friendly app that allows farmers to provide the requested information on rations, head of cattle, feed stocks and feed values, preferably using automatic data links or data sharing platforms such as DjustConnect.
3. In consultation with livestock farmers and feed consultants, suitable rations are formulated for the animal categories present on the participating farms. These rations must comply with the set protein content limits, but must also guarantee good animal performance and will be based as much as possible on feed materials present on the farm (roughage and raw materials) or in the vicinity of the farm (local protein-rich crops and by-products).
4. During 1 year we follow up the low-protein feed and the stated requirements on a minimum of three beef cattle farms. After 1 year the trajectory and its results will be evaluated in consultation with the livestock farmers and the competent control authorities with the aim of including low-protein feed in the list of recognized ammonia reduction measures.

Relevance/Valorization

There are enormous challenges in the area of NH3 reduction. Additional measures that are feasible and cost-effective for beef cattle farms certainly offer added value. To achieve the targeted 15% reduction at sector level, the list of innovative ammonia reduction measures must be expanded and applied in a farm-specific manner. A measure based on reduced protein content in feed offers opportunities for many beef cattle farms. Broad implementation of the measures will rely on development of a practical and feasible method of guaranteeing the implementation of low-protein feeding. The tool to be developed in this project will increase the feasibility in practice so that the ammonia emissions reduction measures will be more widely implemented in the sector.