Pioneering livestock research
Jonathan Brunyee, Senior Lecturer in the School of Business and Entrepreneurship (SBE) at the Royal Agricultural University (RAU), has been working with the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association (PFLA) and has published a pioneering report on the economics of pasture fed beef and lamb production.
‘It Can Be Done – The Farm Business Case For Feeding Ruminants Just On Pasture’ was launched at the Oxford Real Farming Conference in 2016. It analyses the business costs of eight PFLA members, and compares them against the average and top third producers in the AHDB Beef & Lamb Stocktake programme for 2015.
The PFLA, which champions feeding ruminants entirely on grass and forage crops, is keen to encourage more farmers to kick the habit of fattening their animals on grain. While cereal diets may quicken the process of finishing livestock, it does so at an economic and environmental cost, while producing a less healthy product.
Jonathan Brunyee, who is also a pasture fed farmer in the Cotswolds and a Director of the PFLA, said: “Feeding grain to livestock is not only a waste of valuable resources across the globe but detrimental to human nutrition. While many farmers consider their systems as ‘grass fed’ making the important leap to 100% forage is not always an easy one. Our research shows that it can be done at a practical level and that the financial returns can be very positive.”
The PFLA sheep farmers surveyed show a bigger gross and net margin per ewe than average farms, and rival the top third of AHDB producers. While returns for PFLA suckler cow producers echoes the industry average showing an annual loss, those that can finish their animals on an all forage diet make a better margin than the industries top third. Adding value by direct sales increases this margin significantly.
Jonathan concludes: “These results, while at this stage are from a small sample, do show that the pasture fed approach can be an economic and environmental win – win. There is more research to do and hence we now need more farmers involved.”
For more information, and to download the ‘Pasture for Life, It can be done’ booklet, visit the PFLA website.