A trial to evaluate yellow lupins in layer feed is being carried out by UK egg producer Birchgrove Eggs in conjunction with the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS).
The 18-week commercial trial sees Birchgrove feeding its hens a layers mash where most of the protein component of the feed is provided by yellow lupins instead of the usual soya protein. The aim of the project is to look at sweet (edible) lupins, which are high in protein as a viable UK-grown protein source to go into animal and fish feeds to replace, as far as possible and ideally up to 100 percent, the soya protein component.
IBERS experiments feeding laying hens with lupins found no significant impact on their feed and water intake, growth, weight, egg production or bird health. The lupin-based feed seemed to perform essentially the same as the standard feed in comparison.
Nigel Scollan, Waitrose chair of sustainable agriculture at IBERS and the principal investigator in the project, said: "The UK and Europe have major issues with protein security within the livestock sector and are heavily dependent on imported soya. We need to find ways of increasing the amount of protein that can be grown 'on-farm' in the UK. Research studies at IBERS have demonstrated the potential for lupins in laying hens, and it is excellent to have this work taken forward in a large commercial scale study with Birchgrove."
Tony Burgess of Birchgrove said: "We are delighted to be partners in this important research project that has already shown the potential to generate real nutrition and possible future cost benefits for poultry producers across the UK.
"Poultry feed costs are escalating, and we are looking for home-grown alternatives to the imported soya we have relied on over the years. Growing lupins in the UK to replace imported soya is a really excellent news story - for consumers, farmers and wildlife."