Producing organic monogastric livestock feed

This field lab will be set up via a partnership between the Soil Association and Horizon 2020 project OK-Net EcoFeed, looking at the production and supply of feed for monogastric livestock.

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Field Lab Timeline

    1/22/2018 12:00:00 AM
  • Idea formation

    Idea formation
  • 3/27/2018 11:00:00 PM
  • Surveys sent out

    Surveys sent out
  • 5/13/2018 11:00:00 PM
  • Survey results analysed

    Survey results analysed
  • 6/17/2018 11:00:00 PM
  • Kick-off meeting

    Kick-off meeting
  • 7/9/2018 11:00:00 PM
  • Aims and methods discussion

    Aims and methods discussion
  • 7/15/2018 11:00:00 PM
  • Methods finalised

    Methods finalised
  • 8/5/2018 11:00:00 PM
  • Trial starts

    Trial starts
  • 8/26/2018 11:00:00 PM
  • Progress meeting

    Progress meeting
  • 11/25/2020 12:00:00 AM
  • Results

For further information hover over the above milestone marks
  • Discussion

    To see the latest activity please log-in (group members only).

  • Achievements

    February 2021

    Trial videos released

    Videos describing the trials are now available as follows:

    How to increase the nutritional value of beans for pig and poultry diets -
    The potential feed value of grain tailings for poultry -
    The potential for sprouted seeds to supply feed for layers -

    For more resources from the OK-Net EcoFeed project see

    Milestone: Results

    January 2021

    Session at ORFC

    We hosted an OK-Net EcoFeed session at the ORFC21 Global conference which included farmer Mike Mallett talking about the sprouting seeds trial. You can watch it at [Mike begins at 59:28 minutes].

    Milestone: Results

    November 2020

    Results from the three trials

    For full results, you can find a PDF in the documents section in the top right corner of this page (sign-in required, free to sign up).


    1) The potential for increasing the nutritional value of beans for pig and poultry diets:

    - Heat treatment can reduce anti-nutritional factors (trypsin inhibitor activity)
    - Heating does not negatively affect amino acid levels
    - Dehulling can increase protein content but doesn't allow higher inclusion rates due to trypsin inhibitor activity
    - Combining both heating and dehulling may allow higher bean inclusion in diets by removing both tannins and TIA
    - If heat treating could be incorporated into on farm handling systems, there is potential to
    increase inclusion of home grown bean protein and reduce importation of soya bean meal

    2) Comparing the feed value of tailings vs. cleaned seed for organic broiler chickens:

    - Grain tailings are produced from cleaning seed prior to planting or sale. Tailings are commonly burnt, composted or used as winter feed for wild birds
    - This trial found that grain tailings' feed value (e.g. protein, oil, NDF, nearly all amino acids) is better than cleaned seed due to positive influence of smaller seeds and higher protein level of weed seeds
    - Results will depend on the weed seeds present on farms, the intake preferences, and how hard cleaning is

    3) Sprouted seeds trial:

    - This trial has shown that a sprouter can easily be developed on farm and will produce green feed for poultry and pigs
    - 1kg grain will produce 4kg fresh weight of sprouted grains. Nutritionally, this could replace some feed without reducing intake
    - This could provide forage for organic birds in the case of forced housing due to bird flu, drought or frozen conditions. It could supply flock enrichments for housed non
    organic birds
    - A rotating sprouter produces a consistent product without a mass of roots which could be incorporated into feed mix or dried

    Milestone: Results

    June 2020

    Video on set up of stillage

    We have released a short video in which field lab coordinator, Jerry Alford, explains the practicalities of sprouting seeds for poultry, a practice that farmer Mike Mallot has been investigating.

    Please see more here -->

    Milestone: Progress meeting

    April 2020

    Update: Trials 1 and 2

    Following the meetings held in 2019 three areas of interest were highlighted and trials have been set up to investigate them.

    Trial 1: The potential of sprouted seeds to feed layers.
    During the germination process, anti-nutritional factors in the hulls of pulses are broken down making the sprouting seed digestible to wild birds. The seed sprouting system has been developed in the past and has been used to provide green food to livestock. In a previous Innovative farmers trial sprouted seeds were found to be a suitable food source for layers. In this trial, vetch seeds are being sprouted and tested for anti-nutritional factors as well as changes in sugar and starch contents and crude protein levels. If sprouting reduced anti-nutritional factors, then sprouting could be used to increase pulse inclusion rates in poultry and pig diets. In winter and drought periods there would also be provision of green food for chicken.

    Trial 2: Feed value of tailings.
    The tailings, or separated chaff, weed seeds, small and broken grains from grain or seed cleaning has often been used as food for chickens. There was anecdotal evidence that these birds performed better than birds on grain only diets and so this test will investigate the food value of tailings. As part of these tests, amino acid levels of tailings and grains will be measured.

    Trial 3 details in below post...

    Milestone: Trial starts

    April 2020

    Update: Third trial

    Trial 3: Toasting beans to reduce anti-nutritional factors

    Bean inclusion in poultry and pig rations is restricted due to the presence of anti-nutritional factors. These are present in all pulse crops including Soya Beans but during the oil extraction process heat is generated which breaks down the anti-nutritional factors allowing higher inclusion rates. The use of toasters is common on farms in other countries where whole soya is used, but not being used currently in the UK. To investigate whether heating will break down anti-nutritional factors in Beans, this trial will toast beans using an oven and test whether heating will achieve the same in UK bean species, without changing nutritional quality in the beans.

    Milestone: Trial starts

    March 2019

    Further meetings to develop the field lab

    Meetings have now been held for the 3 OKNET ECOFEED project in Cirencester, Inverurie and Suffolk, with 30 Pig and Poultry farmers attending. The groups have been looking for areas to investigate further, such as a grain sprouting system, use of home mixed feeds and the potential to produce organic rape meal.

    There was interest in the value of intercropping to produce a premixed feed, the value of weed seeds and tailings as a feed source and alternative forages such as Lucerne and whole crops as well as the potential for insects to provide both protein and sustainable waste disposal, and these are areas the group may explore further.

    Milestone: Kick-off meeting

    July 2018

    First group meeting

    20th July 2018 - please register on the eventbrite website here:

    This will be the first group meeting to discuss results of a survey carried out by organic producers and discuss how these can be taken forward to find solutions to issues and a possible field lab trial.

    The OK-NET ECOFEED project can be found at:


    10.30 Registration and coffee
    11.00 Welcome and Introduction to OK-net Ecofeed
    11.15 Survey results
    11.45 Ongoing research as a result of the survey
    13.00 Lunch
    13.45 Discussion of bottlenecks, innovations and solutions.
    15.00 Close

    Bathurst Room
    Royal Agricultural University
    Stroud Rd
    GL7 6JS Cirencester
    United Kingdom

    Please email Jerry Alford - with any queries.

    Milestone: Kick-off meeting

    March 2018

    Trial survey

    A survey has been sent out as a simple starting point for this project, aimed at gaining an insight into the feeding practices of both large and small pig and poultry keepers. Later in the year we will have a meeting to discuss these innovations and opportunities to increase the supply of local feed into pig and poultry enterprises.

    Please get in touch with the group coordinator if you would like to get involved in this field lab.

    Milestone: Surveys sent out

    January 2018

    Background to the trial

    A key objective of organic farming is that animals are fed with feed produced at or near the farm. Yet, this is difficult to achieve in large parts of Europe. Organic feed and livestock production are concentrated in different regions. Animal feed often has to be imported from regions far away from where the animals are raised. The problem is most challenging for protein feed, which is sometimes even not available in organic quality.

    As a part of this, the project will work with a field lab group to trial solutions in organic monogastric feed.

    Milestone: Idea formation

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