top of page

Home grown Protein – Time for Lupins has arrived

We have relied very heavily on soya and rapeseed meal for the last few decades but change has to come with pressure on the bad carbon footprint of soya and the agronomic problems with rapeseed forcing many growers to abandon it. Protein prices are currently very high and unlikely to return to 2019 prices in the short to medium term. At present the soya price for summer 2021 is around £90-£100 up compared to last year and Rape up by around £70. We need a more sustainable way of feeding our high producing livestock and now is the time to look at ways to produce more homegrown protein.

Different forage options can increase homegrown protein supply:

  • Use of tetraploid ryegrass rather than straight Italians.

  • Higher inclusion of white clover in longer term leys or red clover in short term leys

  • Less maize or whole crop and more grass silage in diets

Whilst these can help there will still be a demand for extra protein in all systems not relying heavily on grazing. Beans are a good option to replace some of the cereals grown and they are a good break crop and do fix nitrogen to help the next crop. Peas are a possibility, but they do grow very close to the ground and can be difficult to combine.


Going back 10-15 years a lot of farms did grow lupins, but the agronomy was difficult, and a couple of wet Septembers meant harvesting was a nightmare. The winter lupins some farms grew didn’t like wet winters and failed so very few farms have grown them in recent years, but time has moved on and the circle has closed so we need to look again and focus on spring crops.

White flowered lupins will be the variety of choice in the South of the UK and these would be planted in late March or early April and be combined in September. Yields are typically 1.5 to 2 tonnes per acre. The protein content is around 40% so much higher than beans or peas and the quality of the protein is good making a good soya replacer. They also fix 60-80 kg N for the following crop.

The late harvest means getting the lupins dry enough to store can be a problem but treatment with Propcorn is the most cost effective and best when crimped. The thick seed coat means caustic treatment is not cost effective and urea treatment of whole grains not reliable. However, crimping at harvest and then urea treating would work well. Avoid drying them, they get very hard and difficult to process.

In the diet, unless crimped at harvest, they would need processing in some way for dairy cows and cattle over 12 months old but for goats, sheep and cattle under 12 months old the whole grains can be fed.

Next steps

Try a small area of lupins this year, if you don’t have any bare land then consider ploughing out your most worn-out grass land so you can reseed in September (check if you need an environmental impact assessment if ploughing up old permanent pasture) or reduce maize acreage slightly. We have no reservations at all about feeding Lupins, you just need to work with your Agronomist to grow some! Start discussing it now so you can get seed bought this month.

Please call us if you want to discuss this in more detail and also take a look


Recent Posts



bottom of page