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Refined forage legumes as local sources of protein feed for monogastrics and high quality fibre feed for ruminants in organic production

Finished Last updated: 07.12.2022
End: mar 2021
Start: apr 2018

Protein supplementation is a challenge in organic livestock production. Use of imported protein feeds on organically managed farms limits the recycling of nutrients. Fractionation of forage legumes, through novel harvesting and biorefining techniques, into protein- and fibre-rich feeds for monogastrics and ruminants, respectively, can increase farm self-sufficiency with feed. Economic, environmental and social sustainability needs to be taken into account when developing concepts for localised food systems.

Status Concluded
Start - end date 01.04.2018 - 31.03.2021
Project manager Steffen Adler
Total budget 4088000

Mathematical models will be developed for protein yields of lucerne and red clover. Leaf stripping and juice production will be studied in experiments located in different regions in Europe and Turkey and assessed for feed value in monogastrics and ruminants. Concepts of local food systems based on fractionation of lucerne and red clover will be assessed for sustainability. A participatory approach will be used to involve stakeholder groups in the project, and to ensure an effective dissemination of the results. Farmers will be interviewed to study attitudes towards self-sufficiency and barriers for cooperation that may be required in implementing localised food systems.
The proposed project will establish important knowledge about how to improve self-sufficiency in organic livestock production. Farmers and feed industry will learn how to produce local feed for both monogastrics and ruminants by fractionating forage legumes. An assessment of economic, environmental and social aspects can be used to adapt sustainable local food systems in different regions.
Through this new knowledge, the organic agricultural sector will be able to reduce the amount of imported feeds in Europe by increased utilisation of regional biological resources. This complies also with the social demand from consumers requesting 100% of the feeds to be derived from the farm or region (EC, 2013), and the Bioeconomy Strategy of the European Commission (EC, 2015).

Publications in the project

To document


Fractionation of forage legume crops can make a protein-rich feed available for monogastric animals. The aim of the current study was to assess the effect of fractionation method, leaf stripping or juice production, in lucerne (Medicago sativa) on protein yield in low-fibre fractions. We established field trial with replications on two lucerne varieties in Menemen, Turkey, in 2018. At first cut in 2019 whole plant and six different fractions were processed and sampled. Across varieties, juice, leaves and leaf juice yields accounted for 45%, 53% and 24% of the whole plant dry matter yield, respectively. Crude protein content was higher in leaf juice (26%) than whole plant juice (23%) and the content in leaves differed between the varieties (22% and 27%). Leaf stripping separated a higher proportion (on average 70%) of the total crude protein in the plant than juice production (on average 55%). The effects of variety, harvesting time and number of cut need further investigation.


The aim of the research project is to gain new knowledge about local production of protein feed for monogastric animals in organic farming, deriving from forage legumes. New knowledge will contribute to strengthen the agricultural sector in Europe as a whole, by improved utilisation of biological resources and competency on local food systems.