Propcorn NC beans Cut Out Bought-in Protein

William Maughan has made a saving of well over £130 per tonne by switching from bought-in to home-grown protein and now says Propcorn NC-treated beans will remain a mainstay of his beef ration.

“We’d been considering growing beans as a source of home-grown protein for many years and I was finally prompted into action by the greening rules required for the Basic Payment Scheme,” says William, who farms in partnership with his father, David, and Uncle Peter, between Darlington and Barnard Castle in County Durham.

As an arable, beef and free-range egg producer operating out of two tenant farms on the Raby Estate – Morton Tinmouth West and Denton Grange West – he has always tried to grow and store his crops close to where they’re required rather than cart them over the three mile distance between the two farms.

For many years, this has meant using Propcorn NC-treated barley on one farm and crimped barley on another, where one premises has a suitable under-cover shed for conventional grain storage, and the other makes use of an outdoor clamp to preserve the barley as crimp.

“We’ve been taking advice on feed preservation from Kelvin Cave’s Michael Carpenter for many years so we worked with Michael when we were considering beans,” he says.

“I did have concerns about growing beans as I know harvest can be in late November or December in this part of the world,” he says. “We often won’t get a dry period at that time of year, and we thought a delay could cause problems if the crop was ripe but still damp.”  

The team decided their best way forward was to take an early harvest of a 20-25% moisture crop and preserve with the non-corrosive product, Propcorn NC.

“This meant harvest would be around three weeks early which is a big attraction for our business and fits in well with other arable operations,” says William. “We often won’t get a dry spell in October or November but had no problem last September, and found the beans sailed through the combine.”

For processing they used local contractor, Austen Richardson, whose Korte 1400 (supplied by Kelvin Cave Ltd) has fluted rollers which are important for penetrating deep into the bean and pulling them through to flatten them. The Propcorn NC is applied through the mill.

The spring-sown beans were heaped in the yard and processing took place on the day of harvest. They were stored in ambient conditions in a straightforward shed.

“Propcorn-treated feeds don’t need airtight conditions, which is one of the big attractions of this preservation method,” says Michael Carpenter. “When the preservative is applied at the correct rate, the beans will remain stable in a heap without heating or moulding throughout the year.”

William raises the benefit of the non-corrosive nature of the product which he says he chose out of respect for his contractor’s machine.

“I made a significant investment in the Korte 1400 when I took on contracting in this area,” adds Austen Richardson. “We have used the old, original Propcorn in the past which has a strong smell and produces lots of fumes - to the extent that you’d work with a mask in an enclosed space.

“The new NC product is noticeably better and much kinder on the machine,” he says. “It’s also important that Rob, our regular operator, has good working conditions and this product doesn’t burn if he gets it on his hands.”

William says he is very pleased with the ease and outcome of the whole process, and describes the treated beans as like ‘crinkle cut crisps’.

Using Kelvin Cave’s rationing programme they were worked into the forage-based ration (see box) with the beans taking the place of the bought-in protein pellets completely.

“At 28% protein and with a dry matter only marginally lower than the pellets, we were able to supply all protein in the ration from home-grown sources,” says Michael.

“We needed to re-balance the minerals as some of that requirement had been supplied by the pellets, and were able to do so with a high quality product,” he adds.

Pricing the beans at £160/tonne (which included all growing, processing and preservative costs) compared with the 36% protein pellets at £296/tonne, William worked out the savings he was making.

“The cost per kg liveweight gain was between 5p and 6p less with beans, equating to a saving of up to £20/head over the period beans are fed,” he says, emphasising that this saving took on board the need for extra minerals and the slightly lower dry matter of the beans compared with the bought-in concentrate.

Remarking that his figures were based on ‘extremely conservative estimates’, William says he hopes to grow and feed more beans in future.

“Our plans for the 2016 crop rotation were made last summer and seeds were purchased before we had the experience of harvesting and feeding the beans,” he says, regretting that beans haven’t been planned into this year’s rotation.

“Their ease of use is one of their big advantages as they are processed at harvest, and there’s nothing to do – no milling or mixing – when feeding through the winter,” he says.

“We are also very pleased with the bulls’ health and performance on their forage-based ration, with an average daily liveweight gain at 1.27kg/day,” he says.

For 2016 he says he hopes to buy beans from nearby growers but for the following year, he will increase his own farm’s acreage and hopes to feed all of his beef – both heifers and bulls – on the home-grown ration in 2017.

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