Faba beans as a feed for cattle and sheep
- Faba bean is grown primarily for its edible seeds (beans), but it can also be used as a whole-crop.
- The beans are an excellent source of both protein and energy for ruminants
- The protein in faba beans is extensively and rapidly degradable in the rumen, and this characteristic needs to be accounted for when formulating diets. They have been successfully used as a replacement for soyabean meal in cattle and sheep rations.
- The energy value of faba beans is at least as good as cereal grains such as barley.
- Some level of processing is required to ensure adequate digestion of the protein and starch within the beans. This processing can be by rolling/cracking, coarse grinding, etc.
- They are usually quite palatable for ruminants. However, they need to be quite dry when stored and to be processed in moderate quantities to avoid mould or rancidity.
- A single maximum inclusion rate value can be speculative and sometimes conservative. Values of 5% for calf and lamb diets and up to 20% in dairy cow, beef cattle and ewe diets have been suggested.
- Beans with a high moisture content can be rolled/crimped and then ensiled, resulting in retention of nutritive value and minimal quantitative losses. It would be essential, however, to minimise the duration of access of the ensiled beans to air during feedout. This would require good compaction of crimped beans at ensiling and a rapid rate of progress through the feed face during feedout.
- Whole-crop beans include all parts of the plant above a 6-10 cm stubble. They can be difficult to preserve satisfactorily and thus usually require effective wilting and/or treatment with an additive (or co-ensilage with an easy-to-preserve crop). In addition, it is important that the crop be harvested and ensiled free of soil contamination. This whole-crop will have a higher dry matter yield but a lower protein and energy value than dry or ‘crimped’ beans.