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Hungry Feed Market Ready to Accept Abundance of Faba Bean (PCN Winter 2015) DEC 22 2014 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News

This article appeared in the Winter 2015 issue of Pulse Crop News.

More Research Underway into Nutritional Benefits for Chickens

Alberta farmers grew the most faba bean in the province’s history in 2014. What wasn’t heading for human consumption is being sold into the feed market for pigs and an increasing number of chickens, thanks to research into the benefits of low-tannin varieties and an early frost.

Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD) has seen a sharp increase recently in the number of people inquiring about feeding faba bean, according to Research Associate Matt Oryschak with the Monogastric Feed Research Group in ARD’s Livestock Research Branch. He noted that many of these requests for information have been coming from Hutterite colonies which have already been experimenting with feeding faba bean to their pig herds and poultry flocks. He also noted, however, that while there is widespread interest in faba bean (and other pulses) among poultry producers, many are adopting a more cautious, ‘wait and see’ approach.

“There is a real lack of peer-reviewed information regarding the nutritive value of low or zero tannin faba bean varieties, and pulses other than peas in general, for poultry,” Oryschak said. “Nutritionists tend to be fairly conservative when looking at novel feedstuffs. In some cases there may be biases against faba bean based on the perception that anti-nutritional factors are a serious concern. Without any science-based evidence to either support or refute these concerns we simply don’t know.”

ARD’s Monogastric Feed Research Group, led by Research Scientist Dr. Eduardo Beltranena, completed some basic work a few years ago that considered the potential of pulse crops as feedstuffs for broiler chickens.

“Much of Eduardo’s work focused on nutrient and energy digestibility of pea, faba bean and lupin compared to soybean meal… really fundamental stuff,” Oryschak said. “Our group has also done some work with fractionation technologies, including air classification, to produce pulse protein concentrates that we believe could partially displace soy protein concentrates in chick and weaned pig diets.”

Beltranena’s group is currently conducting a study with laying hens intended to bridge at least part of the knowledge gap about pulses as poultry feed. “The most common question we get asked is ‘how much can I feed my birds,’ so we decided to tackle this one first,” Beltranena explained.

Their research group is currently conducting a 12-week study looking at the effect of 30 per cent dietary inclusion of ‘Snowbird’ faba bean, ‘Snowdrop’ faba bean, large green lentil, small red lentil, ‘Desi’ or ‘Kabuli’ chickpea compared to a standard corn-barleysoybean meal diet fed to laying hens.

In addition to comparing feed intake, egg production and egg quality among treatments, they also plan to look at some of the economics and possible environmental implications of high dietary inclusion of pulses for laying hens.

“Our job is not to tell poultry producers how much to feed, but rather to tell them what is possible,” Beltranena said. “It’s really about giving options to help them enhance profitability and competitiveness.”

The project is due to be completed in February 2015, after which they plan to extend their findings to interested stakeholders, which Oryschak said will definitely include pulse growers.

The Monogastric Feed Research Group’s webpage on the ARD website (; search term: monogastric) includes links to some of the pulse-related information the group has generated in the past few years. Questions relating to this pulse feed research can be directed to Matt Oryschak at 780-415-2220 or

Meanwhile, Neil Campbell, General Manager for Gowans Feed Consulting, said he has been receiving steady calls from producers who have frost damaged faba bean available.

“I think it’s because there seems to be a lot of frost damaged faba bean around and more acres of faba bean seeded, so that would correlate with why we’re seeing more faba bean available,” he said. “The research trials that were done several years ago laid the groundwork in terms of educating ourselves and the other nutritionists, as well as pig producers, on what faba bean were, that there were zero tannin varieties available, and what they were worth relative to other ingredients. Now that there’s more available, there hasn’t been any constraint to having them adopted and be used in the diets. Years ago when we did the research work, they weren’t abundant. The guys who produced them had really good grades, so they went into different markets where they could capture more value.”

He said if producers still have any faba bean or other pulses that they are looking to sell, he would like to hear from them because there is a market for feed fabas.

“There should be a lot of demand out there because soybean meal and canola meal prices have stayed pretty high, and Western Canadian feed grains, quite frankly,” Campbell continued. “We’re absolutely shocked about where some of these prices are compared what U.S. corn’s worth.”

Mark Olson, Pulse Crops Unit Head with ARD, shared information about faba bean with producers at a recent APG zone meeting. He said that an estimated almost 80,000 acres were planted with this relatively new crop for Alberta last growing season, and 59,641 of those acres were insured.

He said that the fact that many Hutterite colonies are now using the lowtannin faba bean to replace soybean meal in their livestock rations is great for Alberta pulse producers. However, there have been some concerns raised about animals going off feed when eating badly weathered faba bean.

“If you have severely frost damaged faba bean,” Olson advised, “market them as soon as you can, especially if the moisture is higher than is recommended as moulds or mycotoxins can develop and this will cause feeding problems.”

Faba bean is considered dry at 16 per cent moisture content. Faba bean must be monitored closely in storage. The crop will be graded “sample” if more than one per cent of seeds are heated or rotted, or if there is a musty, mouldy or unnatural odour. Faba bean will also darken over time (especially tannin types), causing them to be downgraded, so storage over one year is not recommended.