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Feeding faba bean to poultry in practice
Home-grown faba bean for organic poultryUwe Brede and Babett Löber grow field bean cultivar Bilbo on their organic farm on Domaen Niederbeisheim, near the German city of Kassel. They keep laying hens and young hens, together about 30,000 birds. 100% organic feed rations is a matter of course for them. Faba bean is a valuable home-grown source of protein. They took over the farm in 1995 and switched to organic farming in the same year. Non-inversion (ploughless) tillage was introduced soon after organic conversion. „Today we can till our light limestone soils very efficiently and quickly“, reports Mr Brede. „The minimal tillage system with power harrowing instead of ploughing has established itself and has become an indispensable part of our business.“ Uwe Brede is a pioneer of organic agriculture. He is fully committed to a cyclical flow of nutrients on the farm. Organic seed production and the use of 100% organic feed rations in his laying and young hens is part of this.
Participatory plant breeding and cultivar maintenanceUwe Brede co-founded the Bäuerliche Ökosaatzucht e.G. as a cooperative. One focus of the co-operative is the systematic identification and maintenance of crop cultivars for organic farming. This includes maintaining and multiplying the field bean Bilbo. Wheat, barley, rye, triticale, spring barley, oat and grain legumes are multiplied on the Niederbeisheim estate on around 90 hectares (ha). In addition, in cooperation with a seed company for fine-seeded legumes, red clover is propagated on 20 ha. In total, the farm has around 150 ha of arable land and 27 ha of grassland. There is capacity for around 10,500 laying hens and for the rearing of around 18,000 young hens. “The development of this operation was driven by good local conditions and favourable market developments“ says Mr Brede. “This produces a high-quality organic fertiliser for our crops giving us a good nutrient balance from the closed nutrient cycle“ All eggs are marketed with a partner company. There the eggs are sorted, packed and marketed. The laying hens have been fed 100% organically for years with a consistently good laying performance. A needs-based amino acid supply in the organic rations is important. With purely home-grown protein feed components, this can only be achieved by upgrading the rations using valuable feed components such as oil cakes (Table 1). Dehulling of faba bean enhances the value of the home-grown protein feed components further. This takes place in the on-farm mill where the hulls are separated from the seed and removed via the air classifier. And it works very well: de-hulling increases the protein content from 24 to 36%.
Local faba bean for conventional egg productionManfred Hermanns keeps 54,000 hens in barn, free range and organic systems. He mixes the feed himself and also uses faba bean as a domestic source of protein. Mr Hermanns is convinced of the advantages of faba bean. „Faba bean is home-grown, has short transport routes, is GM and gluten free, and the crop supports pollinating insects. But it wasn‘t as simple as it sounds right from the start. When I tried to feed field bean to the hens a few years ago, it was a flop. The hens rejected the feed due to the high content of the poorly digestible glycosides vicin and convicin.“ Farmers are now growing new cultivars such as Tiffany, which are low in glycosides and are more palatable for hens. Mr Hermanns started cautiously with a 1% inclusion of faba bean which he increased gradually to about 7% (Table 2). The raw protein content and the content of the amino acids lysine, methionine and threonine were more favourable than expected. This has a positive effect on the health of the laying hens. It took the farmer several years to optimise the ration. The reward is a healthy flock, hardly any problems with feather pecking and pest infestation. And if there are any problems, which can also be caused by external influences such as high tempera-tures, Mr Hermanns uses the opportunity to immediately vary the composition of his own feed ration. „The feed is better and even cheaper,“ says the farmer happily. He has acquired a small feed mixer consisting of three different mills and a conical mixer. He grows 36% of the animal feed himself. Except for soybean, the rest comes from other farms in the region. Mr Hermanns would like to replace the soybean with sunflower meal in the long term. Due to the regional production concept, the eggs cost on average two cent more than comparable eggs from other farms. „This is only possible because we communicate the added value of our products to our customers and because they want to support our idea,“ explains the farmer.
Further informationBellof, G., Halle, I. and Rodehutscord, M., 2016. Ackerbohnen, Futtererbsen und Blaue Süßlupinen in der Geflügelfütterung. UFOP-Praxisinformation. Jeroch, H., Lipiec, A., Abel, H., Zentek, J., Grela, E. and Bellof, G., 2016. Körnerleguminosen als Futter- und Nahrungsmittel. DLG-Verlag, Frankfurt.
OutcomeSuccessful soybean harvesting is about recovering the highest proportion of the grain with the best possible quality and purity at the optimal time.
Harvest timeHarvest should start when the seed moisture drops to 13–15%. The rate of drying primarily depends on temperature and precipitation. The moisture content in the seeds can differ within a day by 5%. If the seeds are too damp in the morning, they can dry during the day. The moist phase persists longer as the nights become longer and colder. Wind accelerates drying. If after mid-October the seed moisture content is higher and no better weather in sight, it is also possible to start harvest up to 20% moisture, but then drying is required which involves additional costs. Losses increase and seed quality is reduced with delayed harvest. The following situations can prevail:
- The crop has developed under favourable conditions, leaves fall down during maturation and, within a few days, seed moisture drops to the optimal level for harvest.
- The plants are exposed to stressful conditions such as drought and/or high temperature leading to early senescence. Most of the leaves remain on the plants, while the pods and seeds are mature and ready for harvest.
- The crop is mature and not harvested on time. Losses increase due to diseases and pod shattering. This especially occurs if the pods are exposed to several cycles of wetting and drying.
PrinciplesCareful adjustment of the combine harvester is essential for a successful harvest. Soybeans have several characteristics that determine the optimum harvest practices. First, the earliest pods often form close to the ground, which means that the combine table and knife have to be guided close to the ground. A level, firm, and stone-free seedbed is a great help. The crop itself affects drying rates. A mature soybean stand is more open than a cereal stand and can dry rapidly during the day. As the pods are fragile, repeated cycles of drying and wetting increase pod shattering and loss of seeds. Timing is therefore critical if the weather is unsettled. The ideal grain moisture content is about 13%. For seed production it is about 15% because seeds at this moisture content are less vulnerable to mechanical damage. Waiting until the crop has dried down to about 12% reduces the cost of drying after harvest. The seed moisture content must be below 15% for short term storage and about 12% for long term storage. The characteristics of the soybean itself influence the combine setting and operation. Soybeans are large and heavy but the seed coat is fragile. The grains need to be protected from the threshing forces and mechanisms, especially if the grain is used for seed production. The first protection mechanism is the crop itself. Keeping the combine well-filled with crop material protects the seed. This means ensuring the combine forward speed is high enough to prevent an empty or nearly empty threshing mechanism. Very dry seed is fragile, so the second protection mechanism is harvesting before the seed becomes too dry. Harvesting soy with a seed moisture content below 12% increases the rate of damaged beans. 15% is an optimum for seed crops. The third mechanism is adjustment of the drum speed and related concave clearance. The pods are easily threshed and so a very gentle threshing mechanism can be used with a low drum speed and open concave. This also reduces fuel consumption of the combine. A high fan speed can be used to gently separate the seed from the straw. Lastly, the seed should be handled gently in the grain tank, in the augers and during transport by not emptying tanks and augers completely and by minimising auger speeds and drop heights. [caption id="attachment_18214" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Pouring soybean grain onto a tractor trailer[/caption]
Key practice points
- Harvest should be adjusted to the field and crop conditions. This involves appropriate adjustments of the harvester forward speed, airflow, drum speed, concave clearance, and sieves.
- The crop bulk protects the seed so the forward speed should be maintained for sufficient material flow through the threshing mechanisms to reduce damage to the seeds.
- The cutter bar should be kept close to the ground (3–6 cm). To allow cutting close to the soil surface, forward speed should be kept moderate at no more than 5 km/h. Stones or an uneven surface can limit the lowest possible cutting height as damage through stones or contamination with soil should be avoided.
- Ideally, a flexible cutter bar should be used that allows gliding on the ground and removal of stones and such, reducing losses by about 10% to a minimum.
- The header reel should be carefully adjusted to reduce contact with the crop. Reel speed revolutions should be synchronised with the harvester speed – usually 25% faster.
- Drum speed should be kept to 400–600 rotations per minute, depending on seed moisture.
- The sieves should be adjusted according to the seed size.
Further informationTaifun-Tofu GmbH, Landwirtschaftliches Zentrum für Sojaanbau und Entwicklung, 2020. Threshing soybean properly. https://youtu.be/ojoqDzMNQGo Legume Hub. www.legumehub.eu Taifun Soy Info 13: Threshing soybeans correctly Taifun Soy Info 14: Flex cutting bars
Harvesting and storing lucerne
OutcomeAttention to detail results in a good balance between yield and nutritional quality as affected by the stage of maturity. This also supports crop persistence and helps reduce weed invasion.
Harvesting lucerneHarvesting lucerne is different to harvesting grass in several important respects. The date of harvest is less critical for nutritional quality compared with grass. The digestibility and palatability does not decline after the ideal harvest date as much as in grass. However, the crop’s fragile leaves are susceptible to loss during handling. A lower sugar content compared with ryegrass requires greater attention to achieving good fermentation. Good harvest management of this perennial legume is about achieving an optimum balance between harvest yield and allowing the crop to build up root reserves for over-wintering so that the crop persists from year to year. Optimising harvesting means balancing several objectives: harvest yield, nutritional quality, crop persistence and crop health. For established crops in their second and subsequent years, harvesting at the flower bud stage results in a high protein content. Delaying harvest to the flowering stage results in a higher yield but with a decline in quality. Harvesting when 10 to 30% of the flowers are open is a reasonable compromise between yield and quality. Repeated early cutting (before flowering) affects plant health, reduces persistency and increases weed invasion. There is sufficient build-up of food reserves in the roots for good regrowth and over-wintering by the time the crop starts to flower. As a general rule, a crop should be allowed to reach 50% flowering at least once each year. Once established, similar to perennial ryegrass, lucerne can be cut a number of times through the growing season, generally from May onwards. In a four cut regime (about late May, early July, mid-August, and October), the first two cuts together account for about 70% of the annual yield while the last cut accounts for only about 10%. October harvesting reduces the root reserves for over-wintering. The decision to harvest in October is critical for allowing the plant to build up root reserves for the winter. Unlike grasses, where the growing point is at the plant base at soil level, lucerne’s growing points are higher up on the stem. Therefore it is important to leave a 7 cm high stubble. In addition to enabling rapid regrowth, this relatively high stubble also aids wilting, drying and crop handling. Avoiding loss of the leaf material is a priority in crop handling because the leaves account for up to 70% of protein. About 90% of the vitamins and minerals are stored in the leaves. Turning and swathing should be done when the crop is damp, for example early in the morning. [caption id="attachment_17645" align="aligncenter" width="400"] Lucerne sowing[/caption]
Conservation and storageConserving lucerne requires more attention to detail than grass. The forage can be difficult to ensile due to the lower sugar content. Higher dry matter is needed for clamped silage (around 35%). This reduces the risk of clostridial fermentation and butyric acid production that reduces feed intake, production, and is harmful to general animal health. The use of an additive i.e. acids, molasses or homofermentative bacteria is also essential to promote the lactic acid producing bacteria for effective fermentation. Wilting (partly field-drying) lowers the moisture content and increases the concentration of sugars allowing the silage to stabilise quickly. This reduces the amount of additive needed. There is a potential for mold spoiling lucerne silage at higher moisture levels, especially in big bale silage. Due to the more fibrous stems, the lucerne is more difficult than grass to compress to exclude the oxygen. Therefore a higher dry matter (40-50%) is needed for baled silage. However, over-wilting with more than 50% dry matter makes compression more difficult. The fibrous stems also require at least four wraps of plastic to prevent them piercing the wrap and allowing oxygen into the bale. There a number of simple tests that can be used to estimate forage dry matter content. The first is hand squeezing a small ball of lucerne cut into 1–2 cm lengths. The dry matter is about 30–40% when the ball falls apart slowly with no free moisture and little moisture on the hand. When the ball springs apart quickly the dry matter is over 40%. This can also be estimated with a microwave oven. A large handful is weighed to the nearest gram in a microwavable container and placed in the microwave oven along with a cup of water. The sample is dried in 3 minute intervals at high power until it begins to feel dry, then dried at 30 second intervals with the sample being weighed after every interval. Once the weight of the sample does not change this final weight is recorded. The percent dry weight is calculated from the final dried weight as a percent of the original weight. Lucerne silage takes approximately six weeks, a similar amount of time for grass silage. [caption id="attachment_17649" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Lucerne silage[/caption]
Key practice points
- Forage yield, quality, re-growth and persistency depends on the timing of cutting. Leaf cutting until the early flower stage to gain extra yield and maintain plant health.
- A 7 cm stubble helps rapid regrowth and the drying of the swath.
- Leaves are easily damaged or shattered when drying, reduce mechanical movement of the cut crop.
- Use additives to aid fermentation.
- Baled silage requires a higher dry matter for good preservation than clamped silage.
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