Ensiling intercrops of Faba beans and cereals for organic laying hens

Project Details


Main research question/goal

The general objective of the KUILEG project was to assess if legumes can be used as an alternative and regional protein source for organically raised laying hens. We mainly focused on faba beans, and we studied to what extent the ensiling process of the beans and cereals can reduce the anti-nutritional factors or ANFs present in the beans. ANFs are substances that negatively affect the digestibility or the palatability of the feed. Additionally, the effect of mixing these silages in laying hen feed was studied on the laying hen performance and digestibility.

Research approach

We investigated in different trials to what extent the ANFs of faba beans are reduced when they are ensiled as moist beans in combination with cereals. Further, silage quality was assessed and it was evaluated how this silage quality could be improved if needed. Via feed formulation, we determined an optimal mixing percentage of these silages in laying hen feed. Finally, we assessed the silage as a protein source in the feed of laying hens, focusing on nutrient digestibility, animal performance and egg quality.


From the first trial, where different combinations of faba beans and cereals were sown, we concluded that the ensiling process was a successful technique to reduce the ANFs present. Particularly the levels of vicine were drastically reduced by half or even up to 90% in the winter variety Axel. Additionally, the nutritional value of these silages was still good. In the performance trial, there were no significant differences between treatments, regarding performance and egg quality. The nutrient digestibility seemed to be better with the mixed silages compared to the dried faba beans. From these trials, it can be concluded that it should be possible to replace soybean meal in feed of organic laying hens by silages of intercropped faba beans and cereals

Funding provider(s)
Vlaamse Overheid

External partner(s)
Hogeschool Gent
Effective start/end date1/10/1730/09/20

Flemish Discipline list

  • Agricultural animal nutrition
  • Agricultural animal production not elsewhere classified