There is scope to use more Irish-grown beans in animal feedstuffs, according to Teagasc’s Dermot Forristal.

Speaking at the National Tillage Conference in Kilkenny, the Teagasc Principal Research Officer said the primary market for beans is as a protein and energy source in feed rations for animals.

“Beans are a good addition to that market as there is a significant EU deficit in feed protein.

“Ireland is deficient in both protein and starch. We import about 1.5m tonnes of protein feeds and another 1.5m tonnes of starch feeds for our animal production systems each year.

“By relying on protein imports we are exposed to world prices and importing non-native sources of feed,” he said.

However, Forristal said the demand for beans can be sluggish on the domestic front as many compounders are not fully aware of the nutritional qualities they offer.

The market is a little bit limited at the moment, as not enough compounders are placing them in feed rations.

He added that both the protein and energy components of beans are quite similar to maize distillers, a product commonly used in the manufacture of animal feedstuffs.

And if they were to be added at an inclusion rate of 10% to all of the coarse and pelleted rations manufactured in Ireland each year, there would be an annual requirement for 420,000t of beans.

Beans – not just a valuable feed

In addition to being a good source of energy and protein, he said they can also be used as an excellent break crop.

“Farmers need to consider the benefits break crops have for other crops in the rotation, as in some situations that’s where their real benefit is.”

Benefits of break crops:
  • A disease break
  • Soil fertility advantages in some cases
  • Soil structure advantages
  • A high-value crop to sell