Feeding Common Vetch to Poultry

Small and Backyard Flocks May 05, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

Written by: Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky

Common vetch (Vicia sativa) is an annual climbing legume that originated in southern Europe but is now grown all over the world. Raw vetch should compose only 5% to 10% of a poultry diet. Heat treatment significantly increases the levels of inclusion possible. For laying hens, the maximum recommended level of heated common vetch is 25% of the feed.

Overfeeding of common vetch is harmful for two reasons. Vetch contains γ-glutamyl-β-cyanoalanine, which has a negative influence on the metabolism of sulfur amino acids. In addition, vetch contains vicine and convicine, which are responsible for a disease called favism. In poultry, there are undesirable changes in the blood and liver of chickens There is a breakdown of red blood cells leading to anemia. For laying hens vicine appears to alter the structure of the yolk membrane, reducing egg quality as well as fertility and hatchability.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.