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Availability of banana and plantain products for animal feeding
by G.M. Babatunde


Most of the developing countries have been battling against the problem of how to adequately feed their livestock and poultry because of inadequate production of conventional ingredients for livestock feeding. Many of these countries are also well blessed with considerable good fertile, arable land, good sunshine and abundant and well distributed rainfall. The inadequate quantities of concentrated feedstuffs they produce yearly are competed for by humans and their livestock. Usually humans have to have their needs satisfied first leaving the remainder for livestock.

Some countries have liberal import-export policies which allow the importation of those ingredients in scarce supply. Others make it a national policy not to import those ingredients which would have gone a long way to solving their livestock feed problems on the grounds that they want to stimulate internal production and self sufficiency. Failure to achieve these aims has led to animal scientists looking for other ways of solving the feed problem. One of these is the increased use of unconventional feed ingredients, notably the agro-industrial by-products and farm wastes, for which humans do not compete. Nigeria took a giant step in this direction recently when it set up Task Forces on Alternative Formulations of Livestock Feeds aimed at producing cheaper, costeffective livestock feeds largely from the unconventional agro-industrial by-products. Two such crops, which are frequently produced in quantities that exceed either export or local demand and can be used in unconventional feeding systems, are bananas (Musa sapientum L.) and plantains (Musa paradisiaca L.).


Both bananas and plantains are crop plants found mostly in the humid tropics where they are used as staple foods for humans. There are more than 32 species and 100 sub-species of bananas in existence, each with minor morphological differences from the others. The banana plant produces bunches with varying number of small, fleshy fingers, sometimes up to 200 fingers, while the plantain produces bunches with fewer but bigger fingers. Bananas are the type normally exported around the world, while plantains are rarely exported but are used locally in various forms by humans. Plantains in fact are often regarded as the “cooking bananas”.

According to the FAO statistics (1988 FAO Production Yearbook), the total production of bananas in 1988 was 41.9 million tonnes while that of plantains was 24.0 million metric tonnes. If it is also assumed that about 30–40% of the total production of bananas and plantains are potentially available for livestock feeding as a result of their being rejected for export, accidentally damaged in the field, domestic wastes, etc. In this way, approximately 12–15 million tonnes of bananas and 7–9 million tonnes of plantains could be available each year for use as livestock feed.

Tables 1 and 2 show the world distribution of bananas and plantains respectively. South America and Asian countries, notably Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, India, the Philippines, China and Indonesia are the world leading producers of bananas, most of which are exported to the developed world. North and Central America and Africa are the other leading producers of bananas. Africa leads all other regions in the production of plantains, with Cameroon, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zaire being the main producing countries. South America (Colombia, Ecuador) and North and Central America are the other main producers, though their production figures far behind those of African countries.

TABLE 1. Major banana producing countries of the world (x 1000 metric tonnes, Fresh Weight)
World total36,70441,12342,17341,913
Africa: Total4,7055,4765,6655,879
Cote d'lvoire163137136130
N & C America: Total7,0376,7146,5606,353
Costa Rica1,1341,0001,0501,050
Dominican Republic298422373391
S. America: Total9,03310,51710,87010,707
Asia: Total14,35016,73017,40617,303
Total developed countries798953923922
Total developing countries35,90640,17141,25040,991

Source: FAO Production Yearbook 42, 1988

TABLE 2. Major plantain-producing countries of the world (x 1000 Metric Tonnes; Fresh Weight)
World Total21,18023,55823,87623,971
Africa: Total15,66016,83617,13217,397
N & C America: Total1,5461,6881,6831,737
Dominican Rep.592650610670
Costa Rica8780120120
Puerto Rico86909294
South America: Total4,2884,1534,2844,016
Asia: Total1,684880776820

Source: FAO Production Yearbook, Vol. 42, 1988

Fresh Bananas and Plantains have a high water content (78–80%), with the dry matter consisting mainly of starch (72%) which turns into simple sugars during ripening. The remaining material has a low content of protein, vitamins, and inorganic nutrients; the protein is very deficient in lysine, methionine and tryptophane. The fruits also contain varying levels of active tannins, the factor that is responsible for the astringency of raw, green bananas. The tannins reduce as ripening progresses because they are in the polymerized form. The tannins inhibit enzyme action and in particular the proteases, which reflects in the reduced digestibility of the crude protein fraction when raw green bananas are fed.


Every part of the banana and plantain plant (except the roots and suckers) can be and have been used to feed livestock in various parts of the world. Most of the research work on this subject has been carried out in Latin America and certain Asian countries; including India and the Philippines. From the literature it is apparant that the following materials have been fed with varying degrees of success to various types of livestock:

  1. Fresh, green, chopped or unchopped green banana fruits with peels.

  2. Ripe, raw whole banana or plantain fruits.

  3. Dehydrated, sliced, milled, whole, green bananas or plantains.

  4. Cooked, green, whole banana and plantain fruits.

  5. Dehydrated, milled, green and ripe plantain or banana peels.

  6. Chopped, fresh, green plantain and banana fruits ensiled with molasses, grass, legume, rice bran or any other products that will increase their feeding value.

  7. Whole, fresh, green leaves, fed directly to animals or after being ensiled with an easily fermentable carbohydrate such as molasses.

  8. Banana and Plantain stalk or pseudostem, chopped and fed raw, or ensiled with easily fermentable carbohydrates, e.g. molasses.

The best way of feeding fresh green banana or plantain fruits is to chop them and sprinkle some salt on the slices since the fruits are very low in the in-organic nutrients. Cattle and pigs relish this material. For ensiling purposes, the chopped green bananas or plantains are preferred to the ripe fruits which lose some of their dry matter and, in particular sugars during ensiling. Similarly, green fruits are more easily dried than ripe fruits which are very difficult to completely dehydrate.

Table 3 shows the composition of the plantain products while Table 4 shows that of the vegetative parts. Table 5 shows the decrease in the tannin contents of the pulp and peels of bananas during ripening while Table 6 shows the composition of reject bananas at different stages of maturity and preservation.

The current importance of banana and plantain product use, in livestock feeding, varies considerably from country to country. In Latin American countries and some Asian countries that produce bananas in very large quantities, they have considerable quantities of under or over-sized, reject or damaged bananas available for livestock feeding. In African countries, where little export takes place and most of the bananas and plantains are consumed, with relish, it is almost unthinkable to feed livestock on bananas and plantains. In these countries only the fruit that is completely unfit for human consumption and the peels are available for livestock feeding. In such places the feeding of the vegetative parts of the plant, the pseudostem and the leaves are likely to be of greatest significance, since these are not currently widely utilized for feeding to livestock. Instead, they are allowed to rot away in the fields. For the fruits to have any commercial use in livestock feeding, the industries would have to considerably expand and exceed internal demand. In this context, many African, Latin American and Asian countries have the means in terms of fertile land, climate and human resources to produce such an expansion.

TABLE 3. Composition of Banana and Plantain Parts and Products
Parts/Products Dry Matter Ether Extract NFE Crude Fibre Ash Crude Protein Digestible Energy Cattle DE Swine ME TDN
Banana Peelings, 18 1.5 6.0 4.8 4.0 1.7 0.5 190 NA NA
fresh1 100 8.3 33.5 26.7 22.0 9.5 2.76 1058 NA NA
Banana Peelings, 90 11.6 51.2 13.4 8.5 4.8 3.11 2837 2693 64
boiled, dehydrated1 100 13.0 57.2 15.0 9.5 5.3 3.48 3168 3007 72
Banana Peelings, 91 13.4 51.0 11.5 9.9 5.4 3.25 3140 2977 71
dehydrated1 100 14.7 56.0 12.7 10.8 5.9 3.56 3446 3267 78
Plantain Peelings, 16 0.8 12.5 1.3 0.1 1.3 0.56 593 560 13
fresh1 100 5.0 78.4 8.1 0.6 7.9 3.52 3705 3498 84
Banana fruit, fresh, 74 0.8 65.1 1.0 2.9 4.0 2.59 2838 2693 64
without peelings1 100 1.1 88.2 1.3 4.0 5.5 3.52 3846 3650 87
Banana fruit, boiled 91 3.3 76.0 4.7 4.1 3.2 3.21 3334 3177 76
dehydrated1 100 3.6 83.4 5.4 4.5 3.5 3.52 3659 3487 83
Banana fruit, de- 87 2.7 71.0 1.0 4.6 3.9 3.02 3171 3015 72
hydrated1 100 3.1 81.7 3.0 5.3 4.5 3.47 3648 3469 83
Banana fruit, w.o 91 0.9 82.6 1.6 2.9 3.6 3.23 3589 3417 81
peelings, dehydr- ated1 100 0.9 90.3 1.7 3.2 3.9 3.53 3924 3736 89
Whole ripe banana fruit peelings2 19.62 0.87 82.87 5.20 5.5 5.55 NA NA NA NA
Fresh, matured banana peelings2 13.06 6.97 67.68 5.74 12.56 7.04 NA NA NA NA

1 Central and South East Asia Tables of Feed Composition (1982)

2 Fonseca (1976)

TABLE 4. Composition of Banana/Plantain Vegetative Parts and Products
Banana/Plantain Parts Dry Matter Ether Extract NFE Crude Fibre Ash Crude Protein Digestible energy Cattle
Banana stem, fresh Mature1 6 0.1 3.6 1.5 0.6 0.5 0.17
100 1.9 57.1 23.7 9.7 7.6 2.72
Plantain stem, fresh1 6 0.1 4.0 0.8 0.9 0.2 0.16
100 1.2 66.6 13.8 15.6 2.8 2.60
Banana leaves, fresh1 24 1.4 9.3 7.0 2.2 4.2 0.68
100 6.0 38.6 28.8 9.3 17.3 2.82
Banana leaves, Suncured1 84 1.4 52.2 22.8 8.4 9.2 2.30
100 1.5 55.5 24.3 8.9 9.8 2.45
Banana leaves, fresh immature1 18 0.8 7.6 4.6 1.5 3.7 0.54
100 4.2 41.9 25.4 8.1 20.5 3.00
Plantain leaves, fresh1 19 1.0 8.3 4.4 2.3 2.8 0.52
100 5.3 43.8 23.6 12.4 14.8 2.73
Banana, Aerial part, Silage1 20 0.7 9.8 5.2 3.1 1.1 0.47
100 3.4 49.1 25.9 16.3 5.5 2.37
Fresh banana pseudo- stems, India2 5.1 2.3 60.5 20.5 14.3 2.4 -
Fresh banana, whole plant2 20.9 1.9 85.2 3.3 4.8 4.8 -
Banana silage, immature fruit 1.57 molasses2 25.6 3.5 83.2 3.5 5.1 4.7 -

1 Central and South East Asia Tables of Feed Composition (1982)

2 Extracted from Bo Gohl (1981)

TABLE 5. Changes in amount of active tannin in the pulp and peel of bananas during ripening process expressed as units per 100g of tissue
Days Fruit condition Pulp Peel
0 Green 7.36 40.5
1 Green 8.01 34.0
2 Green 7.57 28.3
3 Green 4.30 25.4
4 Green 5.02 25.9
5 Colouring 4.30 16.5
6 Colouring 3.87 18.1
7 Colouring 1.95 11.2
8 Eating ripe 2.84 4.6
9 Eating ripe 1.99 4.7
10 Over-ripe 2.00 4.5
11 Over-ripe 1.32 3.5

Source: Von Loesecke (1950) cited by Clavijo & Maner (1975)

TABLE 6. Composition of banana export rejects at different stages of maturity and preservation
Characteristics Green 1–5 days after picking Ensiled green Ripe Ensiled ripe
Banana 20   18  
Banana pulp (% DM) 80   82  
Dry matter content of 21.2 29.0 21.7 23.5
fresh feed        
Crude fibre (% DM) 3.7 5.3 3.8 6.1
Crude protein (% DM) 6.4 3.8 5.3 8.1
Alcohol-soluble sugars 1.8 0 73.6 17.3
Starch 72.3 70.9 3.4 6.8
Ash 4.6 3.8 5.2 5.7
pH - 4.2 - 3.8
Losses as % of Ensi- - 13.5 - 33.9
led DM        

Source: Le Dividich, Seve and Geoffroy (1976)


A study of the available literature on the use of bananas and plantains for feeding livestock shows that most of the research work in this area was carried out in the Latin American countries which collectively produce about 35–50% of the worlds total banana production. This research interest reflects the huge ammount of bananas rejected for export in these countries and that cannot be used for local human needs. In contrast little research has been carried out on the use of plantains in animal feeding since they are mostly grown for local consumption and practically all except very bad rejects are consumed by humans. The account below gives summaries of the major experimental findings on the use of bananas and plantains with the various types of farm animal.

The pig

Undoubtedly the species that has been used most extensively for banana feeding studies is the pig. One of the best publications on the feeding of bananas to pigs is that of Clavijo and Maner, (1975). In that review paper, it was clearly demonstrated that pigs can successfully utilize bananas in the fresh or dried meal forms and that the pig will consume large quantities of bananas and grow well if those bananas are sufficiently ripe (Hernandez and Maner, 1965). It was further shown that when the banana was fed green, combined with 30% protein supplement, they voluntarily consumed only about 50% as much as when fed ripe ones (Table 7). This resulted from the over consumption of the protein supplement at the expense of the energy rich green bananas which resulted in their reduced growth rate. Cooking slightly improved the performance and resulted in a greater amount of bananas being consumed though not enough to match that of ripe bananas.

The difference in the consumption patterns of pigs on ripe and unripe, green bananas is essentially due to the bitter, astringent taste of the unripe fresh green bananas and plantains caused by the high levels of free, active tannins, which also depress the digestibility of proteins in the diets.

TABLE 7. Performance of growing finishing pigs (1) fed ripe, green or cooked green bananas (2)
Parameters Treatments
Control maize supplement 30% protein supplement3
Plus ripe bananas Plus green bananas Plus cooked green bananas
Avg. Daily Gain (kg) 0.68a 0.566 0.46c 0.50c
Avg. Daily Feed (kg):        
Banana (kg) - 8.85a 4.25c 6.20b
Supplement (kg) - 0.71a 1.04c 0.88b
Total Dry Feed (kg) 2.31a 2.48a 1.89b 2.11a
Feed/Grain Ratio 3.41a 4.44b 4.16b 4.26b

1 18 Pigs/treatment, replicated twice, avg. initial wt. 28.5 kg, average final weight 92.0 kg

2 Source: Hernandez & Maner (1965) cited by Clavijo & Maner, 1975

3 Supplement made up of fish meal, cottonseed meal, maize vitamin, minerals and antibiotics

TABLE 8. Performance of growing-finishing pigs (1) fed ripe bananas (2) and either a 30% or 40% protein supplement free-choice
Parameters Treatments
Control Banana plus 30% protein supplement Banana plus 40% protein supplement
Protein in concentrate (%) 16 30 40
Avg. daily gain (kg) 0.87a 0.77b 0.66c
Avg. daily fresh bananas (kg) - 8.29 8.85
Avg. daily bananas (kg. DM) - 1.84 1.97
Avg. daily supplement (kg) - 0.82a 0.62b
Total daily air dry feed (kg) 2.64 2.66 2.59
Feed/gain 3.04a 3.47a 3.92b
Feed in mixture consumed (%) 16.0 12.4 13.0

1 Total of 72 pigs, 4 replications of 6 pigs/treatment; avg. init. wt. 23.2 kg; avg. final wt. 90.1 kg.

2 10% DM basis used for bananas

Source: Calles et al, 1970

Von Loesecke (1950, cited by Clavijo and Maner, 1975) postulated that the total tannins present inthe fruits remain constant during ripening but that while the “free tannins” are reduced as ripening progresses (Table 5) the content of bound “inactive” tannins increases. It has been suggested that the bound, “inactive” tannins or “tannates” are inert and do not impart any bitter taste. Clavijo and Maner (1975) have advised that when feeding banana or plantain pulps which are very high in water and low in protein, vitamins and minerals (Table 3), these must be fed together with appropriate supplements. Calles et al. (1970) fed 30% and 40% protein supplements to growing, finishing pigs ad lib together with ad lib fresh, ripe bananas also fed ad lib. Their results (Table 8) showed that the 30% protein supplement gave better growth than the 40% protein supplement because of the increased consumption of metabolisable energy from the 30% protein supplement which contained more energy than the 40% protein supplement.

Although pigs relish fresh ripe bananas and plantains, they are unable to consume enough to satisfy their needs during lactation, though they can probably consume sufficient to meet their needs during gestation. Clavijo et al. (1971) confirmed this in a controlled feed intake study on gestating sows fed a controlled diet versus a banana diet plus 40% protein supplement. The gestating sows on the banana plus protein supplement diet performed better than those on the control diet, gaining significantly more weight during gestation and producing heavier piglets at birth.

On the other hand, the studies by Clavijo and Maner (1971) with lactating sows showed that sows fed a banana plus 40% supplement diet performed worse than those on a controlled diet (Table 9). The sows on the banana diet produced lighter piglets at birth, fewer pigs weaned, had higher piglet mortality, and lost more weight during the study period.

The use of dried, milled banana has also proved to be a useful pig feed. In particular using this material in this form enables it to be incorporated into diets at much higher levels than using fresh bananas. In a classical study on the comparative responses of growing-finishing pigs to diets containing graded levels of 0, 25, to and 75% green banana meal, Celleri et al. (1971) demonstrated gradual but significant decreases in the average daily gains of pigs as the level of banana meal increased. Similar decreases were reported by Oliva et al. (1971) in addition to a worsening of feed efficiency ratio (Table 10). While the use of fresh ripe bananas will not normally supply the full needs of the sow for lactation, studies with the dried, milled green bananas by Clavijo (1972) showed that bananas presented in this form could successfully be incorporated into sow lactation diets to satisfy their needs.

TABLE 9. Performance of lactating sows fed either a complete concentrate or ripe bananas plus protein supplement
Parameters Treatments
Control Banana plus 40% protein supplement
Avg. pigs per litter, No. 8.5 8.7
Avg. weight of birth (kg) 1.31 1.24
Avg. pigs weaned, No. 6.3a 5.9b
Mortality (%) 26.4 30.3
Avg. daily concentrate (kg) 3.66 1.02
Avg. daily consumption bananas (kg) - 11.22
Avg. daily protein consumed (kg) 0.586 0.520
Weight loss of sows, (kg) 9.5a 11.3b

Source: Clavijo & Maner, 1971

TABLE 10. Performance of growing-finishing pigs fed diets containing varying levels of green banana meal
Treatments Diets
1 2 3 4 5
Celleri et al. (1971)a          
Level of green banana meal (%) 0 25 50 75 -
Average No. of days to slaughter 119 121 124 128 -
Average daily gain (kg) 0.67 0.65 0.63 0.61 -
Average daily feed (kg) 2.45 2.54 2.54 2.55 -
Feed/gain ratio 3.66 3.88 4.04 4.19 -
Oliva et al. (1971)b          
Level of banana meal (%) 0 12 24 36 48
No. of days on trials 126 126 128 131 143
Average daily gain (kg) 0.62 0.60 0.61 0.59 0.54
Average daily feed (kg) 2.62 2.59 2.78 2.82 -
Feed/gain ratio 4.24 4.35 4.36 4.48 5.23

a Celleri et al., 1971: Used dehydrated commercial banana meal pellets. Significant treatmentdifferences in all parameters except the average daily feed.

b Oliva et al., 1971: Utilized sun-dried green banana slices for meal preparation. Significanttreatment differences (P < 0.05) in all parameters except the average daily feed.

Clavijo and Maner (1971) and Le Dividich and Canope (1975) also demonstrated the differences in the ability of the pig to utilize green versus ripe bananas in the fresh or the dried, milled forms. The results of the formers studies are presented in Table 11. The negative protein digestibility value for the fresh green banana reflects the high level of free active tannins present while its residual presence in the ripe fresh banana might account for the slightly negative digestibility value.

TABLE 11. Coefficients of digestibility and digestible and metabolisable energy values of fresh and dried ripe and green bananas
Digestibility Fresh Meal
Ripe Green Ripe Green
Dry matter (%) 84.25 76.93 -50.52 83.63
Protein (%) -42.65 -102.00 -126.61 3.38
Crude fibre (%) 78.01 56.98 39.40 78.35
Ether extract (%) 32.40 -24.87 24.50 22.09
Nitrogen-free extract (%) 92.43 92.74 68.60 92.51
Total Digestible Nutrients (%) 81.51 83.13 57.39 80.94
Digestible energy Kcal/kg DM 3114 3119 1703 3207
Metabolisable energy Kcal/kg DM 2967 3141 1520 3173

Source: Clavijo and Maner, 1971

The table also shows that the green, dried, milled form gave comparable results to the ripe fresh form, but the dried ripe milled form produced the worst results. This was most probably due to difficulty of drying the ripe banana, which must be heated to a high temperature for a long time before it is completely dry. Under such extreme drying conditions, many of its nutrients are destroyed or denatured which shows in the reduced digestibility and lower digestible and metabolisable energy values of the dried, milled, ripe bananas.

It has been suggested by Le Dividich and Canope (1974) that dried, milled, green bananas can be used in the diets of piglets from as low as 5 Kg live weight, if properly supplemented with protein, vitamins and minerals. Young pigs also relish ripe fresh bananas, but care must be taken in feeding this material to piglets since they can suffer digestive problems when consuming ripe bananas in large quantities.

Only few studies exist on the use of plantains in pig feeding. One of the few, studied the use of plantains peels for feeding pigs was conducted by Fetuga et al, (1975). The study involving the determination of the nutrient digestion coefficients of yellow maize, maize cobs, yam peels and dried, ripe, milled plantain peels using three weight groups of pigs (18 kg, 45 kg and 65 kg live weight) in straight digestion trials. The results (Table 12) showed that apart from the maize cobs, the plantain peels were more poorly utilized by the 18 kg weight group than the maize and yam peels. As the pigs became bigger (45 and 65 kg groups) the utilization of plantain peels was inferior only to yellow maize.

Finally, attempts have also been made to feed ensiled bananas to growing and fattening pigs with some success. Le Dividich and Canope (1975) showed that although green banana silage depressed the digestibility of protein in the diet, it had essentially the same nutritive value as ripe fruit. However silage made from ripe bananas did not perform as well as that made from green bananas. Le Dividich and Canope (1975) also showed that ensiled green bananas could successfully serve as a basic feed for gestating sows but not for lactating sows even if the silage was generously supplemented with molasses and protein.

TABLE 12. Mean Nutrient digestibilities (%) for yellow maize, maize cobs, yam peels and plantain peels as determined at three weights (18,45 and 65 kg) of growing pigs
Pig wt. (kg)   Digestion coefficients (%)
Feeds Dry Matter +SE Crude Protein +SE Crude Fibre +SE Ether Extract +SE Nitrogen Free Extract +SE
18 YM 91.7a 1.44 85.2a 1.68 56.7a 1.22 89.0a 2.42 95.6a 1.04
  MC 9.0c 0.68 -24.6c 0.74 31.7c 0.45 -44.8d 4.74 20.9b 0.36
  YP 85.4a 1.79 67.6b 1.48 51.9ab 1.38 42.8c 2.11 94.8a 0.98
  PP 78.4b 1.86 59.2b 1.92 48.9b 1.42 65.1b 2.04 89.9a 1.21
  Mean 66.1x 2.11 46.9y 1.97 47.3x 1.18 38.0y 2.86 76.3y 1.18
45 YM 91.5a 1.36 84.9a 1.57 86.4a 1.49 86.2a 1.88 94.3a 1.04
  MC 27.3c 1.06 -22.8d 1.22 58.6c 1.32 -4.1d 1.28 58.8b 1.24
  YP 83.4b 1.69 54.4c 1.62 77.5b 1.77 32.2c 1.38 90.2a 1.33
  PP 83.5b 1.82 66.4b 1.86 81.2ab 1.58 63.0b 1.78 86.2a 1.42
  Mean 71.4y 1.64 45.7y 1.79 75.9y 1.74 45.1y 1.87 82.4y 1.38
65 YM 92.8a 1.52 87.8a 1.48 87.2a 1.53 90.6a 1.86 95.4c 1.24
  MC 47.3c 1.14 -8.1d a 64.8c 1.28 -2.3c 1.84 64.4c 1.26
  YP 81.4b 1.74 40.5c 1.03 85.8ab 1.48 37.2b 1.76 88.6b 1.18
  PP 76.7b 1.83 47.4b 1.44 80.4b 1.62 39.0b 1.68 81.7b 1.27
  Mean 74.6y 1.84 41.9y 1.58 79.6y 1.63 41.1y 1.92 82.5y 1.22

YM = Yellow maize;
ME = Maize cobs;
YP = Yam peels;
PP = Plantain peels;
SE = Standard error of means
a-c = Within weight groups values in the same column, with the same letter are not significantly different (P<0.05)

x,y = Weight group means in the same column followed by the same letters are not significantly different (P<0.05)

Source: Fetuga et al., 1975

Ruminant animal feeding

Although it would appear that the ruminants are well suited to use the vegetative parts and peels of bananas and plantains, the amount of experimental work reported on the feeding of these products to ruminants is surprisingly less than that carried out with pigs. In 1981, Bo Göhl reported that banana leaves could be used as emergency feed for ruminants, but that the digestibility decreased as the level of banana leaves increased in the ration. He further stated that the pseudostems could be fed fresh, but that chopped ensiled pseudostems enriched with readily fermentable carbohydrates was the best way of feeding them to ruminants.

Foulkes and Preston (1978) reported that the dry matter of banana leaves and pseudostems was relatively digestible for ruminants, ie; 65% digestibility for leaves and 75% for the pseudostems. However, despite this apparently high DM digestibility, the leaves and pseudostems alone can barely meet the maintenance requirements of ruminants. They recommended that urea and a highly digestible forage or sweet potato foliage should be used as supplements to pseudostems or leaves being fed. In fact, it has been well established that the greatest limitation to using bananas as a feed for ruminants is the lack of fermentable nitrogen and hence banana diets must always be supplemented with a source of nitrogen such as urea. Perez and Roldan (1984) further clarified this situation when they compared banana diets fed with and without cotton seed cake to cattle in Colombia. Their results are shown in Table 13 and show that significant improvements in ADG were obtained as the level of cotton seed cake supplementation increased from 1 to 2 kg/day/cow.

Dehydrated, green, milled banana (banana pulp flour) has been successfully used as a source of starch in the preparation of calf feeds and specifically in the manufacture of milk replacers. In Ecuador, Spiro (1973) Rihs et al. (1975) tested various levels of banana flour in ruminant diets and found that banana flour could successfully replace up to 50% of the cereal in the feeds of young growing and finishing cattle.

Chenost et al. (1971) and Geoffroy and Chenost (1973) carried out digestibility trials on goats in cages and reported that when bananas and forages were offered ad lib. separately, the kids consumed bananas at a level amounting to about 20–40% of their ingested dry matter. When the two were blended together, the dry matter and digestible organic matter rose sharply as the content of bananas increased in the ration from 0 to 20%. Also, the DM intake was greater when ensiled rather than fresh green bananas were fed.

TABLE 13. Growth of cattle fattened under commercial feedlot conditions in Colombia on reject bananas (40% of Diet DM), chopped elephant grass (42%) and kudzu legume forage (18%) with different supplements
Protein supplement Initial Liveweight (kg) Daily gain (kg/d) Days on feed Comparison
No supplement 330 0.83 90 Female adult
  325 0.64 90 Male adult
  334 0.80 90 Female old
  324 0.88 90 Female young
  240 0.91 100 Male young
  350 0.61 100 Male old
1 kg/d cottonseed cake 381 1.15 60 + sulphur
  391 0.97 60 - sulphur
  332 0.98 60 urea/molasses
  322 0.97 60 Aqueous urea
2 kg/d cottonseed cake   1.60   Chianina x zebu
    1.14   Zebucrosses
    1.25   Zebu bulls
    1.10   Zebu steers
    1.66   Chianina bulls
    1.50   Chianina steers

Source: Perez & Roldan (1984) cited by Preston and Leng (1987)

In Guadeloupe, Geoffroy (unpublished, cited by Le Dividich et al. 1978) investigated the possibility of substituting the cereal component in the diet of lactating goats with either green, or ensiled bananas and found that complete replacement of the cereals with bananas resulted in increased dry matter intake, significantly higher milk yield and better weight gains.(Table 14). Similar results were obtained by Geoffroy and Chenost (1973), who used banana meal and banana silage to replace the cereal in a concentrate diet.

TABLE 14. Influence of different kinds of energy and N-supplementation of feed intake and milk production in dairy goats
Energy source Cereal Green Bananas Ensiled Bananas
N2 source Level of Urea (N as % total N) Soybean cake (0) Soybean cake + Urea (32.2) Soybean cake (0) Soybean cake + Urea (28.9) Soybean cake (0) Soybean cake + urea (28.5)
Dry matter int- ake of Pangola (regrowth of 50 days) (g/day) 679 686 176 321 319 330
Bananas - - 1330 1278 1099 904
Concentrates 828 749 448 189 404 160
Total DM intake 1507a 1435b 1954c 1788d 1822d 1394b
DM intake/100 kg live wt. (kg) 3.14 3.34 4.17 3.26 3.67 3.24
Milk production (kg/day) 1,627 1481b 2028c 1599a 1878d 1447b
Buter fat content (g/kg) 25.8 26.3 25.4 30.0 27.0 27.5
Concentrate/ Milk (g/kg) 509 506 221 118 215 111

Source: Geoffroy (unpublished) cited by Le Dividich et al. (1978)

Finally, Viswanathan et al. (1989), in India, used sheep to investigate the nutritive value of banana stalk. In this study dried banana stalk replaced 0, 20, 40 and 50% Paragrass hay. The feeding trial lasted for 60 days and showed that feeding the banana stalk did not have any detrimental affect on the health of the animals and that although the daily liveweight gains were low the rate increased up to 40% level of inclusion after which it started to decline. The dry matter intake per Kg 0.75 was fairly similar in all treatments. Of all the nutrients, the digestion coefficient for crude protein was lowest and cellulose the highest. However, since these results were based on a limited number of samples it is difficult to base any valid judgement upon them.


Experiments on the feeding of banana and plantain products and by-products are few. However, considering the nature of the gastro-intestinal tract of the domestic fowl and its limited capacity, it would appear that, when fresh, these materials, which have a high moisture and low energy and protein content, are unlikely to meet the energy and protein requirements of poultry. On the other hand dried banana or plantain fruit or pulp with higher energy densities could meet appetite limitations if well supplemented with protein, vitamins and minerals. Similarily, the low energy, low protein and high fibre content of dried banana or plantain peels suggest that, even in the dried form, these materials will not be good replacements for materials such as maize or guinea corn in conventional diets.

For example, Tewe (1983), investigated the replacement of 0, 7.5, 15, 22.5 and 30% maize with equivalent quantities of dried plantain peelings in broiler diets over a 10 week feeding period. His results (Table 15) showed that as the level of dried plantain peel meal increased beyond the 7.5% level, there were significant reductions in the weekly weight gains of the broilers, with the broilers on the 30% plantain peel meal gaining least and having the poorest feed conversion efficiencies. Although the cost per kg. of feed reduced with increasing inclusion of plantain peel meal the feed cost per kg. gain steadily increased with the increased plantain peel meal inclusion. Tewe concluded that plantain peel meal can successfully be included in broiler rations up to 7.5% beyond which it is detrimental.

TABLE 15.Performance characteristics of broilers raised on varying dietary plantain peel levels
Parameters  Diets
Starter Phase12345
Feed intake/bird/wk(g)292.3b299.2ab288.8ab322.8ab323.4a
Wt. gain/bird/wk(g)132.8ab135.2a121.9b131.9ab129.7b
Protein efficiency ratio1.98a2.05a1.92b1.95b1.91b
% Mortality1.57.515.05.02.5
N2 Retention (%)73.9774.1469.2561.9170.30
Finisher Phase     
Feed intake/bird/we (g)786.5b762.3b760.1b800.6b905.1a
Wt. gain/bird/we (g)218.4a206.3ab202.1ab167.2b163.0b
Protein efficiency ratio1.32a1.29a1.33a1.04b0.90b
% Mortality02.802.70
N2 Retention (%)66.4065.6565.0264.0564.18
Starter-Finisher Phase     
Feed intake/bird/we (g)490.0bc484.4c477.4c513.9b556.1a
Wt. gain/bird/we (g)166.9a163.7ab154.0b146.0c143.0c
% Mortality2.510.
N2 Retention (%)0.981.

a, b, c: means without common superscripts in horizontal rows are significantly different (P < 0.05)

Source: Tewe (1983)

Since meal from whole fruit is richer in energy than the peel it would appear that a much higher level might be included. Bo Göhl (1981), however, stated that high levels of banana meal tended to depress growth rate and reduce feed efficiency and so recommended that not more than 10% of the grain portion of the poultry diets should be replaced by banana meal.


Consideration of the cultural practices for producing bananas and plantains and the growth pattern of the plant strongly suggest that the overall cost of production is low, relative to the costs of other crops. In terms of yield energy per hectare, bananas/plantains are considered second highest to cassava ie; 25,120 Joules versus 36,480 Joules per hectare for cassava. To put this in context it should be noted that energy yields for cereals per hectare are in the 10,000 Joule range.

In order to maintain cost advantage of bananas and plantains over cereals as animal feed only minimum processing of the fruits can be carried out. Assuming that this is the case and that the materials do not depress livestock performance, the feeding of whole; chopped; raw; ripe; banana and plantain fruits or their peels, leaves and pseudostems are likely to offer considerable cost-saving.

Systems of processing include ensiling, which is a low cost system producing nutritious products and drying and milling. The latter probably produces the most useful products, but their cost of processing is also the highest and so should only be used when the cost benefit ratio favours it. Cooking also enhances the value of the fruit, but again, increases production costs. From the nutritional point of view cooking, drying and milling do not have any advantage over whole; chopped; green or ripe fruit and so should be avoided wherever possible.


From the literature, there do not appear to be any new processing technologies currently being developed for plantains or bananas. It is also unlikely that any new processing technologies can be developed to make the plantain and banana fruit more nutritious and usable, than present technologies, without significantly increasing costs. Probably the area with greatest potential for improving technologies is in the use of pseudostem or stalk and the leaves. Since a great deal of the dry matter of these materials is fibrous, new technologies might aim at making the fibre more digestible, in the same way that grass and straw are processed using alkali or ammonia treatment. Treatment that could significantly increase the nutritional value of this fibrous material could be of tremendous economic importance because these constitute the main bulk of the banana plant, most of which are currently wasted.


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