By Karla Jenkins
Field peas are a popular crop included in wheat rotations in western Nebraska, eastern Wyoming and Colorado because they contribute nitrogen to the soil and naturally break up weed and pest cycles. Field peas are normally sold for human consumption and used in the pet food industry. However, when they are rejected for human consumption and the pet food market is saturated, the field pea grower needs an alternative market for the crop.
A popular protein supplement for beef cattle in the Midwest is distillers grain, since much of this region is populated with ethanol plants. However, the western edge of the Midwest doesn't have the supply of distillers grain the central and eastern regions do. Also, many producers are limited to shipping in dried distillers grain due to either the availability of wet distillers, or the size of their operation limits the use of wet distillers before it spoils.
A two-year study was conducted in western Nebraska evaluating the feeding value of field peas as a protein source for beef cattle relative to dried distillers grain so that an appropriate price for field peas as a cattle supplement could be determined.
In this study, growing cattle grazing crested wheatgrass pasture from May to September were supplemented with 0.4% of body weight or 0.8% of BW of either field peas or dried distillers grain. Cattle fed field peas at 0.4% or 0.8% of BW gained 2.13 and 2.15 pounds per day, respectively. Cattle fed DDG gained 2.25 and 2.51 pounds per day for the 0.4% and 0.8% of BW levels, respectively. Cattle supplemented with field peas had 10% lower average daily gain compared to DDG-supplemented cattle at 2.14 and 2.38 pounds per day, respectively.
So, if the field peas result in 10% lower gain, they need to be priced 10% less than DDG. For example, if DDG is $150 per ton at the plant, and costs $3.50 per mile for trucking 265 miles, it would cost $187 per ton delivered. Therefore, the total cost of the local field peas would need to be $168.30 per ton. If the local trucking cost is $7 per ton, then the cost of the field peas would need to be $161.30 per ton, or $4.84 per bushel (60 pounds of field peas per bushel).
Utilizing field peas (26% crude protein; 36% total starch) as a protein supplement for grazing cattle is a viable option, particularly when other protein sources require extensive trucking. For more information on incorporating field peas into cattle rations, producers can contact Nebraska Extension personnel.
Jenkins is a Nebraska Extension cow-calf and stocker management specialist. This report comes from UNL BeefWatch.