Field peas are a developing feed source for cattle |

Field peas are a developing feed source for cattle

There is a developing feed source for the cattle industry here in our region with the introduction of field peas as an alternative feed source for the livestock industry. The production of field peas across our region has come about as producers look for alternative crops to transition back to winter wheat in their crop rotations. The addition of field peas has proven to be a sound agronomic practice in crop rotations which benefits the winter wheat production.

As producers we are attempting to make field peas a long term part of our crop rotations. Many producers are raising field peas in the area. The challenge for producers is developing a reliable market for the field peas. We need the livestock industry’s support as we continue to build this marketplace.

The timing of the development of this alternative feed source has coincided with the UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center’s research on feeding field peas to cattle on their research farm. Karla Jenkins, UNL livestock feed researcher, recently presented a summary of the research she and her fellow researchers at UNL have found when including field peas in many different livestock feed rations. This research along with other research done in North Dakota has proven the field peas are a good alternative feed source in the livestock industry.

Karla’s research using a 25% field pea 75% dried distillers grain cube showed an average daily gain in yearling heifers of 1.47 lbs./day. She also fed yearling heifers in this trial dried distillers grain in a bunk which showed an average daily gain of 1.4 lbs./day. In this same trial she also fed dried distillers grain on the ground which showed an average daily gain of 1.15 lbs./day. The field pea-dried distillers grain cubes proved to be of high quality leading to higher average daily gains in the yearling heifers. They provide the convenience of being able to feed the cubes on the ground as opposed to in a bunk. There is also less waste when feeding these cubes as opposed to feeding dried distillers grain on the ground.

We have a local feed mill that made these cubes for the trial and would be willing to produce more of these cubes as the need arises. Please contact me if you would be interested in trying some of these field pea-distillers grain cubes on your farm or ranch.

Karla and her team of researchers also conducted trials at the research feedlot including field peas in finishing rations as a replacement for wet distillers grain and corn. They included field peas up to 20% of the dry matter intake in these rations. The conclusion of these trials showed field peas can be included in finishing rations with no negative effects. As the price of corn remains high the field peas can provide an alternative feed source to replace the high valued corn or wet distillers’ grain in these rations.

The carcasses from these cattle were processed and the steaks were sent to a trained test panel at UNL for taste testing. The steaks from the cattle fed rations including field peas were compared to steaks from cattle fed corn based rations. The steaks from the field pea fed cattle proved to have better flavor and were more tender. The steaks were also mechanically tested using the Warner-Bratzler shear force test and the field pea steaks did show less force needed to tear the meat, indicating a more tender meat.

Karla pointed out research done in North Dakota that tested field peas in receiving rations. The field peas were included as 17% of the dry matter portion of the ration. The research indicated higher average daily gain in the cattle fed this receiving ration and higher dry matter intake. Several local feedlots have also included field peas in their receiving rations and have reported similar results.

Research from North Dakota shows creep feed rations with peas replacing from 33%-67% of the wheat middlings showed increased performance with the calves. The studies also show high palatability of the field peas in these rations.

I would encourage everyone in the livestock feeding industry to consider field peas as part of their livestock feed source. Field peas have proven to be a good feed source for protein and energy and should be a good fit in any ration for feeding cattle. Field pea producers and our local livestock industry need to work together to make field peas a stable crop in this region.

To view the UNL Panhandle research and Extension center research on including field peas in cattle rations go to the website For information on research including field peas in livestock rations in North Dakota go to Also feel free to contact Karla Jenkins at (308) 632-1245 for any questions pertaining to field peas in cattle rations. If you would like to include field peas in your livestock rations contact me at (308) 760-5259 and I can put you in contact with producers growing field peas in your area.

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