Field peas equal barley or corn in

CANADA - Ranchers have long known field pea roughage can winter cows but now some North Dakota research says this pulse crop works just as well in feedlot rations, and at times can outperform barley or corn. As a bonus, it improves the beef.
calendar icon 11 July 2007
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Ruminant nutritionist Vern Anderson has been studying field peas for 8 years now at the Carrington Research Extension Center of North Dakota State University.

Initially Anderson and his team documented production and performance benefits to field peas in creep rations and as supplement for wintering cows and bulls. Many growing rations for bulls in North Dakota now contain 20% to 30% lightly rolled field peas because of the muscle development and growth rates they produce.

From there Anderson moved to the feedlot.

Some trials compared the intake and performance of calves fed at arrival on pea-based or barley/canola meal concentrate. A typical trial fed steers a 42-day receiving ration of 60% concentrate made from 50% barley and 50% field peas or 100% field peas compared to a more normal barley and canola meal mix. The peas were lightly rolled or cracked as Anderson had already discovered rolled peas were more easily digested than ground or whole peas.

At 3.5 lb./head/day steers on the straight pea concentrate had significantly higher gain and dry matter intake than steers on the half and half mix and the barley check ration.

“Now, with 60% of a ration as concentrate and 100% of that concentrate being field peas, well that’s a lot of peas. The good news is the calves ate it and digested it, grew and did not have any problems. So peas are very palatable and they worked,” says Anderson.

In another trial 172 ranch-fresh calves went on a receiving diet comparing field peas, lentils or chickpeas in the concentrate to a corn and canola meal ration. The cattle on the pulse crop rations ate significantly more dry matter and had significantly higher average daily gains. All were around 4 lb./head/day.

“One of the most interesting things we observed was when we kept track of these animals for 7 weeks after they came off that receiving ration. The calves that were on the pulse-based concentrate kept gaining more than the calves that were on the corn/canola based ration,” says Anderson.

In other work, Anderson found higher dry matter intakes and daily gains with field peas in growing rations compared to a standard barley/canola meal growing ration.

When Anderson’s team fed cattle on 77% corn, barley and field pea finishing diets for 120 days they found no significant difference in dry matter intakes or average daily gains, although the pea-fed animals had a slight edge in both categories. Feed efficiency was the same, as well. “But we saw marbling scores go from 369 to 395 and the percent Choice grading carcasses from 25% to 44% in those animals fed field peas compared to the cattle on the barley/canola meal,” Anderson notes.

In a separate heifer finishing trial he looked at the influence of processing. He fed a ration containing 28% peas for 120 days where the peas were whole (9,300 microns), rolled (3,000 microns) or ground (700 microns). The heifers on the rolled field peas ate the most at 29 lb./head/day and posted the highest gains of 3.4 lb./day. Feed efficiency rates were the same on all 3 rations. “We believe there’s a biological threshold to tenderness where the cattle can only get to their genetic potential for tenderness, no farther. But can field pea rations be an insurance policy to make sure all cattle are tender regardless of their genetic potential?”

Source: Canada Agriculture Online
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