Feeding peas to cattle has benefits

By Gary Sliworsky
Ag rep, Emo

If you haven’t finalized your cropping plans for 2013 to provide feed for your beef cattle, you may want to give peas some consideration.
The following is Part 1 of an article on using peas from Ron Lackey, Feed Ingredients and By-products Feeding Specialist, OMAF and MRA:
Peas are a versatile, palatable, and nutrient-dense feed ingredient that can be grown and harvested as forage or as a feed grain.
Either way, they make an excellent feed ingredient for all livestock—although this article talks about the benefits of feeding peas to beef cattle.
Field peas harvested as grain have a starch content of typically around 50 percent, resulting in energy levels comparable to grain corn.
Crude protein levels typically are around 25 percent, but can vary from 17-27 percent depending on variety, growing conditions, and other factors.
Because of their nutrient composition, they can provide much of the needed energy and protein when included in beef cattle rations.
The protein in peas is highly rumen degradable (ranges from 78-94 percent RDP), which can be beneficial for the growth of rumen microbes and will have a positive effect on forage digestion, which should result in improved feed efficiency.
Research has demonstrated that field peas can be effective in beef creep feeds, receiving or starter rations, and growing and feedlot finishing rations, supporting similar or, in many cases, superior performance when compared to other ingredients.
Peas are very palatable, so they particularly are beneficial in starting calves on feed when included in creep and starter rations.
Based on research data, dry matter intakes will be higher and feed efficiency will be improved when field peas are included in beef creep rations at inclusion rates of 33-50 percent of the total ration.
This data also indicates that while dry rolling the field peas results in slightly higher average daily gains, the dry matter intakes are similar when fed as whole peas or dry rolled peas.
For grain-based beef finishing rations, an inclusion rate of 18-25 percent field peas will satisfy the protein and other nutrient requirements in most cases.
When peas are grown as forage with cereals such as oats, barley, wheat, or triticale, and harvested as hay or silage, they can be a palatable, nutritious supplement for beef cattle at almost any stage of production, but for the cow herd in particular.
Some Ontario-based cow calf producers, who grew and fed a pea/cereal mixture to substitute reduced forage supplies this past year, have found it to be a particularly effective and convenient way to supplement lower quality hay, straw, or corn stalks that also may be fed to lower feed costs.
Next week’s article will continue with information of peas’ effect on marbling.
Dates to remember
•April 2-4–Thunder Bay Spring Conference