NEWS for North Dakotans
Agriculture Communication, North Dakota State University
7 Morrill Hall, Fargo, ND 58105-5665


July 30, 1998

Field Pea Straw Could Provide Forage and Cash

Straw from the region's field pea crop may provide some much needed forageand cash.

"If that straw is green and leafy, it will make a good forage for beef cows," notes Karl Hoppe, North Dakota State University livestock specialist at the Carrington Research Extension Center. "Conservation Reserve Program acres weren't opened up to haying this summer and some of our good-yielding grasslands and pastures are under water, so we can't ignore any alternative forage source."

Typically, field pea producers, especially those without cattle, would spread the straw on their fields to add organic matter and nitrogen to the soil. "But this year, if the yield and quality are there, marketing that straw could add a couple more dollars to the net income from each acre," Hoppe says.

Straw yields in fields with a good pea harvest should range from 1,000 to 1,500 pounds or more. And pea straw typically contains from 40 to 48 percent total digestible nutrients. Wheat and barley straw usually contain 38 to 42 percent. The grass hay that many producers rely on for forage contains about 50 percent. Crude protein of field pea straw is about 6 to 8 percent, compared to 4 percent for wheat straw. Field pea straw is also high in calcium, containing 1.5 percent. Phosphorus content is 0.13 percent. In Canada, where field peas have been a common crop for years, research suggests the nutrient content is similar to slough hay.

"Like other straws, this is not a sole feed, but in a mixed ration it can be used to complement and extend other feed sources," Hoppe says. He notes that diseases and harvesting can cause stems to lose many of their leaves, so actual nutrient contents can be unpredictable. A forage test will help balance rations and make the most of feed resources.

Hoppe notes that the cattle seem to like the straw and will readily eat it. The only concern with feeding the straw is that if some of it was heavily infected with fungal diseases, the straw could be dusty. And that dust could be laden with toxins that can cause abortions.

"If you have pea straw that's dusty, don't force your pregnant cows to eat it. Instead, offer it to your non-pregnant cattle," he says. For more information, contact Hoppe at the NDSU Carrington Research Extension Center at (701) 652-2951 or e-mail khoppe@ndsuext.nodak.edu.

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Source: Karl Hoppe (701) 652-2951

Editor: Tom Jirik (701) 231-9629