Field peas in creep feed for beef calves
(Progress Report)

V. L. Anderson
Carrington Research Extension Center
North Dakota State University

Field pea acres are increasing in North Dakota for a variety of reasons related to profit potential. These include sustainable crop rotations, on farm feed production, and small grain disease threats. The highest profit from field peas is achieved when quality criteria for the human market are met, however, livestock will consume the majority of field peas grown in North America.

Field peas are adapted to this eco-region, use conventional equipment, and fix nitrogen in the soil approximately equivalent to 1.25 pounds per bushel of yield. Field pea yields vary with management, but yields of 50 bushels per acre are not uncommon. Some field peas are exported to Europe for feed, however, peas offer many advantages as a locally grown feedstuff. Peas are a versatile feed and can be used in swine, poultry, dairy, and beef rations. The price structure for peas in each area of use, especially beef diets, is not well defined. Peas may best be utilized in scenarios where the need for dietary protein and energy match the nutrient profile of peas more closely than other single ingredients. This paper is a progress report from the first year of a two year study evaluating the use of increasing levels of field peas in creep feed diets for beef calves.

Materials and Methods
Fifty-two mature beef cows and their calves were randomly allotted to four treatments with two pens per treatment after breeding season in 1997. The four treatments were wheat midds and field peas at reciprocal levels of 100%-0%, 67%-33%; 33%-67%, and 0%-100%. Calves were weighed at the start of the trial, after 28 days on test, and at the end of the 56 day study. Respective creep feeds were fed and recorded daily based on bunk reading of calf sized feedbunks in the creep areas located in the corner of respective pens. Peas were coarsely rolled and wheat midds were pelleted. Nutrients in peas and wheat midds (Table 1) were not identical but the protein content of each exceeded recommended levels for creep feed (14-16%). Calves were fed between 9 and 11 AM, and within an hour after cows had been fed. All cows were fed the same totally mixed diet in fenceline bunks once daily. The British crossbred cows were fed to meet NRC (1984) requirements for average milking cows.

This report presents data from the first year of a two year study. Standard errors are provided to describe variation. An analysis of variance was conducted on the average values for each treatment. However, the reader is cautioned to consider this as preliminary data with only two replicates per treatment.

Table 1. Nutrient content of field peas and wheat midds used in creep diets.

  Field Peas Wheat Midds


Dry matter 89.7 88.8

---------Dry matter basis----------

Crude protein 22.5 18.0
Fat 1.2 5.6
Ash 3.5 5.1
Acid detergent fiber 8.2 12.1
Neutral detergent fiber 15.6 41.3
Calcium .05 .07
Phosphorous .48 .92


Results and Discussion
Calf gains, creep feed intake, and gain per unit feed ( Table 2) appear to be influenced by amount of peas in the diet. Feed intake increased during the entire study period (P<.05) with increasing peas in the diet. Daily intake averaged 6.05, 7.12, 8.27, and 10.73 pounds per head per day, respectively, for 0, 33, 67, and 100% peas in the creep feed. There is more acid detergent fiber (ADF) in wheat midds which would reduce intake but the variation appears to be greater than what can be accounted for by the fiber fraction alone.

Average daily gains (Table 2) for the 56 day study were 2.83, 3.15, 3.12, and 3.37 for 0, 33, 67, and 100% peas, respectively. An increase in gain was observed (P<.05) with increasing peas in the diet. The improvement in gain, however, is not proportional to the increase in creep feed intake with more peas in the diet. The reduction (P<.05) in feed efficiency (gain per unit feed) with increasing peas would suggest higher levels of peas would incur greater feed costs per pound of gain.

Feed costs per pound of gain were calculated at $.08, .10, .12, and .16 for increasing pea levels of 0, 33, 67, and 100%. Even though feed costs per pound escalated with peas at $3.00 per bushel, the returns per head improved based on more pounds of calf to sell at a market price of $75/cwt. Field peas in North Dakota have commonly traded for $3.00 to 3.25 per bushel during the past few years. According to this data, the break-even price for peas (60 lb bushel) would be approximately $3.43 when wheat midds are priced at $75/ton. On a per pound basis, the break-even price for peas would be 155% the price of midds. As calf prices escalate, the break-even price of peas increases. With calves selling for $90/cwt., peas are worth 173% of midds on a pound for pound basis, or $3.98 per bushel.

This study indicates peas are a very palatable feed for creep fed calves, calves gain well on diets with peas, and the price of peas is highly favorable in terms of returns when compared with other possible creep feeds. Producers will realize increased profits over other feeds when peas are grown or procured at less than the calculated breakeven price.

Table 2. Performance of nursing calves fed creep feed formulated with wheat midds and field peas.


- - - - - - - - - Treatments - - - - - - - - -

Wheat Midds 100% 67% 33% 0%  
Field Peas 0% 33% 67% 100% StErr
No. Pairs 14 13 13 12  
Initial Calf Wt, lb
(July 29)
351 342 346 348 11.37
Final Calf Wt. lb (September 26) 510 519 521 537 14.35
Feed Intake, lb
Period 1 4.53 5.28 6.65 7.72 .14
Period 2 7.58 8.95 9.89 14.01 .44
Average* 6.05 7.12 8.27 10.73 .28
Avg Daily Gain, lb
Period 1 2.54 3.00 3.51 3.38 .13
Period 2 3.12 3.30 2.74 3.35 .09
Average* 2.83 3.15 3.12 3.37 .11
Period 1 .56 .57 .41 .53 .02
Period 2 .41 .37 .24 .28 .02
Average* .47 .44 .30 .38 .02
Feed Cost/lb gain, $b .08 .10 .12 .16  
Return above midds, $/hdc - 7.83 3.65 5.31  

a (P<.05).
b Based on wheat midds at $75/ton and peas at $3.00 per 60 lb bushel.
c Based on calf price of $75/cwt.


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