2004 Annual Report

Equine Section

Dickinson Research Extension Center
1089 State Avenue
Dickinson, ND 58601

Click Here
for Printer Friendly version

Yearling horse growth and development:
Acceptability and replacement value of field peas for oats

D.G. Landblom1, K.A. Ringwall1, D. Olson2 and B. Knudson3

1Dickinson Research Extension Center
2Animal and Range Science Department
3Dickinson State University


Yearling growing horses averaging 745 pounds were used to evaluate the acceptability and replacement value of field peas for oats in an 84d feeding study. Field peas replaced 0, 33 and 67% of the oats in complete pelleted supplements that were divided into two meals and fed twice daily. Feeding a supplement containing the highest inclusion level of field pea (67%P) was readily consumed by horses without invoking digestive disturbances. Supplements were fed such that uniform energy was fed across treatments. With the exception of forearm circumference that was larger when oats were replaced by 33%P, body growth and physical measurements were linear from trial initiation to the end of the study and did not differ. The data suggests that field peas can be a very useful feed grain for yearling growing horses.


The production of field peas (Pisum sativum) in North Dakota, and surrounding states, has been increasing steadily since the early 1990's. The crop, which fits well into small grain production in the cooler regions of northern plains, is grown primarily for domestic and export human food markets and, to a lessor extent, livestock feed. Estimates from the ND Dry Pea and Lentil Council (personal communication) suggest production available for livestock feed has varied from 10 to 37% annually during the 2002-2004 period. Field peas are an excellent source of nutrients containing: protein (22-26% CP), lysine (1.50%), ADF (8.0%), NDF (15.1%), digestible energy (1.54 Mcal/lb), starch (48-52%), fat (1.6%), calcium (.05%) and phosphorus (.48%). Peas are also a rich source of microminerals, water soluble and fat soluble vitamins. Oats are the most common feed grain fed to horses because they are palatable and possess a desirable hull to groat ratio making them a very safe energy source for horses. Nutritionally, oats are also an excellent feed grain containing: protein (13-15%CP), lysine (.40%), ADF (15.3%), NDF (27.0%), digestible energy (1.36 Mcal/lb), fat (5.1%), calcium (.05%) and phosphorus (.35%). Increased production of peas in the region have raised questions relative to their feeding value in horse diets. Many legume seeds, like peas, contain antinutritive factors (trypsin inhibitors, chymotrypsin, amylase inhibitors, haemagglutinins, tannins) that interfere with digestion, although modern pea varieties are low. Research with peas in horse diets is limited, however, Landblom, et al. (1997) the substitution value of field peas in non-ruminant swine diets and found raw ground peas to be an adequate substitute for soybean meal in growing and finishing diets. In Europe, Frape (1998), reported white and purple flowered peas to be a very useful protein source for horses, however, no research information exists relative to feeding peas to horses in North America. Therefore, investigating the potential replacement value of peas in growing horse supplements is a logical area of study, since field pea production is expected to increase following announcement that pulse crops like field peas have been accepted into the USDA commodity loan and LDP programs.

Growing horses develop most rapidly from birth to 12 months of age; attaining 50 to 60% of mature weight and height the first year and 80 to 90% of mature weight and height by 24 months of age (Freeman and Topliff, 2002). Under nourishment during growth of the young horse can have long-term detrimental effect on skeletal development. Because the rapidly growing, young horse, attains 80-90% of its mature size within the first two years of life, the yearling horse is an ideal growth stage to evaluate the suitability of field peas for horses. This project was designed to evaluate the acceptability of peas for horses and to measure physical growth changes when peas replaced 0, 33 and 67% of the oats in growing supplements.

Materials and Methods

Twenty-four yearling filly (n=18) and stud colt (n=6) quarter horses, averaging 745 pounds, were assigned in a completely randomized design, based on starting weight, to an 84d feeding study to evaluate three growing supplements. There were eight horses in each treatment and individual horse served as the experimental unit. The three growing supplements evaluated are described as follows: 1) 100% Oat Pellet (C), 2) 67% Oat/33% Pea (33P), 3) 33% Oat/67% Pea (67P). Cubed hay fed in the study was approximately one-third brome grass and two-thirds alfalfa and was prepared by Northwest Alfalfa Products, Tioga, ND. The complete pelleted supplements were prepared commercially and the amount fed daily was divided into two equal meals. Hay was fed first followed by the first half of the supplement at approximately 8:30 a.m. each day. The remaining half was fed at approximately 2:00 p.m. each afternoon. When the study started, two pounds of supplement was offered at the morning and afternoon feedings. The supplements were not isocaloric, however, based on calculated energy content, the total amount of supplement fed daily to each horse within treatment was adjusted so that all horses received the same amount of energy each day. Supplement delivered to each horse was gradually increased to full intake during the first three weeks of the study. Supplement ingredient composition is shown in Table 1. Hay, supplement, total daily feed deliveries to each horse and diet nutrient analysis is shown in Table 2. The horses were housed and handled in accordance with procedures approved by the North Dakota State University Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. Each horse was housed individually in rectangular 32' x 128' pens. Continuous steel fencing in the pens provided face to face contact and social interaction, but allowed for individual feeding.

Horses in the study were weighed and measurements to include weight, body length, wither height, hip height, heart girth circumference, cannon bone circumference, forearm circumference and gaskin muscle circumference were taken at 28d intervals. With the exception of body weight, dual measurements were taken by two research technicians and the mean value of the two measurements was recorded.

Data was analyzed using the statistical analysis procedures of SAS (1999).


Supplement acceptability was an important criteria in the study. The horses readily consumed all supplements without any indication of digestive upset. Horses grew steadily in a linear manner throughout the 84d study, as shown in Table 3. Horses receiving the 67P diet were slightly heavier at the end of the feeding period, but the difference was not significant. Final weights were 849.8, 844.8 and 860.0 for the 0P, 33P and 67P, respectively.

Body measurements for length, wither height and hip height are shown in Table 4 and indicate growth for these measurements was linear but did not differ.

Heart girth, forearm, cannon bone and gaskin circumferences are summarized in Table 5. With the exception of forearm circumference, that was greater (P=.058) in the 33P group, measurements for heart girth, cannon bone and gaskin were linear and did not differ. Although not directly measured, hoof integrity did not appear to be compromised due to treatment.

As supplements with pea replacement were fed, growth did not plateau at the highest 67P replacement level. These data indicate that field peas are a safe, readily accepted, high protein and energy source for horses and can be considered a very useful feed grain for formulation in yearling horse diets.

Literature Cited

Landblom, D.G. and W.W. Poland. 1997. Seasonal growth performance of barrows and gilts fed either soybean meal or Trapper field pea with two levels of lysine. 46th Annual Livestock Research Roundup, pp 31.

Frape, D. 1998. Equine Feeding & Nutrition, 2nd ed. Iowa State University Press, A Blackwell Science Company, Ames, IA, pp 133.

Freeman, D.W. and D.R. Topliff. 2002. Managing young horses for sound growth. Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service Bulletin F-3977.

SAS. 1999. SAS Users Guide: Statistics. SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC.


Table 1. Experimental supplement ingredient composition.

0% Pea 33% Pea 67% Pea
Oats 1588.764 1146.573 660.0
Peas 0 571 1229.014
Molasses 100 100 100
Crude Protein,% 16.96 17.5 17.78
Crude Fat,% 3.13 2.6 2.01
Crude Fiber,% 10.06 9.12 8.12
Calcium,% .22 .23 .23
Copper,P PM 26.98 27.02 27.01
Selenuim,Lb 2.7 2.7 2.7
Zinc,P PM 59.98 60 60.82
Potassium,% .79 .85 .89
Salt,% .3 .3 .3
.17 .15
Choline, Mg/Lb 557.7 380.31 169.02
Vitamin K,Mg/Lb .09 .09 .09
Vitamin A,IU/Lb 2.6 2.6 2.7
Vitamin D3,IU/Lb .43 .43 .45
Vitamin E,IU/Lb 21.66 21.66 22.5













Table 2. Daily cubed hay and supplement fed per horse.

0% Pea 33% Pea 67% Pea
Daily Feed:
Alfalfa-Brome Hay, lb. 9.5 10.0 10.5
Supplement Pellet, lb. 7.5 7.0 6.5
Total Fed/Day, lb. 17.0 17.0 17.0
Diet Analysis:
Crude Protein, % 17.0 17.2 17.3
Lysine, % .85 .84 .86
Calcium, % .84 .88 .92
Phosphorus, % .29 .29 .29
Digestible Energy, Mcal/lb. 1.09 1.10 1.10

Table 3. Growth of yearling horses fed oat supplements with increasing field pea levels.

O% Pea 33% Pea 67% Pea P-Value
Body Weights, lb
Initial 746.25 744 746.75 .9948
Day 28 761.3 753 763.3 .8919
Day 56 802.5 787.75 816.88 .4701
Final 849.75 844.75 860 .7673
ADG, lb
28 Day, lb. .5375 .3214 .5910 .7084
56 Day, lb. 1.471 1.241 1.91357 .2929
84 Day, lb. 1.6875 2.0357 1.54 .5474
Overall 1.232 1.1994 1.348 .5701

Table 4. Body length, hip height and wither height for yearling horses fed oat supplements with increasing field pea levels.

O% Pea 33% Pea 67% Pea P-Value
Body Length, in
Initial 54.180 53.547 54.434 .7751
Day 28 54.875 54.531 55.180 .6931
Day 56 55.578 55.281 56.117 .3812
Final 56.141 56.133 56.367 .9314
Hip Height, in
Initial 56.008 56.617 56.289 .5611
Day 28 56.609 57.313 56.953 .5264
Day 56 56.828 57.922 57.164 .1612
Final 57.469 58.359 57.641 .2212
Wither Height, in
Initial 54.188 54.840 54.109 .3726
Day 28 54.648 55.602 54.719 .0981
Day 56 55.102 56.063 55.102 .1371
Final 55.492 56.453 55.672 .2084

Table 5. Heart girth, cannon bone, forearm and gaskin muscle circumference for yearling horses fed oat supplements with increasing field pea levels.

O% Pea 33% Pea 66% Pea P-Value
Heart Girth Circum., in
Initial 62.703 62.641 62.438 .9396
Day 28 63.719 63.563 63.313 .8354
Day 56 64.547 64.453 64.203 .8408
Final 65.891 65.891 65.750 .9699
Cannon Circum., in
Initial 6.914 6.785 6.922 .9460
Day 28 7.031 7.047 7.094 .8203
Day 56 7.094 7.102 7.117 .9683
Final 7.234 7.156 7.234 .7562
Forearm Circum., in
Initial 18.280 18.320 18.612 .5999
Day 28 18.5 18.750 18.836 .5803
Day 56 18.617 18.703 18.953 .6422
Final 18.680a 19.5b 18.813a .0576
Gaskin Circum., in
Initial 16.148 15.906 16.141 .7176
Day 28 16.289 16.125 16.313 .7055
Day 56 16.281 16.234 16.359 .8443
Final 16.531 16.344 16.594 .4357


[ Back to 2004 Annual Report Index ] [ Back to Equine Reports ]

[ DREC Home ] [ Contact DREC ] [ Top of Page ]