News last update:6 Aug 2012

Field peas do well in beef rations

Beef farmers in North Dakota have discovered field peas in feedlot rations. At time this pulse crop can outperform barley or corn and it improves the beef.

Ruminant nutritionist Vern Anderson has been studying field peas for 8 years now at the Carrington Research Extension Center of North Dakota State University.

|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.

Roll the peas
Some trials compared the intake and performance of calves fed at arrival on pea-based or barley/canola meal concentrate. The peas were lightly rolled or cracked as Anderson had already discovered rolled peas were more easily digested than ground or whole peas.

At 1.6 kg/head/day steers on a straight pea concentrate had significantly higher gain and dry matter intake than steers on a half and half mix or a barley only 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.

Same performance in finishers
In his trials Anderson found higher dry matter intakes and daily gains with field peas in growing rations compared to a standard barley/canola meal growing ration.

Using field peas in finishing diets did not give better growth or feed efficiencies, but marbling scores went up and the percentage Choice grading carcasses almost doubled in the field peas fed animals compared to barley/canola meal rations.

Tender and tastier beef
In a study 117 yearling heifers were fed finishing rations containing 0, 10, 20 or 30% field peas in a corn-based diet for 76 days. There were no discernable effects on carcass traits but when a panel of expert tasters ate the beef, the field pea-finished steaks proved superior on juiciness and tenderness.

It seems the effect on juiciness plateaus at about 20% field pea while it kept trending upwards to the 30% level on tenderness ratings.

"If we can improve the juiciness and tenderness of beef by feeding peas even at a modest 10% rate for as little as 2 months and get this kind of impact, well this is truly exciting stuff," Anderson says.

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