Swine producers concerned about continuing high grain prices might want to consider using field peas as a partial substitute for soybean meal or corn in swine diets. Research coordinated by an Iowa State University Extension swine program specialist shows that this substitution is well tolerated by pigs and can be a more economical choice.
Tom Miller says the research started in 2005 after an inquiry from a southeast Iowa hog producer. The initial study, funded by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at ISU and through the USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program, included both raising field peas and using the field peas in swine diets.
"We looked at the growth of different field pea varieties in small field plots of 20 to 70 acres in southeast Iowa," says Miller. "We also tested the use of field peas in diets of a hog operation near Keota and at the ISU Swine Nutrition Farm. We hoped this would lead to developing an economical supply of these feedstuffs to use in pork production."
Peas provide nutrients similar to corn and soybeans but at lower cost
The feeding trial results showed that it's possible for swine producers to increase their profits by using field peas because they provide nutrients comparable to corn and soybeans at a lower cost than those grains, according to Miller.
"Field peas are a good source of lysine, and they're high in fiber with low levels of a trypsin inhibitor," he says. "Typically, they're fed raw and can be used for sows, weaned and finishing pigs."
Wider adoption of field pea use by Iowa producers hinges primarily on access to adequate quantities of the crop. The early field tests showed that field peas cannot withstand Iowa's summer heat and winter cold, notes Miller. And while double cropping is a possibility, planting one's own field pea crop currently does not necessarily offer an economical advantage to Iowa producers.
Find a profitable cropping system to grow peas, or else buy them
"The next step is to find a profitable cropping system in order to be able to use the potential of the field pea, which includes research on modifying the peas to survive Iowa's climate," he says. Another option for hog producers who want to incorporate field peas in their swine diets is to buy the peas from locations with more conducive growing conditions such as North Dakota and Canada.
"Ultimately, the cost of obtaining field peas, whether grown locally or imported from other locations, will be a determining factor in Iowa producer use," says Miller. "The positive nutrient and palatability aspects are well-documented."
A presentation on early results from the trials is available on Iowa Pork Industry Center website at www.ipic.iastate.edu/presentations/MillerFieldPeas406.pdf.