Skip to content

Field Pea Straw Has Fertilizer and Feed Value (PCN Winter 2016) JAN 11 2016 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News

This article appeared in the Winter 2016 issue of Pulse Crop News.

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry Staff

Producers selling or buying field pea straw for feed should be aware of the fertilizer equivalent and feed value.

“The dry conditions experienced in many parts of the province this past growing season have livestock producers searching for feed,” explained Mark Olson, Unit Head – Pulse Crops, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF). “In travelling around Alberta, it seems that a lot of field pea straw has been baled. However, many producers selling or purchasing field pea straw for feed don’t know what the fertilizer equivalent or feed value of the straw is.”

The fertilizer equivalent is the value (nutrient wise) of the straw had it been worked back in the soil, Olson said, adding: “Not knowing the value of field pea straw is a problem for two reasons; first, it is difficult to determine what the price of the straw should be, and second, it is difficult to formulate a satisfactory ration for livestock.”

Olson recommended that farmers who are thinking of selling field pea straw should first test it.

“Western Canadian research into the nutritive attributes of field pea straw is limited,” he said. “Results from a three-year study on over 450 field pea straw samples collected from behind the combine from various locations in south central Alberta showed a large variability in nutritive value between years and locations. There was an average of 7.5 per cent crude protein, 0.087 per cent phosphorous, 1.38 per cent potassium, 0.133 per cent sulphur, 1.68 per cent calcium, 50 per cent acid detergent fibre (ADF) and 63 per cent neutral detergent fibre (NDF).”

Using 2015 fertilizer prices and the average nutrient values from the study above, field pea straw was calculated to have an approximate fertilizer equivalent value of $30/ tonne, not counting baling and hauling.

“Producers can calculate their own machinery costs for baling using AF’s Farm Machinery Cost Calculator (http:// as simply taking the going rate for their area may be costing them money,” Olson advised. “The cost of baling and hauling varies greatly among producers and locations in the province. Based on AF’s 2014 survey, the custom rate of round baling (large) ranges $9-$15/bale (dependent on area of the province) and hauling is $8-$10/ bale (dependent on mileage). If one were to assume 1,000 lbs. per large round bale, the value of that straw could easily range anywhere from $32- $40/bale delivered in the yard, but, of course, this is dependent on demand.”

In terms of feeding, Olson said that field pea straw quality appears to be better than cereal straw.

“It can be significantly higher in protein, but high fibre levels limit digestibility and expected feed intake,” Olson said. “Field pea straw is primarily useful for beef cow rations where high quality roughage is not as important as other classes of cattle. Field pea straw, when fed with higher quality roughage, grain or a combination of both, can produce a very cost-effective ration. Generally, higher protein levels makes pea straw a better match with grain than with cereal straw.”

Olson noted that palatability studies with field pea straw have not been conducted. “Palatability refers to how well an animal will consume the feed,” he said. “Anecdotal evidence provided by beef producers suggests a large range in field pea straw palatability, from cattle devouring the field pea straw to complete rejection. Mould, caused by baling straw that wasn’t dry, may be one reason animals may not consume it wholeheartedly. Additionally, some livestock producers have indicated that field pea straw sprayed with pre-harvest treatment may have lower palatability. To date there is no scientific evidence to support or refute this observation.”

Olson added that processing the straw, such as grinding or chopping it with machines like mix mills, or hay busters, and mixing the straw with other feeds, may help with palatability.

For more information, call Mark Olson at 780-968-3556 or email