Field Pea Production in Iowa for Use in Swine Diets

Tom Miller, Field Specialist-Swine, Southeast Area


Swine producers would have an alternative protein/energy source for swine diets if soybean meal costs become prohibitive due to increased soybean pest problems, including soybean rust.  Most Iowa crop producers now rely on two crops, corn and soybeans, for their livelihood. This has led to many problems, including increased pest problems, such as with bean leaf beetles and soybean aphids, and more vulnerability to adverse weather and poor prices. Crop producers are continually looking for a third crop to include in the rotation, but either the economics are not favorable or there is not a local market for the crop. Crop producers are also frustrated that very little of the profit in agriculture trickles down to the farmer. One way to remedy this problem is to search for ways to add value to their produce.  Field peas have not been widely grown in Iowa, partly because of the lack of a local market. Field peas make an excellent ration for swine and can replace most of the soybean meal as well as some of the corn in the diet. Thus there is a huge potential market for the crop in Iowa. Because it is a short season crop, it offers the opportunity of double cropping therefore, increasing potential profits. 


Jim Fawcett, ISUE, Crops FS; and Tom Miller, ISUE, Swine FS; and Bob Dodds, Lee County CEED, wrote a SARE grant and a Leopold Center grant which were both funded to examine the feasibility of planting field peas in Iowa and utilizing the field peas by feeding them to pigs.  Research was conducted at the SE Iowa Research & Demonstration Farm as well as local farmers to determine how to raise field peas in a double cropping system.  Swine feeding trials are evaluating production changes and the economical inclusion rates of field peas in swine diets.


A double cropping system utilizing spring planted field peas followed by soybeans was successful in 2005, with pea yields of 40-50 bu/A and double cropped soybean yields of greater than 20 bu/A in both field scale trials and small plot research. Yields of both crops were less in 2006, probably partly due to later planting dates in 2006 and to unusually warm weather in late May when the peas were flowering and setting pods.

The first feed trial was conducted the fall/winter of 2005-06 involving a 1200 head finishing site with two replications of each treatment 1) corn-soy, 2) Eclipse (variety) 300 lbs/ton field pea inclusion, 3) WFP 0097 (variety) 300 lb/ton field pea inclusion.  Due to an outbreak of Circovirus within the site only one replication of each treatment was used in the final analysis.  Performance of pigs on all diets was affected by disease outbreak but field pea and corn-soy diets showed no difference on ADG 1) corn-soy 1.99 lbs ADG, 2) Eclipse 1.92 lbs ADG, 2.04 lbs ADG, 3) WFP0097 2.02 lbs ADG.  Feed efficiency was by whole group which showed 1) corn-soy 2.77 lbs FE, 2) Eclipse 2.63, 2.70, 3) WFP 0097 2.26.  Excellent results were obtained from feeding field peas.  The feed efficiency of the WFP 0097 variety of field peas showed a statistical improvement over the other two diets. 

Midwest crop and swine producers are learning about the possibility of increasing their economic sustainability by utilizing double-cropped field peas in swine rations by seeing the many articles that have appeared in the press about the project.  Area producers learned about double cropped field peas at a field day held at the SE Iowa Research Farm near Crawfordsville in 2005 at on Amana Farms in the spring of 2006.

April 11, 2007 
150 Iowa Pork Industry Center

Page last updated: April 16, 2007
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