Double Cropped Field Peas Add Value to Swine Operations

Jim Fawcett, Crops Field Specialist, Southeast

Problem Statement
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. It has also become increasingly difficult to compete in the world market when these commodities can be produced at a lower cost in other countries, such as Brazil. 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.
Programmatic Response
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. Unlike soybeans, field peas do not have to be processed, and can be fed directly on the farm, thus adding value to the crop. With Iowas large swine industry there is a huge potential market for the crop. Because it is a short season crop, it offers the opportunity of double cropping, thus increasing potential profits.
A 4-year project was started in 2005 by Iowa State University Extension specialists with funding from the Leopold Center and SARE to investigate the use of double-cropped field peas for swine rations. A 75-acre field at the SE Iowa Research & Demonstration farm was planted to two varieties of field peas in the early spring of 2005 and harvested in late June. Two farmers planted 15 acres each of field peas in the summer after a winter wheat harvest. Extensive small-plot research was begun in 2005 on the SE Iowa Research Farm to see if field peas can fit into an Iowa crop rotation. The research has involved the cooperation of ISU Extension personnel across several disciplines, including crop specialists, swine specialists, and farm management specialists.

Pea yields ranged from less than 30 bu/A to 55 bu/A on the 75 acre field, depending on soil type, soil fertility, and variety. Soybeans planted after the pea harvest on July 1 yielded 26 bu/A in mid-October, indicting that this rotation does have some viability. The harvested peas were used in a large-scale swine feeding trial in Washington County and results indicate that Iowa grown field peas do have potential for being used in swine rations. The research has received a lot of press coverage, including articles in Iowa Farmer Today, Successful Farming, and National Hog Farmer. Because of the press coverage and tours conducted on the research farm, others have expressed interest in looking at field peas and other alternative crops. The farmer cooperator who owns the facility where the feeding trial was conducted is already improving his profits by including peas in his swine rations.

February 17, 2006
121 - Adding Value and Enhancing Agricultural Products

Page last updated: July 9, 2006
Page maintained by Linda Schultz,