Today’s episode focuses on where pulses fit into a cattle ration. Some growers may be considering haying peas, lentils or chickpeas as a supplement to their nutrition program due to the drought conditions. We also talk about how pulse crops work from a relative value standpoint.
We are joined by Dr. Zac Carlson, the North Dakota State University Extension Beef Cattle Specialist based in Fargo. He just recently started in that position in June after finishing a masters and Ph.D. at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln focused on ruminant nutrition.
“I think pulse crops have a very unique and distinct place when it comes to livestock feed. They certainly provide a high quality forage and a high protein grain that I think has a lot of value in the livestock industry.” - Zac Carlson, Ph.D.
This year’s severity of drought combined with low hay production has created a scarcity in forage for livestock. Some producers are decreasing their herd size to lighten the nutritional requirements for their operation but Dr. Carlson offers an additional option. Pulse crops can provide 20-25% crude protein as well as some additional energy as part of a livestock ration and so can be used as forage. Their unique abilities for nitrogen fixation do need to be taken into account before they are integrated into a ration.
“Nitrates are our concern when it comes to grazing pulse crops. So it's just something to be aware of. It's definitely manageable...Having a light stocking rate helps with that as well as not grazing when the forage is wet….and making sure your cattle aren't hungry when they go out to these fields. ” - Zac Carlson, Ph.D.
Dr. Carlson highlights that when pulse crops are stressed, for example in a drought or unexpected frost, nitrate levels may be increased. He encourages anyone interested in grazing pulse crops to contact their county extension and discuss sending a sample of the pulse crop off for nitrate analysis. Increased levels can be managed but knowing the level of concern is very helpful.
“Obviously there's a valuable product there. And I really think considering how some of these might fit into a livestock diet and work through that are something pulse crop producers should consider.” - Zac Carlson, Ph.D.