Growing Peas As a Protein Source for Organic Livestock

Final Report for FNC04-504

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2004: $1,031.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $470.00
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
William Welsh
Welsh Family Organic Farm
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Project Information


Welsh Family Organic Farms’ project to raise peas, as a protein source, was a great learning experience for us. We learned that we must be more careful where we buy our seed because the seed we purchased in 2004 did not germinate anywhere near what was expected.

We also learned that to grow them by themselves does not work because of weed control. There were so many weeds in our “peas only” plot that they were not worth combining. By baling them, they did provide very palatable forage for our beef cows.

On the positive side, where we sowed peas with the barley in equal amounts, (50 pounds of barley and 50 pounds of peas) we were more successful. If we could get the right germination and if the planting rates could be changed to fifty pounds of peas, one and one half bushels of barley and ten pounds of alfalfa seed, we believe that we would have more effective weed control and the end result would be more positive.

The pea-barley mixture was harvested. Yield was on 8.3 acres. In the plot seeded at 100 pounds per acre (50 pounds of peas and 50 pounds of barley) 2850 pounds of the mixture was harvested with 12% peas and 88% barley. 342 lbs. peas divided by 60 (lbs per bu) equals 5.7 bushels peas 2,508 lbs barley divided by 48 (lbs per bu) equals 52.25 bushels barley.

Different seeding rates used (pounds) on 46.65 total acres
8.3 acres @ 50# peas per acre = 415 (50# barley)
10.9 acres @ 25# peas per acre = 272.50 (25# barley)
15.7 acres @ 50# peas per acre = 785 (no barley)
11.75 acres @ 75# peas per acre = 850.70 (no barley

Expected yields for 50 lbs. of barley alone would be about 60 bushels per acre and expected yields from 50 lbs of pea seed would be approximately 25 bushels per acre.

If we could produce a crop of barley with a yield of 52 bushels per acre and peas with a yield of 25 bushels per acre we would have:

25 bushels of peas at 25% protein/yield 25X60 = 1500x25% = 375 units of protein per acre from the peas. There are 21.60 units of protein in a bushel of soy beans so that yield would equal 17.36 bushel of soybeans without figuring the value of the oil.

Expenses for the Pea Project:
-Pea seed (4-8-04) Blaines Best Seed 2,323.23lbs. was $ 464.60 (20 cents per pound)
-Pick up seed at Rochester, MN was $72.00
-Combining 19.2 acres was $ 422.40
-Analysis of peas was $ 199.35
Total = $ 1,078.35

In kind:
-Bill Welsh – research & locate seed $30.00
-Gary Welsh- soil prep., seeding, harvesting $100.00
-Esther Welsh – secretarial $30.00
-Land cost 46.64 acres @ 90.00 $ 4198.50

After purchasing the 4,250 pounds of pea seed at a cost of $1338.75, we seeded 86.1 acres at:
-75 pounds of barley seed per acre
-50 pounds of pea seed per acre

We harvested an average of 59 bushels per acre. We estimated that they were 18 percent peas and 82 percent barley.

We had hoped the percentage of peas would have been higher, although this is a big boost to our protein introduction.

Our goal is to reach 35 percent peas and 75 percent barley.

We are extremely satisfied with the weed pressure at this seeding ration.

Our greatest problem is determining the percentage of peas in the mixture. We weighed out one pound lots and hand counted the peas in each lot. Each lot varied considerably, so we averaged all lots which resulted in the 18 percent.

We are pleased with the results of our project, but would like to continue to increase the peas in the mixture.

We will continue to plant barley and peas, hoping we can continue to increase the yield of peas.

Project Objectives:

In order to maintain a crop rotation for organic certification and be able to produce enough protein for organic livestock, the project will examine the feasibility of producing peas as an additional livestock protein crop.


Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.