24 March 2000

But stick to 40% or risk flock trouble

FEEDING peas as a protein supplement is fine, but levels of more than 40% may cause digestive problems and produce surplus waste.

The advice from SAC nutritionist John Robinson is stick to the general rule and feed peas at 40% of diets and no higher. Levels above this could lead to excessive protein in the diet, meaning sheep would have to excrete extra nitrogen, which is a waste, says Dr Robinson.

ADASs Gill Povey agrees that there can be problems feeding too many peas, but says there is renewed interest in feeding home-grown pulses as they are non-GM.

"I would not recommend feeding above 30% peas in diets to get a proper dietary balance." Peas are high in starch and there are concerns about trypsin inhibitors – enzymes that inhibit digestion – causing digestive problems, although modern varieties are supposed to be better, she adds.

But it may be easier for livestock producers considering growing peas for feeding to opt for beans instead, says Geoffrey Gent from the Processors and Growers Research Organisation, based near Peterborough, Lincs.

"When your primary skill is in livestock and not cropping, it may be easier to sow, grow and harvest spring beans with limited equipment than peas." But he says beans do not yield as well and are less timely for an entry into wheat. &#42