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By Anowar Islam, UW Extension Forage Specialist

Peas are a cool-season legume commonly planted for edible seed or seedpods.

They are called by many names, based on their uses. For example, we see field peas, garden peas, spring peas, English peas, common peas, green peas and Austrian winter peas. Garden and green peas are harvested before the seed is mature while field peas and Austrian winter peas are harvested when seeds are mature. The dry seeds are primarily blended with grains to strengthen the protein content of livestock feeds.

Dried peas, either whole, split or ground, are used for human consumption, too. They are a nutritious legume and contain 15 to 35 percent protein and high concentrations of the essential amino acids, such as lysine and tryptophan.

Field peas are a very important legume crop that have many uses. Peas are used as a forage crop, rotational crop, green manure or as a cover crop.

In their use as a forage crop, peas are planted alone or with cereals for making silage and green fodder. Pea plants can be grazed by animals directly. Field peas can be grazed multiple times, depending on the management and environmental conditions, as they have regrowth ability.

For use as a rotational crop, peas can provide many advantages. They may break up disease and pest cycles and add nitrogen to soil thus improving soil microbial activity, soil aggregation and soil water conservation. They may also enhance farm profitability.

Peas can also be used as a good green manure and cover crop. They grow quickly and add nitrogen to the soil through the nodulation by symbiotic association with Rhizobium bacteria. The most common pea used for green manure or cover cropping is the Austrian winter pea. It can produce 90 to 150 pounds of nitrogen per acre when grown as green manure crop. They are well adapted to cold temperatures and fit into many crop rotations, including winter wheat-fallow rotations.

Peas can be grown in a wide range of soils and weather conditions. However, they are not tolerant to salinity or extreme acidic soils. They grow well in the soil pH of 5.5 to 7.0 with 16 to 39 inches annual precipitation. Winter field peas are extremely winter hardy.

Peas can be planted in the spring or fall. For better nodulation and nitrogen fixation, peas should be inoculated with pea-specific Rhizobium bacterial inoculants prior to planting. Seeding rates vary depending on the need and objective of planting. However, typically 50 to 80 pounds per acre for drilling and 90 to 100 pounds per acre for broadcast are recommended.

Compared to alfalfa and other forage legumes, pea seeds are larger and can be planted at a depth of 1.5 to three inches with row spacing of six to 12 inches.

Initial weed control is necessary for successful stand establishment.

Peas are easy to kill using herbicides, mowing or disking. They are susceptible to multiple foliar, root and seed diseases.

There are several pea cultivars commercially available in the market. It is recommended that producers should purchase certified seeds based on their needs and objectives. Researchers at the Department of Plant Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Wyoming are conducting regional field evaluations on some recently developed winter field pea lines.

It is anticipated that new cultivars specifically suited for Wyoming environments may be released soon.

Anowar Islam is an associate professor and the University of Wyoming Extension forage specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. He can be reached at 307-766-4151 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


By Bret Hess, Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station Director

Deans and directors working for Colleges of Agriculture at western land-grant universities published “The Western Perspective and Western Agenda” to document and demonstrate the value of the West to the U.S. agriculture sector. Available at, “The Western Perspective and Western Agenda” also outlines research and educational programs provided by western land-grant universities  that are critical to supporting agriculture and natural resources in the West.

“The Western Perspective and Western Agenda” evolved from joint work by members of the Western Association of Agricultural Experiment Station Directors and the Western Extension Directors Association. Members of these associations are employed by western land-grant universities from the plains states of New Mexico to the south and Montana to the north and stretching out from Alaska all the way to the U.S. territories in the Pacific Islands. When members of these associations were surveyed, it became astoundingly evident that these college leaders believed the importance of agriculture andland-grant universities in the West are undervalued. 

This impression grew stronger when the western-most Farm Bill hearing by the U.S. Congress House Agriculture Subcommittee was held in Dodge City, Kan. on April 20, 2012. This was surprising as much as it was disappointing given that the vast geographic expanse described above covers nearly 25 percent of the earth’s surface and the western region accounts for 23.3 percent of U.S. farm gate receipts.

The West is uniquely different than any other agricultural region in the U.S., or anywhere else in the world for that matter. Agricultural production throughout much of the region relies heavily on the 47 percent of publicly-owned land, including 81 percent of the land managed by the U.S. Forest Service. The western region is characterized as large expanses of sparsely populated rural areas in a matrix that generally covers huge geographic distances often juxtaposed by densely populated urban centers. Wildfire, water security, population growth and invasive species are a few factors affecting agriculture and management of natural resources in this mosaic landscape.

In addition to documenting the value of agricultural and natural resource assets of the western region and summarizing key issues that impact the region, “The Western Perspective and Western Agenda” outlines the critical supporting role of the western land-grant university system. The five overarching focus areas coordinated among western land-grant universities include Sustainable Production Systems; Natural Resources; Energy; Community and Economic Development; and Nutrition and Health: Innovation in Foods for Health.

There are several main goals of implementing the actions in the report.

First, the actions strive to increase the visibility of the West with elected officials and other key external and internal audiences. In addition, they seek to enhance public support for campus, county, state and regionally-based programs and initiatives consistent with the broad mission related to the western land-grant university programs.

Next, the actions of the document look to highlight the contributions of the land-grant universities of the West by documenting the economic, environmental, consumer and other tangible benefits delivered to the people of West through their research, teaching and Extension programs.

Implementation of the report also strives to increase funding - including state, federal, local and private sources -
for mission-related research and public service programs in the western land-grant universities including, but not limited to, the Agricultural Experiment Station, Cooperative Extension Service and Academic Programs.

It also seeks to identify gaps in the western land-grant university infrastructure so that better delivery of research, Extension and academic programs can be achieved for people and communities in the West, as well as to build capacity in the western land-grant university system to support healthy food systems, healthy environments, healthy families and healthy communities through research and education.

Accomplishment of these goals will lead to western region land-grant universities that help maintain the viability of the region’s agricultural vitality and natural resources well into the future.

For more information contact Bret Hess, associate dean for research and director of Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Stations, at 307-766-3667 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. More information is also available at

By John Ritten, UW Extension Economist

In the last month or so, I’ve been getting the following two questions a lot. What happened to the market? And, will it “get fixed” anytime soon? The first is easier to answer than the second. 

The markets have crashed for a few reasons, some of them more worrisome than others. One of the main reasons we are seeing depressed prices is due to the glut of overweight, overfed slaughter-ready animals. Rather than pay record prices for feeders, feedlots have been extending days on feed for the last few months. They have decided that is was cheaper to put a few extra pounds on animals already in the feedlot as opposed to sourcing new placements. This strategy worked for a while, but the heavy, often over-finished, carcasses, have finally caught up with them. 

We saw record carcass weights last week, at over 920 pounds, which means we’ve increased carcass weights for 66 consecutive weeks. In response, packers have been less aggressive in bidding, as each carcass is larger, resulting in more beef production in total, but more importantly adding to extra trim and byproducts that need to be moved. 

Another major cause of the downturn in prices is the global economy. Part of this is due to the devaluation of the Chinese currency. The way China handled the devaluation had ripple effects through the global economy and has depressed prices in many sectors in many countries. The Chinese devaluation makes U.S. products more expensive, limiting U.S. beef sales in China, but more importantly, it created a scare in global markets, depressing, at least temporarily, global consumer confidence. 

Brazil similarly devalued their currency recently, and while that action received less attention in the global press, it could have a large impact in the livestock industry. The devaluation will make Brazilian beef relatively cheaper on the global market and will likely take some market share from U.S. beef. 

To me, though, perhaps more worrisome in the long run is that the dollar continues to strengthen in comparison to other currencies. A strong U.S. dollar is usually considered a good thing, as imports become cheaper, and as consumers we are generally happy as we can afford more goods for a given level of income. 

However, for producers who rely on export demand – estimates are that exports add up to $30 per hundredweight to cattle prices – a strong dollar can be problematic as we can begin to price ourselves out of foreign markets as our products become relatively more expensive in other countries. The reason a strong dollar worries me more than the China devaluation is that I believe the markets overreacted to China’s action and a correction is looming in the relatively near-term. However, as the U.S. economy looks to be on pace to outperform most of the world, I don’t see a reversal in the strength of the U.S. dollar anytime in the near future. 

The third part of the “what happened” question is general cattle market dynamics. 

First of all, we are seeing a lot of calves come to market, and part of what we are experiencing is usual seasonal dynamics. Granted, this has been exacerbated by the global economic forces described above. 

The second major fundamental is that we have seen a rather quick expansion in the national beef herd. Most people saw the overall price peak looming, and we may have just experienced it. Granted, if the global situation rights itself, and we see an uptick in global demand, we may very well get back to record highs next year. But sooner rather than later we will begin to see cattle prices drop to more normal levels.

The answer to “will it get fixed?” is tricky – partly because the global economy is still rather shaky and the market tends to overreact more to bad news than good. It’s hard to tell when we’ll get back to normal. I don’t think we’ll see a major weakening of the U.S. dollar anytime soon, but watch what the Fed does, as any news about interest rate changes will have at least some short-term impacts. 

As for the feedlot predicament, it appears as though feedlots are beginning to purge the heavyweights, but that process will likely take a few more weeks to months to correct. Most of the reports I’ve seen suggest soft prices for at least three to four more months. Some producers may want to background calves for a while to try to outlast the storm, but when looking at there isn’t forecasted to be an upswing in calf prices in Wyoming until February, so there will be some risk with that strategy. 

Also, according to the most recent drought monitor, found at, a lot of Texas and parts of Oklahoma are creeping back into dry conditions. This will limit winter grazing opportunities, which will again limit demand for feeders. If Southern Plains grazing opportunities don’t materialize soon, more cattle will be headed for feedlots, which will keep pressure on calf prices. 

If, on the other hand, that region gets some timely precipitation, there may be demand for feeders outside of feedlots, resulting in bidding up calf prices.

With that, I’ll leave you on a positive note. Even though prices are down, the current price levels are still well above any time in recent history, other than of course last year. The Livestock Marketing Information Center (LMIC) predicts another year of extremely high levels of profitability for the cow/calf sector nationwide. Granted, they have dropped their expectations a bit over the last month, but again, this year is poised to be one of the best in over 30 years, second only to last year. While the industry may be headed back towards some sense of “normalcy,” we should be able to enjoy the ride for at least a little bit longer.

By Derek Scasta, Extension Rangeland Specialist

As we enter the month of October, the cooler temperatures and higher probability of snow should get us thinking about livestock nutrition for the upcoming winter months. 

As most grasses are dormant now, or are rapidly going dormant, they have much lower quality than they did in the spring and summer when they were actively growing and conducting photosynthesis. This relationship reflects the old adage that “maturity is the enemy of quality,” or in other words, as a plant gets older, its quality decreases. Quality in the context of livestock nutrition and rangeland forage can mean either crude protein, which is related to nitrogen content, or digestibility, which is related to fiber and lignin content. 

During this phase of plant growth, plants redistribute nutrients from the leaves to the root system, ultimately reducing nutrient quality available to livestock. As plants mature, the cell walls increase in thickness and fiber content – changes that reduce the digestibility of the plant material. This relationship can also depend on the plant species and elevation of the winter pastures as it can be different for cool-season plants, such as western wheatgrass, versus warm-season plants, such as blue grama. 

The availability of forage on rangeland and its relative quality and quantity is important to put in the context of the class and species of livestock you are concerned about. For cattle, general rules of thumb are: dry cows need about seven percent crude protein, growing heifers need about 10 percent crude protein, and lactating cows need about 12 percent crude protein. 

Furthermore, it is important to be aware of certain animal life stages that are stressful nutritionally. For cattle, these stressful periods are times when the animal has a high nutritional demand, particularly late gestation and early lactation. Thus, you have to consider your reproductive management and calving/lambing periods relative to forage quality and animal demand. 

The relative amount of forage available is also a reflection of energy available to livestock. Because energy is derived from adequate dry matter intake, if grass is available in adequate amounts, energy will typically not be the limiting nutritional consideration for livestock on rangeland. 

Subsequently, a producer could supplement only with protein to enhance the digestibility of the adequately available dormant forage. In essence, this provides a supplemental source of nitrogen to stimulate the microbial bacteria in the rumen that digest the forage. This will increase the digestion rate and rate of passage. However, if the relative amount of rangeland forage was not adequate, then the supplementation program must provide adequate sources of energy with harvested forage. Producers must be able to put all of the above information together and determine if supplementation should be based on energy or protein. 

However, this cannot be determined by assessing forage availability alone because animal body condition also matters. If animal body condition is thin, energy is a concern because animals need to gain weight. This becomes an issue often for producers who are overstocked and have cows that are thin. In this case, producers should consider supplementing with high energy and low protein supplements. 

In contrast, let’s say a producer is feeding a group of late gestating beef cows that are on dormant winter range. These cows are in acceptable body condition and abundant grass is available. However, the grass is low in nutrient content and these animals are in a stressful period where their nutritional needs are high. In this scenario, crude protein is the primary limitation and should be the focus on the winter nutrition program for these particularly cows. This will enhance microbial requirements and digestibility of rangeland forage and increase dry matter intake.  

In summary, if you need to get started planning your winter livestock feeding program you have to address the following issues to build the proper nutritional program: first, understand how rangeland forage decreases in crude protein and digestibility as it matures; second, understand animal nutrition demands relative to the different classes of livestock and gestation/lactation stages; and third, identify the limiting constraint of protein and energy by assessing forage availability and animal body condition. 


As you are all well aware, one of the greatest issues in the livestock industry is appropriate and economical supplementation in the winter. Hopefully, this article has stimulated some more thoughts about how you are approaching the upcoming winter and how you might better balance the available rangeland forage with your livestock’s nutritional needs.