Episode 13

Published on:

18th Aug 2021

Pulse Crops for Feed and Forage with Zac Carlson, Ph.D.

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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.

This Week on Growing Pulse Crops:

  • Meet Dr. Zac Carlson, the North Dakota State University Extension Beef Cattle Specialist
  • Explore the uses of pulse crops as a forage or grazing supplement for livestock producers
  • Learn the special considerations producers should consider before using them in their ration

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Growing Pulse Crops Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.

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About the Podcast

Growing Pulse Crops
The science and business of farming field peas, chickpeas, and lentils
This show features the latest in research, agronomy, and economics of pulse crops (peas, chickpeas, lentils, etc.).

Demand for these nutrient-dense, high-protein foods continues to grow. There is also interest from farmers to include more pulses into diverse rotations for benefits like nitrogen fixation and soil health.

But the industry continues to face challenges, and we are eager to address these head on. So if you’re a pulse grower or in any way interested in these important crops, hit subscribe and stay tuned for future episodes. We’ll be back with plenty of information about challenges pulse farmers are facing throughout the U.S. and what solutions are working.

Brought to you by the Pulse Crops Working Group with support from the North Central IPM Center and USDA NIFA.

About your host

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Tim Hammerich

I share stories about agriculture, agtech, and agribusiness on podcasts and radio.