Mike Stevens, of Saltwater Creek, asks :-

Why isn't pea straw fed to animals the way hay is?

Tom Barry, an animal nutritionist at Massey University, responded.

There are no toxic compounds in pea straw but it is not fed out very much in NZ mainly because of its low nutritive value but also because in most areas its sale value is high due to what gardeners are prepared to pay for it. In Palmerston North Lucerne sells for about $7 per bale while pea straw sells for about $19 per regular bale. In areas like Canterbury, where more peas are grown, its price will be considerably lower.

Digestibility is a common measure of nutritive value and is about 45 per cent for pea straw, about 55 per cent for normal meadow hay, and about 60 - 65 per cent for Lucerne hay.

To maintain weight in livestock the diet needs to be at or above about 50 – 55 per cent digestibility, so if pea straw was fed it could only be for short periods and as a part of the diet rather than the entire diet because of the weight loss. For this reason pea straw could be fed as a supplement for short periods and this is possibly what happens.

The digestibility of ryegrass / white clover pasture, the most common feed in New Zealand, is 65 – 85 per cent depending on the season of the year.