Q: We have some hay bales that contain a fair amount of partridge pea that was planted for the wildlife benefits. We've read some cases where this can be toxic to cattle. Is there a safe way to feed it and how much can cattle consume before they become stressed and die? Are there any adverse affects when feeding to pregnant or lactating cows?
A: The partridge pea is an annual legume that could potentially cause some cattle poisoning problems. From what I read, it is not completely certain what the specific compound is that causes the problems. but it is often associated with muscle degeneration. Like many poisonous plants, the amount consumed is important. In the case of the partridge pea, it appears that large amounts have to be consumed before any problems are noticed, For cattle, this would be 10 or more pounds per day intake. In other words, if the hay were about one third to one-half or more partridge pea, there would be a concern, If the hay only contains a few plants here and there; there would be no problem feed to any class of cattle. Sometimes the partridge pea grows in patches, so there may be sections of the bale that contain a considerable amount.
Source: Dr. Jerry Volesky, Associate Professor of Agronomy, West Central Research & Extension Center