Lake County pear grower Toni Scully surveys fruit loss in her Scotts Valley orchard. (Photo: California Farm Bureau Fed.)
In 2006 the pear industry in Lake and Mendocino counties experienced up to 30 percent crop losses due to lack of qualified pickers to harvest the crop. These losses may have been a one-time problem but cull pears happen every year and represent an annual problem to the pear industry. While little can be done to salvage the direct loss of high-grade fruit, an opportunity exists for cattle, sheep and goat producers to recoup some of this loss by turning it into a quality feed source.
What Has ANR Done?
In response to the large loss of pears in 2006, the UCCE livestock and natural resources advisor for Mendocino and Lake counties, John Harper, prepared a statewide, peer-reviewed, publication titled Pears: An Alternative Feed.
It can be downloaded for free from the ANR Publications catalog at http://ucanr.org/feeding pears
or from the University of California Fruit and Nut Research & Information Center at http://fruitsandnuts.ucdavis.edu/crops/7266.pdf
The purpose of the publication was to teach ruminant livestock producers and pear growers about using cull pears safely as a livestock feed. In the publication, Harper cites research conducted by both UC and Ohio State Cooperative Extension specialists, and the National Research Council on using under-utilized resources like pears as animal feedstuffs. He advises that pears, since they are a high-moisture content feed, should only make up half or less of the animal's dry matter ration. They must also be supplemented with protein, minerals and fiber. In feeding trials in California, dry cows and 2-year-old heifers consumed an average of 20 pounds of pears daily without noticeable bad effects. Harper also recommends drying or ensiling to deal with the highly perishable nature of fresh pears. Since cull pears are considered a waste product, the cost to livestock producers would be only the labor and transport expenses. Should pear growers wish to sell the cull pears, the publication suggests how pear growers and livestock producers could arrive at a fair price based on the nutrients the pears provide.
Ranchers utilize cull pears for cattle feed
Five cattle ranchers in Mendocino and Lake counties are now routinely feeding cull pears to their cattle. Several agricultural magazines have downloaded and used the information to create articles further spreading the word about using cull pears as a livestock feed.
"My cattle love the pears. They think it's candy." - Potter Valley rancher
Mendocino County and Lake County
John M. Harper, (707) 463-4495, firstname.lastname@example.org