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Processing Key When Substituting Maize with Wheat in Cattle Feed

02 August 2016

US - With wheat prices in some areas dipping below corn values, some beef or swine producers are considering substituting wheat into livestock rations in place of corn (maize).

A large harvest and relatively slow demand has pulled wheat prices in some parts of Kansas, particularly in southwest areas of the state, below corn prices, said Kansas State University agricultural economist, Dan O’Brien.

K-State Research and Extension feedlot specialist Chris Reinhardt said that because wheat normally has a nutritional feeding value approximately 5 to 10 per cent higher than corn for growing and finishing cattle, this provides an opportunity for cattle producers.

“When finishing feedlot cattle there are generally two primary means of processing feed grains: steam flaking the grain or feeding it dry rolled,” Mr Reinhardt said.

He said that when steam flaking is used, there is very little nutritional difference or management change needed between steam flaked corn and steam flaked wheat: “The two feedstuffs are fairly similar in terms of starch availability and the risk of acidosis.”  

The real difference and need for a change in management philosophy is between dry rolled wheat and dry rolled corn. Mr Reinhardt cautioned that dry rolled wheat has a higher risk of acidosis than dry rolled corn.

“A producer should not switch entirely from feeding 100 per cent dry rolled corn to feeding 100 per cent dry rolled wheat,” Mr Reinhardt said. “Typically we recommend the diet be around 35 per cent to at most 50 per cent dry rolled wheat. A producer will want to gradually ease into the level maybe with a dose in that 15 per cent range to get the cattle adapted to the higher rapidly available starch load.”

While it may require a certain degree of management, he noted that steam flaking wheat would allow switching to 100 per cent wheat in place of 100 per cent corn. This eliminates the need to utilise more than one grain at a time.

Mr Reinhardt recommended only feeding dry rolled wheat as 35 to at most 50 per cent of the grain in the diet for finishing cattle. For backgrounding cattle on a lower grain diet using wet feed ingredients such as silage and grain milling byproducts, wheat may replace up to 100 per cent of the corn in the diet.

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