Feeding wheat to stretch swine and beef rations

Farmers faced with drought-stricken crops can stretch animal feed rations by feeding wheat in place of corn.

For the most part, the feeding value of wheat and corn are equivalent, but a wheat-for-corn ration should be introduced gradually and be carefully balanced.

Wheat and corn are both very palatable and are excellent sources of digestible energy for cattle and swine. Wheat and corn have about the same level of minerals, vitamins and crude protein, with wheat a little higher in crude protein.

Swine wheat diet
Consider the type of wheat fed. Soft winter wheat (commonly grown in Michigan) is 1 to 2 percent lower in crude protein than hard red wheat. Both have more amino acids than corn, and will reduce the amount of soybean meal needed to meet the requirements for the class of swine to be fed. The amino acid balance and the bioavailability of each amino acid will differ from those in corn and adjustments in synthetic amino acid additions may be justified.

Vitamin and mineral availability in wheat is also different from that of corn. Notably, the availability of phosphorus in wheat is about 50 percent; whereas in corn is only about 15 percent. Consequently, less supplemental phosphorus and (or) phytase may be used in feed manufactured with wheat. Calcium, sodium, zinc, iron, copper and selenium are inadequate in both wheat and corn. Vitamin supplementation should not need to be changed with the inclusion of wheat instead of corn.

Wheat can be used for all classes of swine and can be completely substituted for corn with no adverse effect on performance. Wheat tends to ‘flour’ and should be rolled or coarsely ground using a 3/8-inch to 1/2 -inch screen. Operate the feed mill at lower rpm than when grinding; if ground too fine (< 200 microns) then dustiness, bridging the feeders and palatability problems may result.

Beef wheat diets
When starting cattle on a diet containing wheat, introduce it more slowly than corn, bringing them gradually up to full feed over 25-30 days. Wheat fed to beef cattle should also be rolled or coarsely ground. When wheat is fed at high levels to beef cattle, acidosis and rumen upset may occur, resulting in cattle going off-feed, reducing performance, founder and other problems. It is generally recommended that wheat should not make up more than 40 percent of the total ration on a dry matter basis.

The ration costs for beef cattle can be further reduced by substituting hay with barley, wheat, oat or corn stalks for corn silage every other day. But be sure the protein level in the ration remains constant.

For feedlot cattle weighing over 600 pounds, NPN products, such as urea, may be substituted for soybean meal. One pound of urea contains about the same crude protein equivalent as six pounds of soybean meal.

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