April 14, 2011 Substituting Wheat in cattle rations
According to the CME Daily Livestock Report, much of the speculation in the market is that corn demand rationing will come from livestock and poultry production. In the case of corn used in growing and finishing rations, one alternative input is wheat.
There have been many studies that have looked at the suitability of feeding wheat to cattle, both as part of backgrounding and finishing diets. In most cases, the studies focused on feeding damaged wheat, which normally trades at a discount and could be competitive with corn. But wheat vales have collapsed vs. corn in recent weeks and Chicago soft red winter wheat futures are currently trading at a discount to corn futures.
Referencing an extension publication from OSU they calculated the level at which wheat could be substituted for corn and soybean meal. The calculation is based on the assumption that 100 pounds of wheat replaces 92 pounds of corn and 8 pounds of soybean meal. Based on recent closes for corn ($7.555/bu) and soy meal ($342.2/ton), they calculated that SRW wheat could be used as a substitute up to a price of $8.27/bushel.
Current wheat prices are well below that level and they are sure that some substitution already is taking place. It is important to keep in mind that a number of factors will limit substitution. It takes time to transition cattle into a ration that contains wheat. Some of the research we have seen recommends a transition period between 30-45 days. Wheat has a high starch content, which causes digestive problems in cattle. It is recommended that wheat make up no more than 30-50 percent of the total diet.