With wheat being the same protein and energy as corn and soy beans and the market value of wheat being so low, we have a great opportunity for it to be a good replacement feed source for our livestock.
There are a couple things that we need to consider before feeding to our calves, number one: the wheat should be processed. Research shows that the energy digestibility is reduced by 15-20% if it is not processed. Steam rolled is the best way to process the wheat but grinding is also OK, but needs to be done at a very course grind; making sure it does not become flour. Grinding too fine can cause acidosis, bloat and founder. Secondly; a
nother thing to consider when feeding wheat is, mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are toxic compounds that are naturally produced by certain types of molds (fungi). Mycotoxins are toxic secondary metabolites produced by fungi (molds) that cause an undesirable effect (mycotoxicosis) when animals are exposed. Exposure is usually by consumption of contaminated feeds but may also be by contact or inhalation, another reason why processing wheat to finely can be dangerous. In steers, when fed mycotoxins we may see performance issues; but in heifers and cows we can see both performance and reproductive issues. One way to prepare yourself for mycotoxins is testing your feeds and good bunch management.
Wheat is usually around 2 to 4% higher in protein than corn. Therefor, is a great resource for growing calves and skinny cows or a good protein source for lactating cows. The value of sprouted grain for ruminant is similar to that of nonsprouted feed grains. Nutrient levels in the sprouted wheat were greater, compared with nonsprouted wheat, due to the concentration effect that occurs when starch is expended during the germination process. No significant differences in cattle performances are detected when sprouted wheat was included in the diet. A study done at Washington State University indicates that sprouted wheat compared favorably with a barley-based finishing rations.
Because of its feeding characteristics, levels of wheat in the ration should be limited. In moderate to high-rations (50 percent or more concentrate), wheat should be fed in combination with a slowly fermented diet to prevent or reduce the risk of digestive upsets. ***What is important is to adapt cattle to wheat gradually so that you avoid overconsumption. Adapt cattle by introducing wheat into the ration at low levels (10 to 15 percent of the diet) and increasing the level in steps or increments (10, 20, 30 and up) after period of several days of constant intake and appetite. Good bunk management is the most important thing while feeding wheat.