Low Wheat Prices Fail To Entice Most Cattle Feeders

Cash wheat prices in the Central Plains may be far enough below corn to make switching to wheat as the primary source of energy in cattle feeding diets workable financially, but few are doing it.

One area feedlot owner and manager said he had broached the subject to his nutritionist who had replied that out of all of his customers, only one feedlot manager was feeding wheat.  The rest were still using corn.

“Corn is such a forgiving feed,” the owner/manager said.  Actually, wheat is much less forgiving than wheat, and many will never switch out of corn to wheat just because of the danger of bloat to the animals.




Kansas State University Extension Feedlot Specialist Chris Reinhardt said in an Extension bulletin that because wheat normally has a nutritional feed value that is about 5% to 10% higher than corn for growing and finishing cattle, it provides an opportunity for cattle producers.

The Livestock Marketing Information Center put last week’s Dodge City winter wheat price at $2.83 a bushel and corn’s Southern Plains price at $3.46 ½ a bushel.  This is an 81.7% difference, beyond the 5% to 10% difference that might make switching productive.

A large harvest and relatively slow demand has pulled wheat prices in some parts of Kansas, particularly in the southwest areas of the state, below corn prices, said K-State Agricultural Economist Dan O’Brien in the same Extension bulletin.

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

“If someone is steam flaking grain, there is very little nutritional difference or management change needed between steam flaked corn and steam flaked wheat,” Reinhardt said.  “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,” Reinhardt said.  However, he cautioned that dry rolled wheat has a higher risk of acidosis than dry rolled corn.

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




Wheat should be processed either with a “coarse crack” to improve digestibility and minimize creation of fine flour-like particles that ferment in the rumen more quickly than corn.

Steam flacking is best, but it requires resetting of the steam timing and possibly the roll corrugations to work.  This may be too much capital outlay for the price differences at the time.  However, steam flaking will allow for 100% conversion.




Cash cattle markets Monday were quiet after trading last week $98 to $98.50 and at $102 per cwt on a live basis and at $154 dressed, compared with the previous week’s $98 live and $152 to $156 dressed.

The USDA’s choice cutout Monday was $1.20 per cwt higher at $180.98, while select was up $0.44 at $167.17.  The choice/select spread widened to $13.81 from $13.05 with 93 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.

The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Friday was $119.48 per cwt, down $1.18.  This compares with Monday’s Oct settlement of $122.37, up $0.50.