K-State: Wheat a good alternative to corn for pig diets

K-State: Wheat a good alternative to corn for pig diets

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While corn prices remain high, lower-cost alternatives can be utilized

Corn prices remain higher than average, but Kansas State University swine nutritionists say wheat is a good lower-cost alternative to corn for pig diets.

“Wheat is an excellent feed grain for swine, but usually is not competitively priced with corn in the United States,” said Mike Tokach, a swine nutritionist with K-State Research and Extension, in a news release. “As long as diets are balanced, wheat can replace all or part of the corn in swine diets without affecting growth performance.”

Corn and soybean prices rose rapidly in the second half of 2020, and nutritionists from China to Brazil are looking to substitute with lower-priced alternatives.

Tokach noted that the concentration of starch and fiber in wheat is similar to corn, though wheat contains significantly less oil and thus is lower in energy content (91% to 97% relative to corn, according to industry research).

But wheat offers greater values for crude protein, phosphorus and amino acid content, particularly lysine, threonine and tryptophan; and the ileal digestibility of the amino acids is “relatively high and similar to that in corn,” Tokach said. “Because wheat is lower energy than corn, feed efficiency will be a little worse with wheat unless fat is added to balance the diets for energy. But even with the change in feed efficiency, wheat is economical at the current time.”

Changing prices for commodities will naturally affect the current opportunity for feeding wheat, he said.

“When wheat is used, less soybean meal and more feed-grade lysine can be used in the diet, which also favors the economics for wheat,” Tokach said. “These advantages will lower the feed cost per pig if wheat is used at the current time.”

Wheat can also be used to replace corn in broiler diets without sacrificing performance or efficiency, but extra consideration must be made for formulation, manufacturing and handling of wheat-based diets to make the transition smooth and problem free. Other alternatives to corn can be used in feed, including bakery meal, oils and fats, cassava, sorghum and soybeans.