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Mitigating The Feed-Quality Effects Of This Year’s Crop

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Broiler, egg and hog producers should consider developing a 2009-10 feed strategy to mitigate the effects of this year’s dry and cool growing conditions on grain nutrient composition, says Eduardo Beltranena, feed research scientist/livestock production with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development.

“While some areas of the Prairies received enough rain and heat in 2009, others lacked both,” he says. “The dry and cool growing conditions initially affected germination as well as crop yield, and could also impact feed quality at harvest.”


Secure a portion of grain shortage by establishing delivery contracts. Poor crop yields will mean less pork, chicken and eggs produced per unit of cultivated land. “Act soon to establish delivery contracts to line up at least one-third of the predicted fall and winter grain shortage,” says Beltranena. “Inventories might be lowest in spring and summer, so consider contracting the largest part of your grain shortage in late fall or winter according to futures.”

Hedge fat sources. Dry growing conditions produce high-protein cereal grains, but the starch granules do not fill up. Although there is more protein, there is also slightly more fibre, which lowers nutrient digestibility. To some extent, the shortage of calories can be made up by animals utilizing excess protein, but feeding fats is more effective. Except for some naked oats, cereal grains are generally low in fat. Locate fat sources in your area and monitor prices. Saturated fats (beef tallow, poultry fat, restaurant grease) are a good, less expensive choice for broilers and hogs. Feeding unsaturated fats (rolled flax, canola oil) to layers may enhance egg size and mass.

Triticale is a better cereal choice than wheat. Barring an early frost, wheat prices could be high this year. Producers may want to seek out some triticale, a hybrid of wheat and rye. Triticale has slightly more starch and available phosphorus, yields five to 20 per cent more, requires 15 per cent less crop inputs and is more drought tolerant than wheat. Feeding trials have shown that triticale replacement of wheat produces comparable broiler and hog performance.

Field pea, more than just protein. Field peas are more than just a soybean and canola meal replacement. Over 50 per cent of each kernel weight is starch. There are occasions when cost per calorie has been lower from field pea than wheat – definitely a buy moment. Field pea tolerates dry growing conditions well, so supply may not be limiting. Find out who sells splits and clean product that does not meet export grade for human consumption. Watch for lentils, too.

Corn, not just for the starch. Imported corn may give a cost advantage this year. Unless crude oil price go up considerably, there should be less corn diverted to ethanol and more for feed. This

year’s U.S. corn crop might be the second largest ever. The strengthening of the Canadian dollar will also favour corn sourcing. In addition to having more starch than wheat, corn also has more oil; thus more calories per unit of weight. Due to the unsaturated type of oil (linoleic acid), table egg producers may benefit from increased egg size.

Corn or wheat distillers grains with solubles, DDGS currently prices well in broiler, layer and hog diets. “These dried distillers grains are not a good source of starch, and don’t consider DDGS for the protein; however, 10-12 per cent oil in corn DDGS and higher phosphorus availability especially in wheat DDGS will spare starch from cereal grain and phosphorus from inorganic sources. Again, do the math costing out calories and grams of available phosphorus,” says Beltranena.

Protein meals are in ample supply. This year’s canola crop will be the third largest; there are plenty of carry-over stocks, and more crushing capacity coming on line in Saskatchewan. Add increasing Prairie production of wheat DDGS, less-expensive imported corn DDGS, and reasonable U.S. and South American soy crops, means protein meal prices are likely heading downward. Furthermore, Western Canada producers generally feed some excess protein. Wheat and barley provide more protein in diets compared to corn or sorghum grain. Protein-deficient diets are therefore rare. Protein is like a chain made up of amino acids. With higher-fat diets and greater inclusion of co-products (DDGS, canola meal), there will be a need to supplement limiting amino acids. Look for buying opportunities on lysine, methionine and tryptophan. Prices of amino acids may decline as soybean prices go down.

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