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Schmidt: What infected wheat can be used as feed?

By Staff | Sep 19, 2014

In last week’s article I wrote about some of my experiences at our annual fall livestock in-service. This week I would like to share about another issue, vomitoxin, which we also discussed during the two day in-service. Due to the challenges of the current growing season, vomitoxin is not only a concern for producers in Pierce County but also statewide. Vomitoxin, which is also known as DON (deoxnivalenol), is a toxin produced by the Fusarium fungi in scab-infected grain.

Reports indicate that there is a lot of wheat and barley out there that won’t make milling or malting grade and is being discounted because of vomitoxin. Feeding this grain to cattle may be a way to add value to the crop.

At fall livestock in-service, while receiving a refresher on using Cowbytes software to analyze livestock rations, one of the example scenarios presented was to help a producer determine how much of a specified ppm (parts per million) concentration of DON-infected winter wheat he/she could feed to a specific class of livestock based on the feed sources the producer had on hand. I would be happy to help producers analyze their rations on a case-by-case basis, if they are considering utilizing grain containing vomitoxin.

While the FDA recommends feeding grains with no more than 10 ppm DON, studies conducted at the NDSU Carrington Research Extension Center indicated that cattle can be fed grain containing DON levels up to 12.6 ppm in the ration without negative effects on feedlot performance or carcass characteristics. Gestating and lactating beef cows were also fed diets containing barley with DON levels up to 36.8 ppm with no adverse effects. Similar research and results have been conducted and seen at the University of Minnesota.

One point of caution is that grains contaminated with DON often are contaminated with other mycotoxins, so it is a very good idea to have high DON grain tested before feeding to ruminating livestock. Feed containing vomitoxin should be avoided in swine and horse diets.

In addition to the problems related to DON levels, incorporating wheat in a cattle ration requires diligent feeding management practices, since wheat’s rapid fermentation can make it difficult to feed at high levels.

Here are some rules of thumb when feeding wheat to cattle:

Wheat is higher in protein and similar in energy to corn.

Limit wheat to 40 percent or less of the ration in backgrounding and finishing diets.

Limit durum to 30 percent or less of the ration in backgrounding and finishing diets

Gradually adapt cattle to wheat-based diets by increasing the amount fed by 10 percent increments until up to 30-40 percent of the diet is wheat.

Wheat should be coarsely rolled or cracked, but not finely ground, for optimum performance.

Wheat should not be fed in self-feeders.

When feeding high DON wheat, consider using half wheat and half other grain source.

For more information on vomitoxin in wheat, check out NDSU publication PP-1302, “DON (Vomitoxin) in Wheat: Basic Questions and Answers” available online at ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/plantsci/pests/pp1302.pdf, NDSU publication AS1609; “Barley Grain and Forage for Beef Cattle” at ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/ansci/beef/as1609.pdf; or the “1995 Minnesota Cattle Feeders Report B-41 7” available online at mnbeef.umn.edu/cattle-feeder/1994/B-417.pdf.

For additional help analyzing livestock rations contact Yolanda Schmidt at the Pierce County NDSU Extension office by calling 776-6234 ext. 5.

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