Wheat for Animal Feed

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Species Usage
  3. Wheat as a Pellet Binder
  4. Triticale
  5. Summary


Based on fluctuations in commodity pricing, wheat may become attractive in ruminant diets, replacing a portion of corn and barley in rations.

Traditionally, the milling of wheat produces flour for human use and appreciable quantities of by-products for animal feeds. The Hard Winter Wheats are generally high in protein, averaging 13-15%, whereas the Soft White Wheats tend to be lower in protein, averaging 11-12%. Hard spring wheats are increasingly grown in Ontario, and, when grown under appropriate cropping practices, may replace hard winter wheat.

The "western" wheat commonly used in Ontario formulations is blended from several varieties and generally averages around 13-14% protein. "Ontario" wheat is a soft white variety. The amino acid distribution of wheat is better than that of most cereal grains, (Table 2), and wheat is a very palatable and digestible feed, having a relative value equivalent to corn for most animals. In Ontario however, wheat is often more costly per tonne, thereby restricting its use in rations.

As with many other cereal grains, wheat is primarily a source of energy in the form of carbohydrates. Available energy expressed as either digestible energy (DE) or metabolizable energy (ME) is higher per unit of dry matter (DM) relative to corn, than other major grains.

Wheat which is of low quality and thus unsuitable for milling, because of damage by disease, insects, and frost, can be fed to domestic animals. It will obviously be worth less than good quality wheat, with its exact value dependent on the extent of the damage. Such wheat may be less palatable and have less nutritional value than good quality wheat, so it is best to mix it with another cereal grain in the diet. Fusarium toxins i.e. zearalenone and vomitoxin are a concern with off spec Ontario grown wheat.

Byproducts of wheat include:

  • Bran, consisting almost entirely of the outer coatings of the wheat kernels.
  • Shorts or Brown Shorts, consisting of bran, germ, flour and tailings. They contain somewhat more flour than midds and have the appearance of a finely ground meal containing somewhat less brownish material than midds.
  • Standard Middlings or the Middlings consisting of the fine particles of bran and germ with very little Red Dog.
  • Red Dog, sometimes called light shorts; a product from the tail of the mill that consists, chiefly, of the aleuron layer with small particles of bran, germ and flour.
  • Germ, consisting of the wheat germ separated in the milling process by grinding.
  • Flour which normally goes into human foods.

Species Usage

i) Beef:  Feeding wheat to ruminants requires some caution as wheat tends to be more apt than other cereal grains to cause acute indigestion in animals which are unadapted to it. The primary problem appears to be the high gluten content of wheat which in the rumen can result in a "pasty" consistency to the rumen contents and reduced rumen motility. Whole wheat may be efficiently used by cattle, but it's nutritive value is improved by some form of processing. It is generally conceded that its feeding value is optimized by dry-rolling, coarse grinding or steam-rolling to produce a thick flake. Fine grinding of wheat generally reduces the feed intake and is likely to cause acidosis and/or bloat. Never-the-less, when available for feed, it can be substituted equally for corn on the basis of TDN to a maximum of 25% of dry matter intake for beef.

ii) Sheep: Whole-grained wheat intended for adult sheep need not be ground or processed before incorporating into rations since these species chew feed more completely. In the case of early-weaned and artificially-reared lambs, the palatability of whole-grain wheat is improved by pelleting.

Wheat as a Pellet Binder

The glutenous nature of wheat makes it an excellent pelleting aid. 10% wheat in a formula will often enhance pellet durability, particularly in rations with little other natural binder. By-products such as gluten feed and distillers grains are low in carbohydrate which can bind pellets. For this function, hard wheat is required.


Triticale is a relatively new cereal grain, and has shown some promise in both swine and poultry feeds. Triticale is a cross between wheat (Triticum duriem) and rye (Secale cereale). Its feeding value as an energy source is comparable to that of corn and other cereals. Digestibility of triticale is similar to, or higher than, the digestibility of wheat for the nutrients measured. Total protein content tends to be higher than corn and similar to that of wheat. At higher levels, palatability problems (associated with rye) may occur.


When available for feed, wheat can be substituted directly for corn on the basis of DE and TDN in animal rations. Feeding to ruminants requires some caution, however, as wheat is more apt than other cereal grains to cause acute indigestion in animals that are unadapted to it. With some species, additional processing is required for optimal utilization. The feeding recommendations are summarized in Table 1.

Table 1. Feeding Recommendations for Livestock
Feeding Level or Level of Wheat Substitution
Beef up to 25% DM Intake
Sheep up to 35-40% of the grain ration (As-fed basis)

Table 2. Composition of Wheat and Other Major Cereal Grains
Western Wheat
Ontario Wheat
Ontario Barley
Ontario Oats
M.E. Pltry KC/KG
3063 3080 3400 2640 2550
M.E.Swine KC/KG
3258 3300 3380 2860 2660
T.D.N. (%)
76 76 79 75 68
Crude Protein (%)
15.1 14.3 8.8 12 11.6
Methionine (%)
0.24 0.23 0.20 0.18 0.18
Meth & Cystine (%)
0.58 0.56 0.40 0.45 0.56
Lysine (%)
0.45 0.44 0.27 0.40 0.40
Tryptophane (%)
0.15 0.14 0.05 0.11 0.12
Arginine (%)
0.69 0.65 0.41 0.55 0.74
Isoleucine (%)
0.72 0.68 0.29 0.39 0.42
Leucine (%)
1.34 1.26 1.10 0.82 0.80
Phenylalanine (%)
0.91 0.86 0.44 - -
Threonine (%)
0.49 0.47 0.32 0.40 0.37
Valine (%)
0.84 0.80 0.42 0.60 0.57
Crude Fat (%)
1.50 1.50 3.80 1.90 4.00
Crude Fibre (%)
2.50 2.20 2.50 6.00 11.0
Sodium (%)
0.03 0.01 0.02 0.02 0.01
Calcium (%)
0.04 0.05 0.03 0.07 0.10
Avail Phos (%)
0.12 0.12 0.08 0.16 0.14
Magnesium (%)
0.36 0.15 0.12 0.36 0.36
Potassium (%)
0.40 0.40 0.33 0.46 0.41
Sulphur (%)
0.18 0.18 0.12 0.14 0.21
Selenium (mg/kg)
0.38 - 0.03 0.15 0.21
Zinc (mg/kg)
40.0 - 23.0 30.0 28.0
Manganese (mg/kg)
39.0 - 6.0 14.0 35.0
Iron (mg/kg)
46.0 - 38.0 55.0 63.0
Copper (mg/kg)
6.0 - 4.0 4.0 4.0
Cobalt (mg/kg)
0.12 - 0.05 0.09 0.06
Vitamin A (kIU/kg)
- - 3.0 3.0 -
Choline (mg/kg)
880 790 511 1030 1034
References: Foreman, Robert, 1989


For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: Brian Bell - Beef Cattle and Sheep Nutrition Specialist/OMAFRA
Creation Date: 22 August 1997
Last Reviewed: 09 July 2003