Written by: Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky
Wheat (Triticum aestivum) is often used in poultry diets in western Canada and parts of Europe. The husk of wheat detaches from the grain during threshing (in conventional barley and oats, the husk remains attached), reducing the grain's fiber content. The energy content of wheat is 94% to 96% that of corn. Wheat is higher in protein and the amino acids lysine and tryptophan than corn. Wheat contains gluten, which is advantageous in the making of pellets because it eliminates the need for pellet binders.
Wheat varieties are categorized according to three classifications.
Different wheat varieties contain different types of starches, some of which are difficult for the foregut to digest. These starches become food sources for lower gut bacteria that may form waxy particles and lead to sticky fecal material. The use of supplemental feed enzymes helps alleviate this problem in chickens.
Recently there has been interest in feeding whole grains to poultry. Some experts believe feeding whole wheat feeds to chickens improves their digestive tracts, increasing the birds' ability to resist coccidiosis challenge. Including a high percentage of ground wheat in feed can result in flour buildup in feeders, so producers who do so must take extra care to prevent mold contamination.
Table 1. Nutrient content of hard and soft wheat (Source: Feedstuffs Ingredient Analysis Table: 2011 edition, by Amy Batal and Nick Dale, University of Georgia)
|NUTRIENT||HARD WHEAT||SOFT WHEAT|
|Dry matter, %||88||86|
|Metabolizable energy, kcal/kg||3170||3210|
|Metabolizable energy, kcal/lb||1440||1460|
|Crude protein, %||13.5||10.8|
|Crude fat, %||1.9||1.7|
|Crude fiber, %||3.0||2.8|
|Total phosphorus, %||0.41||0.30|
|Non-phytate phosphorus, %||0.12||0.11|
Table 2. Comparing the nutrient content of wheat and wheat by-products (SOURCE: Feedstuffs Ingredient Analysis Table: 2011 edition, by Amy Batal and Nick Dale, University of Georgia)
|Wheat, hard, grain||88||1440||13.5||1.9||3.0||0.05||0.25||0.40|
|Wheat, soft, grain||86||1460||10.8||1.7||2.8||0.05||0.14||0.30|
|Wheat germ meal||89||1280||25.0||7.0||3.5||0.01||0.42||1.37|
|Wheat grain screenings, #1||89||1265||14.8||2.6||6.2||0.18||0.17||0.40|
|Wheat grain screenings, #2||92||1205||12.5||3.9||7.6||0.13||0.12||0.48|
DM = Dry matter, %; Energy in kcal/lb; CP = Crude protein, %; EE = Crude fat (ether extract), %; CF = Crude fiber, %; Ca = Calcium, %; Met = Methionine, %; Lys = Lysine, %
Wheat as a replacement for corn in poultry diets. Robert Blair and Stewart Paulson, British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
The feeding of whole wheat to broilers. John Summers, Poultry Industry Council (Canada).