Self-Fed Wheat Middlings in Backgrounding Diets for Beef Heifers

T.C. Gilbery, G.P. Lardy, M.L. Bauer, Department of Animal and Range Sciences, NDSU
B. Kreft, Central Grasslands Research Extension Center, Streeter, ND
J. Dhuyvetter, NDSU Extension Service, Minot, ND

Table of Contents


Wheat middlings are a co-product of the flour and semolina (pasta) industry. They contain bran, germ and small amounts of starch. Wheat middlings are used widely in the feed industry as basic ingredients in commercial protein supplements, creep feeds, and other feed products. North Dakota flour and pasta plants produce approximately 1000 tons of wheat middlings per day, making them a widely available co-product. The objective of this research was to compare self-fed wheat middlings to wheat middlings fed in a mixed ration for backgrounding heifers.


Wheat middlings were offered in: 1) totally mixed ration and 2) self-fed wheat middlings (fed in a creep feeder) and self-fed chopped grass hay. Performance data was collected to determine dry matter intake, average daily gain, and feed efficiency of the two dietary treatments. Cattle on self-fed wheat middlings had similar average daily gains, feed intake, and feed efficiency compared to wheat middlings fed in a totally mixed ration.

Materials and Methods

One hundred and seventy-one crossbred heifers (622 73 lb initial wt.) were used in a backgrounding study at Central Grasslands Research Extension Center from December 1999 to February 2000 to evaluate self-fed versus mixed diets (totally mixed ration) containing wheat middlings. The totally mixed ration contained (dry matter basis) 48.25% grass hay, 48.25% wheat middlings, and 3.5% supplement. The self-fed diet consisted of free choice chopped grass hay fed in a fence line bunk and self-fed wheat middlings. The self-fed wheat middlings were fed in a portable creep feeder and contained (dry matter basis) 93.24% wheat middlings, and 6.76% supplement. Crude protein concentrations of the feedstuffs (dry matter basis) were grass hay, 7.82%; wheat middlings, 18.33%; and supplement, 9.86%. Both diets were formulated to provide adequate calcium to maintain a calcium to phosphorus ratio of 1.5:1. Cattle were weighed every 28 days. Feed ingredients were sampled weekly throughout the trial. Daily records of feed offered were recorded. Performance data was analyzed using the GLM procedure of SAS.

Results and Discussion

There was no significant difference (p0.05) between treatments for: intake (18.8 0.4 lb; P = 0.78), feed efficiency (0.098 0.004 lb; P = 0.64), average daily gain (1.8 0.1 lb; P = 0.47), and hay consumption (20.7 0.60 lb; P = 0.51) (Table 1). Wheat middlings consumption was higher for totally mixed ration vs self-fed diet (9.44 vs 8.58 lb; P = 0.01). Feed intake for the two diets were similar. Feeding these rations with the same ingredients at comparable levels yielded feed efficiencies and average daily gain that was similar as well.

Since wheat middlings are high in digestible fiber the danger of digestive disorders when feeding appears to be small. Other fiber base co-products may lend themselves to self-feeding as well (beet pulp, soybean hulls, barley malt pellets).

Table 1. Effect of feed delivery system (totally mixed ration vs. self-fed) on performance of backgrounding heifers fed wheat middling based-diets. (All numbers expressed on a dry matter basis).

Totally mixed ration Self-fed

Average daily intake (lb) 18.91 18.74
Average daily gain (lb)   1.88   1.77
Feed intake/lb of gain 10.06 10.65
Hay consumption (lb) 20.39 21.03
Wheat middlings consumption (lb)   9.44   8.58


Feeding wheat middlings in a self-feeder may be a practical way to background beef cattle at moderate rates of gain. The self-fed backgrounding method may be particularly useful for producers with smaller herds or off-farm employment because of lower equipment investments and lower labor inputs.

Dr. Greg Lardy
Animal and Range Sciences Department
177 Hultz Hall
North Dakota State University
Fargo, ND 58105

NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center

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