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Low protein pushes Idaho dryland wheat to feed

ARBON VALLEY, Idaho — Grain merchandisers in Southern and Eastern Idaho say upwards of half of the regional dryland wheat production has been sold into feeder channels, due to widespread problems with low protein levels.

In a typical year, buyers would blend low-protein wheat with high-quality grain and sell it to millers.

But there’s a glut of wheat on the market now, and prices of milling wheat are so low, growers are finding they can get a better deal by selling their wheat for feed, once discounts for low protein are factored in, explained Denis Capson, an Eastern Idaho merchandiser with Scoular.

With so much good wheat to choose from, Capson said, feed lots are being more selective and have been turning away wheat with a low test weight, which they would normally buy. In the American Falls and Aberdeen area, Capson said feed wheat is selling for $3.40 per bushel.

“We’re moving huge volumes of feed wheat — a couple of hundred thousand bushels per month (in Eastern Idaho),” Capson said.

According to an Oct. 9 USDA report, projected U.S. ending wheat stocks for 2016-2017 are 1.14 billion bushels, compared with ending stocks of 752 million bushels from the 2014-2015 season.

“The mills are filling up quickly,” Capson said, adding a decline in exports has contributed to the surplus.

For several reasons, the region’s dryland growers had an especially hard time meeting protein benchmarks this season. Arbon Valley dryland grower Hans Hayden explained his yields were up 25 to 50 percent, leaving less nitrogen for each kernel. Nitrogen is needed to boost protein levels, and irrigated growers have the advantage of applying nitrogen throughout the season in their water. Hayden also suspects a lack of summer rain prevented nitrogen from moving deeper into the soil profile to plant root zones.

Hayden had hard red winter wheat protein levels at 8 percent — buyers start to discount below 11.5 to 12 percent — but he had enough good spring grain to blend up his protein levels to just meet milling standards.

“Most of my neighbors found the price at the feed lot better than the price at the mill,” Hayden said.

Arbon Valley dryland grower Ken Campbell sold about 90 percent of his wheat to feeders.

“They’re giving me a better price, and you don’t have to make grade,” Campbell said.

Soda Springs dryland grower Sid Cellan sold 30 percent of his crop as feed.

“It was protein levels that caused me to sell for feed,” Cellan said, adding his spring crop had much lower protein than his fall crop. “I had great yields, and that is probably why protein was so low.”

For feed lot owners such as Dwayne Skaar, of Lewisville, an ample supply of feed wheat cuts costs significantly. His ration is typically half wheat and half corn.

“We can get wheat in there cheaper than corn because of the freight,” said Skaar, who buys corn mostly from the Midwest and is now feeding his cattle locally sourced soft white wheat.

A truck is loaded Nov 8 at Scoular's Bancroft elevator with dry-land wheat being shipped to feeders due to low protein content. Much of hte dry-land crop in Southern and Eastern Idaho will be used as feed this year.


This article was written by John O’Connell from Capital Press. The article can be found online, here: John’s article