October 3, 2013
After this year's harvest brought in yields as high as 100 bushels/acre, Canada's Manitoba farmers are poised to push feed wheat acres to new highs for 2014.
But industry officials are warning farmers to keep an eye on protein as they consider their cereal planting options. While the higher-yielding but lower protein winter wheat can sometimes earn farmers as much as Canada Western Red Spring wheat (CWRS) varieties, it depends on relative supplies and demand.
Last year there was lots of high protein wheat, while there was strong demand in the US for feed wheat following a major drought which resulted in non-protein premiums and the spread between feed and milling wheat prices narrowed.
This year western Canadian farmers are harvesting a bumper wheat crop but protein levels are down and there's less demand for feed wheat. Protein premiums are expected to return and the gap between milling and feed prices could widen, John Smith, president and CEO of pedigreed seed supplier Seed Depot said.
Smith, who has the Canadian distribution rights to Faller, a Dark Northern Spring developed at North Dakota State University, said it yielded up to 114 bushels an acre this fall.
Faller is not registered in Canada and therefore receives the lowest grade feed, when sold to an elevator. However, two grain companies offered farmers identity-preserved Faller contracts this year with prices close to milling grade. Faller is also being tested in Canada and depending on the results might get recommended for registration.
Pasteur is a high-yielding wheat from SeCan, registered in the Canada Western General Purpose (CWGP) class. One farmer reported a yield of 127 bushels an acre, said Todd Hyra, SeCan's western business manager. But this year CWRS wheat has yielded well too, he said.
Some industry observers predicted ending the Canadian Wheat Board's sales monopoly would see Western farmers shift to lower protein, higher yielding wheat. There will be some shift, but Smith expects continued demand for high quality milling wheat and hopes the change occurs gradually so grain handlers and end-users are prepared.
There's a place for higher yielding wheat but Western Canada should not give up its CWRS quality-brand, said one grain company official. Delivering a consistent product one year to the next also enhances quality, he said. Western Canada's wheat classification system assists in that, he added.
Even though feed wheat (CWGP and unregistered wheat) plantings hit 137,838 acres, up from 48,920 last year they represented just 4% of the 3.38 million acres of wheat grown in Manitoba, MASC statistics show.
Pasteur and Faller made up almost 80% of the feed wheat acres with 65,167 and 42,178 acres, respectively. Pasteur plantings jumped five-fold from 2012, while Faller's tripled.
There were 7,305 acres of Jenna, an unregistered American wheat, seeded in Manitoba this spring, MASC says.
Farmers seeded 2.6 million acres of CWRS wheat, accounting for almost 77% of the province's wheat plantings. With 614,654 acres, winter wheat still covers more area than feed wheat.