THE prospect of greater volumes of cheaper barley on home soil in the wake of China's move to lock Australia out of its market could see it be the universal grain fed to cattle in the very near future.
Lotfeeders have been shifting to barley since late last year on the back of softening prices but traders believe the latest developments could drive wheat right out of feedlot diets.
National feedlot veterinary and nutrition consultant Dr Matt George, Bovine Dynamics, explained wheat has a 7-8 per cent higher energy content than barley.
So that is the typical trade differential the two commodities run at from a lotfeeders' perspective.
That trade differential started to favour barley last October and the move to greater barley use in feedlots has been continuing, and growing, since.
Many yards are set up to run the two feeds concurrently and typically feed both.
"With barley, you'd feed lower roughage to partially offset the less energy so roughage prices also has an effect," Dr George said.
"If it's cheap, it can mean it still pays to keep wheat in diets."
Roughage has been moderately expensive but is moving towards being better priced.
Dr George said there were a number of large yards currently running two thirds barley likely to be at 100 per cent very soon.
Wheat driven out of feedlot diets had occurred in the past but it was rare, he said.
"The other times we feed more barley is in drought when WA and SA grain boats are brought around," he said.
"The other question is how much sorghum will be planted at the end of this year and how will that be priced.
"I think, though, it will be hard to compete against barley."
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