If buying wheat, make sure it's SFW1

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Dairy farmers buying wheat for their cows are being urged to buy SFW1 quality wheat, rather than paying a lower price for lesser quality feed grain.

Dairy Australia's Grains2Milk program leader, Dr Steve Little, said the big money to be lost or gained when buying feed is in seeking quality, rather than haggling over a $10/tonne difference in the asking price.

"Never has this been truer than when buying grain than this year! And there are good deals on offer, " Dr Little said.

The national harvest of both wheat and barley were high but wet weather means that much of it was downgraded from milling and malting quality to general purpose and feed grade, which was available to dairy farmers at a significant discount.

"Just as oils aint oils, feed grain is not feed grain. There are many specific grades of feed wheat and feed barley and these can differ in their nutritional value for dairy cows," Dr Little said.

The different grades are defined by Grain Trade Australia (GTA), and outlined in the table.

When buying feed-grade wheat, stockfeed companies and the pig and poultry industries prefer to buy SWF1 grade wheat and Dr Little recommended it as a good option for dairy farmers. It was currently selling at a discount of up to $60-75/tonne compared to ASW1 grade wheat, yet its test weight and screenings standards were not much different (see table).

"You may be able to save an additional $10-30/tonne by buying FED1 or FED2 grade wheat instead of SWF1. But these grades don't necessarily offer better feed value for money because they have much lower test weights and higher screenings standards," he said.

Similarly for barley - Dr Little recommended sticking with F1 barley rather than risking the inferior quality standards that apply to the F2 and F3 barley grades. However there's very little difference between the price of feed wheat and feed barley this year, making wheat better value because it has a higher energy content.

"Of course you will only get SWF1 wheat or F1 barley if you specify it when you enter a feed purchase agreement.

"If you just order ‘feed wheat' or ‘feed barley' you leave yourself wide open. You could be delivered any of the GTA feed grades - possibly the lowest - and be obliged to accept it."

Dr Little reminded farmers to confirm verbal agreements with feed suppliers by mail, fax or email. An easy way to do this is to use the GTA Contract Confirmation form, available on Dairy Australia's website. This form can be used when buying any type of feed (not just grain), to specify quality, price, supply terms and any additional terms negotiated with the seller