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For Prairie Feedlots, Corn is King

Corn use is becoming even more widespread across Prairie feedlots, keeping a lid on feed wheat and barley prices in the process.

“We’re seeing corn take more of the driver’s seat role in the feedgrain complex,” said Allen Pirness, senior trader at Market Place Commodities in Lethbridge. “Pretty much every feedlot is feeding corn now. It really kills the demand for wheat and barley. We’ll see (plenty of corn) at least through the summer, maybe even into next crop year. . . it’s a pretty significant switch that has happened.”

Amid sharply higher wheat and barley prices in the wake of drought-reduced supplies, more US corn is being imported into feedlots as a lower-priced feedgrain alternative. In its December supply-demand update, Agriculture Canada projected total 2021-22 corn imports at 3 million tonnes, almost double the previous year.

Although Ontario and Quebec saw bumper corn production this year, output in Western Canada (primarily Manitoba) was also hit by drought, further increasing the need for imports of American supplies. In fact, at just under 1 million tonnes, Prairie corn production was the lowest in six years.

Pirness said both barley and feed wheat prices have softened over the past week – down anywhere from about a dime to 15 cents to $9.80 and $12.80/bu- although he added little business is currently being done anyway.

“The offers are still quite a bit higher than the bids. But there hasn’t been a lot of appetite right at the moment for anyone to pay up,” he said.

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