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Why Do People Eat Wheat But Some Animals Don't?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 1628
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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Our house is surrounded by organic wheat fields. Winter wheat is planted and harvested without ever being sprayed with anything (mostly because margins are so small adding extra cost by spraying just isn't worth it.)

So this all seems stupid except we got to talking about all those piles of wheat that get dropped while they're harvesting. one year I even excitedly gathered a bunch of it up to bring back and feed the livestock. No one ate it.

The wild birds don't eat it.

It just sits there on the ground until wind and weather take it away. It does not grow, it does not get eaten.

Why won't the wildlife eat this wheat and why are we eating it? What do they know that we don't?
 
pollinator
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I've seen all manner of creatures dining on wheat. Birds eating the seed and deer getting in there before the seed develops and eating the whole plant.

I think wildlife are more likely to eat it than humans, because some humans are gluten intolerant and many more have told themselves that they are. Being illiterate, animals will do whatever their belly tells them.

This pair didn't get in this condition from eating celery.
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master pollinator
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The one time I grew wheat, the squirrels ate it just before I was about to harvest it...

Maybe there is so much wheat in your region all the critters are sick of it?

 
steward
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In my ecosystem, wheat is pretty much the last thing eaten by animals. In mixed bird seed, everything else is eaten first.
 
elle sagenev
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Dale Hodgins wrote:I've seen all manner of creatures dining on wheat. Birds eating the seed and deer getting in there before the seed develops and eating the whole plant.

I think wildlife are more likely to eat it than humans, because some humans are gluten intolerant and many more have told themselves that they are. Being illiterate, animals will do whatever their belly tells them.

This pair didn't get in this condition from eating celery.



Perhaps it is the type of wheat we grow? I see the antelope here eating the grass but we have piles of seed when they miss the truck during processing that never goes anywhere. So they aren't eating that.
 
elle sagenev
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Tyler Ludens wrote:The one time I grew wheat, the squirrels ate it just before I was about to harvest it...

Maybe there is so much wheat in your region all the critters are sick of it?



Ha Possible. It is about the only thing other than hay we grow here.
 
pollinator
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Some critters are rather selective in their eating habits. Some target the seed heads just before they dry down. Others go after the mature seeds. Some will eat seed off the ground. Others won't touch seed that has hit the soil. So animals can't be lumped all together on whether they eat wheat or not.

My chickens adore mature wheat seed and will hunt the seeds even if they are still in the heads. and of course, the wheat is on the ground. I grow my wheat for them. The sheep and donkey prefer wheat heads while they are still green. They will willingly eat dry wheat if it is in a bucket but won't touch it if it is on the ground.  There is one wild bird here that will pick out wheat seeds before I have a chance to harvest it if I let the wheat stand too long in the field. The rats will also eat the wheat before harvest if I don't keep them under control. I've never let my pigs or goats get into the wheat stand yet, so I can't say if they will eat it.
 
Dale Hodgins
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It could be that it's really dry during your harvest season. Many animals won't feed on really dry things unless they are near a water source. So the stuff growing near a river might be consumed, while stuff in a giant field is left there. Do you live near a water course where animals could get a drink?

Have you observed the seeds still sitting there the next spring, or do they eventually get eaten by rodents or other creatures during the winter? I'm thinking it might be a boom-and-bust thing and of course harvest season is boom.

You said wind and weather take it away. Do you mean that it decomposes?
 
master steward
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at my farm, the grain for the animals includes wheat.  The chickens don't like it much, but the wild birds all eat it.  Starlings, quail, junkos, ducks, wild geese, and other birds.  So do the wild rabbits, mice, and rats.  
 
Tyler Ludens
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Is this wheat with the hull on?  This is difficult to digest, which might be why some animals avoid it.

Some people feel that wheat itself is difficult to digest for humans and that the "whole grain fiber" is actually a bad idea, compared to vegetable and fruit fiber, hard on the guts.

 
elle sagenev
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Ok so some more details. When they harvest the wheat they go in with a combine harvester which gets rid of the chaffe and stores the grain. Then they go to the grain truck and pump it all out into the truck. Sometimes they miss leaving significant piles on the road. One was so significant I suggested we gather it into a bucket to feet to our animals, whom I do not feed while the grass is green. I threw it out to them and they were like....it's a trick. She's tricking us. They never ate it.

It is hard to gauge whether mice are eating the grain during the dead of winter because we get wind. Real wind. Wind like a lot of people consider hurricane quality. I can tell you that we walk nearly every day when the weather permits and the piles remain there at least until we stop walking. Then, again, it's hard to say because it's so windy at that point everything not nailed down blows away.

As far as we've observed, nothing eats this stuff but us. It's pretty interesting.
 
Su Ba
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Elle, maybe it's the piles that's the problem. Maybe the birds just can't "see" the seeds because they're all heaped together. This might not be the reason, but I'm just thinking about it because.......

....7 days ago my wwoofer broadcast 50 lbs of wheat seed on a new pasture. This was against my instructions, but being young and convinced he knew better (as many young people in their 20s are), he did it anyway. When we went back to check for germination rate yesterday. We found zero...zero...wheat seed left. It had been consumed by the wild birds. The only couple seeds, out of 50 lbs mind you, were the ones caught down in rock crevasses. My wwoofer now owes me for a sack of wheat!

So at least in my area the wild birds will eat wheat if it is broadcast atop sparsely vegetated soil. Apparently they liked it well enough to eat 50 lbs worth.
 
Dale Hodgins
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This may prove to be the more interesting story. The Saga of how Su gets repaid for the lost wheat. Excuses, finger-pointing and avoidance. Potential for high drama there.😨
 
r ranson
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Is it an experimental field for a new variety of wheat?  
 
Su Ba
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Dale....ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha. Wwoofers notoriously have no money, so I don't expect see any cash out of him. But I can require him to put in a few extra hours work in order to reimburse me for the wasted wheat.

I'm not sowing wheat with the intent of harvesting grain. I have an ongoing project of expanding and improving my pastures. In the past few months we removed much of the invasive ferns in an enclosed one acre pasture. The ferns produce a dense mat that no other plant can grow through, plus soak up most of the rain thus leaving the dirt under the mat bone dry. So we pull out the fern plants then use a tiller to break up the mat and mix the soil with it. Then I broadcast seed of some sort (wheat or oats usually). But I normally use either mulch or grass clippings to cover up the seed. it means more work, but it protects the seed.
 
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