“Due to hot and dry conditions in the south of the province and cool wet conditions in the central and northern parts of the province, quality of barley grain is variable,” says Barry Yaremcio, beef and forage specialist at the Alberta Ag-Info Centre.

“Many areas are harvesting crops with lower than 48 pounds per bushel which is considered to be the standard. With weather that is not cooperating, it may be necessary to harvest feed grains when they are either tough or damp which also influences price."

He says that initial reports indicate that bushel weight and moisture content of threshed grain is variable and that the bushel weight of barley is ranging from 40 to 54 lb per bushel.

“Feedlots and elevators are more than willing to take the heavy weight barley without any hesitation or discounts. When barley bushel weights are below approximately 46 lb, the number of marketing options start to decline.”

He says that a discount of approximately $10.00 per tonne - 22 cents per bushel - is applied to barley below 44 lb per bushel (#2 feed barley) if selling to a commercial grain company.

“Discounts may be different if selling to a feedlot. Drying charges of roughly 11 cents per bushel per point of moisture removed along with shrinkage is also applied to the final settlement.”

“Feeding light bushel weight grain to cattle is an opportunity to utilize a product that is discounted in the market but retains its value in a cow, backgrounding, or home finishing program,” he adds.

Yaremcio notes research from the mid-1980s conducted by Dr. Gary Mathison and Dr. Larry Milligan from the University of Alberta, that compared average daily gain and feed conversion efficiency when finishing steers were fed barley with different bushel weights. Bushel weights varied from a low of 34 lb to a high of 51 lb The 47 lb barley was considered to be of “average quality,” and 90 steers were fed a 90% concentrate diet for 84 days.

“They reported that light barley contained less starch and protein, but more fibre and ash than the heavy barley,” he explains. “The results indicated that there is no difference in average daily gain between the different bushel weight grains. Feed conversion efficiency was less efficient for the lightweight grain at 7 lb of feed to produce 1 lb of gain, and the heavy barleys were required only 6.7 lb of feed to produce 1 lb of gain. The reported difference in feed efficiency was 4%. They also found no differences in efficiency between the steam-rolled and dry-rolled barley.”

Yaremcio adds that in other trials, the loss in feeding efficiency between feeding whole or rolled barley to feedlot steers or mature cows ranged from 12 to 15%.

“With barley at approximately $4.35 per bushel, it is economical to process the grain if the processing cost is less than $0.52 to $0.64 per bushel.”

“To optimize grain feeding efficiency, grain should be rolled prior to feeding feedlot animals and mature cows. A properly processed barley grain should have a processing index between 75 and 81%,” he notes. “In other words, the weight of the processed grain should be between 75 and 81% of the whole grain bushel weight.”

Yaremcio uses a 48 lb barley as an example. “It should weigh between 36 and 39 lb after rolling is complete. When barley is processed to this extent, digestibility is optimized and problems with acidosis is reduced. If the processing index is too high - over 81% - insufficient processing results in a loss in efficiency. If the processing index is too low - below 75% - the grain is over processed which could cause sub clinical acidosis which reduces feed intake and animal performance.”

Spending time to adjust the rollers to obtain a 75 to 81% rolling index is worth the time and effort.

“If the rolls are not reset,” he explains, “a light-weight grain will pass through the mill and will not have the processing to optimize utilization. This will reduce performance, and in the long run, net dollars when animals are sold or overall cost of feeding cows is calculated.”

He says that rolling or processing higher moisture grain can reduce the amount of “fines” present in the final product.

“With fewer fines in the grain, digestion rate is reduced and this can reduce the risk of bloat or acidosis. Using higher moisture barley is no different than tempering dry barley - adding water - prior to rolling.”

He adds that finding a way to purchase feed grain economically is a benefit to the livestock producer.

“The upside for the owner of the light weight or higher moisture barley is to have an alternate market to sell into. Not having to dry the grain also reduces the total cost of harvesting the crop.”

Contact

Connect with the Alberta Ag-Info Centre:

Hours: 8 am to 5 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Toll free: 310-FARM (3276)