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New barley survey provides insight on its feed value

New data and analysis from a survey of barley samples from across Alberta has the potential to help producers get more feed value from barley.

June 15, 2018  By Top Crop Manager

The survey provides insight into the nutritional profile of barely, its strengths and its weakness as a feed ingredient. The survey was led by Canadian Bio-Systems Inc. (CBS Inc.) and the University of Manitoba, with sample collection assistance from the Alberta Barley Commission (ABC).

Deeper understanding of nutritional profile
After completion of the 2017 harvesting season, ABC collected samples from locations across Alberta for the 2017-18 survey. Then the University of Manitoba’s department of animal science analyzed the samples.

This process produced data on a variety of parameters including starch, protein, non-starch polysaccharides (NSP) – both water soluble and insoluble – neutral detergent fibre (NDF) and phosphorus (phytate and non-phytate).


The results provide a deeper understanding of the nutritional profile of barley. On average, crude protein was 10.7 per cent and varied considerably with a minimum value of 8.6 per cent and a maximum value of 15.3 per cent. Starch content on average was 53.2 per cent and likewise showed substantial variability with a minimum value of 48.9 per cent and a maximum value of 57.9 per cent.

Supporting greater precision, bang per bite
NSP on average was 17 per cent, with 72.9 per cent of that water insoluble and 27.1 water soluble. The NSP values, particularly the water soluble component, were much larger than the same component identified in surveys for wheat, with beta-glucan comprising the primary water soluble NSP for barley.

“This is significant because we know that high dietary levels of beta-glucan can increase the viscosity of digesta within the intestinal tract of swine and poultry, negatively affecting the feed value of barley,” says Dr. Anangelina Archile, CBS Inc. Technical Services Manager, who helped lead the survey initiative.

“However, knowing this, producers can use feed technology, such as enzyme formulations customized for this purpose, to hydrolyze the beta-glucans and thereby greatly increase the nutrition and energy capture.”

NDF on average was 13.6 percent, which is somewhat lower than values commonly estimated, however this is still relatively high compared to the NDF of other feed crops such as wheat, which has an estimated NDF of around 9.31 per cent, and corn, which has an estimated NDF at around 10.4 per cent.

“Barley has more hard-to-digest components, such as fibre, compared to other common feed ingredients,” says Archile. “The information we have uncovered will help us understand those components and how to mitigate or neutralize them as barriers to feed value.”

Adding value to feed barley usage
Another key finding is that 50 per cent of barley phosphorus content is tied up within phytate molecules, which are indigestible. Producers commonly supplement diets with inorganic phosphorus — a practice that can add substantial cost.

However, advanced feed technology, such as certain phytase and multi-carbohydrase enzyme formulations, can breakdown these molecules and liberate the organic phosphorus. “This can instantly add value to feed barley and reduce cost by eliminating the need to supplement,” says Archile.

Further barley surveys are planned for additional years.

A more detailed summary of the barley survey findings, including charts, can be found here. 


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