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Using light bushel weight barley in cattle rations

 
  From the September 17, 2018 issue of Agri-News
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 Due to hot and dry conditions this year, bushel weight of some grains is much lower than what is considered normal. Barry Yaremcio, beef and forage specialist at the Alberta Ag-Info Centre, outlines how to best use it as feed.

Yaremcio says that initial reports indicate that bushel weight of threshed grains is variable and that the bushel weight of barley is ranging from 35 to 50 pounds 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 shrink, and there can be significant price discounts when the contract is negotiated.”

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. Research from the mid-1980s conducted by Dr. Gary Mathison and Dr. Larry Milligan from the University of Alberta, 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 per cent concentrate diet for 84 days.

“They reported that light barley contained less starch and protein, but more fibre and ash than the heavy barley,” explains Yaremcio. “The results indicate 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 four per cent. 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 per cent. “With barley at approximately $5.00 per bushel, it is economical to process the grain if the processing cost is less than $0.60 to $0.75 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 per cent,” notes Yaremcio. “In other words, the weight of the processed grain should be between 75 and 81 per cent 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 per cent - insufficient processing results in a loss in efficiency. If the processing index is too low - below 75 per cent - 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 per cent rolling index is worth the time and effort. Explains Yaremcio, “If the rolls are not reset, 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.”

For more information about using light bushel weight barley in cattle rations, contact the Alberta Ag-Info Centre at 310-FARM (3276).

Contact:
Alberta Ag-Info Centre
310-FARM (3276)

 
 
 
 
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Barry Yaremcio.
This document is maintained by Christine Chomiak.
This information published to the web on September 10, 2018.