Hulless Barley in Dairy Diets

The release of a new variety, Falcon, is generating considerable interest in hulless barley this spring. Falcon, a variety developed in Alberta, is not recommended for growing in Manitoba because of its poor rust resistance. In spite of this, it is expected that almost 40,000 acres of Falcon will be seeded in Manitoba this year.

Hulless barley is a relatively new ingredient in Canada - commercially available for only the last few years. In hulless barley, the hull is weakly attached to the seed kernel and is removed during harvesting. The hull accounts for about 13% of the weight of the grain kernel and is composed mainly of fiber. Hulless barley has an energy value similar to wheat and corn and a protein content similar to wheat. It has, however, a better amino acid profile than wheat or barley and because of this, has become a popular ingredient in Alberta hog rations.

Due to its higher energy and amino acid content, hulless barley is currently commanding a $10 to $25/T premium over covered barley in Alberta. The higher premium is being paid for a clean, consistent product with over 85% of the hulls removed.

It is important that the amount of adhering hulls not be greater than 15% in order to meet grade standards for hulless barley. This is needed for two reasons:

  1. The feed industry needs to purchase a consistent product.
  2. The energy content decreases with a greater amount of adhering hulls.

In addition to its higher nutrient levels, hulless barley has an advantage over covered barley in terms of transportation and storage. The higher density (80 kg/hl versus 62 kg/hl) increases the amount that can be shipped in a truck, rail car or ship, and the amount that can be put into a storage bin. Overall, it has similar handling, storage and transportation characteristics to wheat.

Since hulless barley has its greatest potential value in swine and poultry feeds, there has been limited work done on feeding it to cattle. It is assumed that it can be fed like other grains. It should be rolled or coarse ground to maximize particle size and minimize digestive upsets. Since the fibre content of hulless barley is lower than that of covered barley, extra attention should be paid to meeting the minimum fibre level in the diet (19% ADF). In some feeding situations, for example with low fibre forages, hulless barley may precipitate an acidosis problem.

For further information contact:

Karen Dupchak
Farm Production Extension, Animal Nutritionist
Manitoba Agriculture Food, and Rural Initiatives
204-545 University Crescent
Winnipeg, MB R3T 5S6
Phone: 204-945-7668
Fax: 204-945-4327