Harvesting light test weight barley as a forage crop may be a viable option this year, according to Greg Lardy, North Dakota State University Extension Service beef cattle specialist.
Low test weight barley is lower in starch and higher in fiber than normal test weight grain, which results in lower energy content for the light test weight grain.
"For small reductions in test weight, producers may not notice any reductions in performance of their livestock,” he says. "However, as barley test weight approaches 40 lbs. or less, the energy content is low enough where differences in feed efficiency are noticeable. Animals offered high-concentrate diets will tend to consume more of the lighter test weight grain as a mechanism to compensate for the lower energy content. This results in poorer feed conversion efficiency.”
Lardy recommends producers consider pricing lower test weight grain according to its feeding value. Test weight can be used as an approximation of feeding value, but it does not tell the whole story because lower test weight grain tends to be higher in protein. Depending on the nutrient requirements and other ration ingredients, additional protein may be useful.
"If crop insurance regulations allow, harvesting light test weight grain as a hay crop may be a viable option,” Lardy says. "Forage is short in many areas of the state this year and light test weight barley harvested as a forage crop will be a useful feedstuff for wintering beef cattle or as an ingredient in backgrounding rations.”
More information about the effect of test weight on feeding value of barley for beef cattle and sheep can be found online at http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/ansci/beef/eb70w.htm and http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/ansci/sheep/eb71w.htm.
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