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Forage Type Barley Varieties for Forage Yield & Quality

Updated: May 25, 2023

Research Coordinator: Dr. Akim Omokanye

Location: Fairview Research Farm (NW-5-82-03-W6)

From: Peace Country Beef & Forage Association 2013 Annual Report

Barley varieties are generally classified as two rows or six rows, as feed grain or malting, as covered or hulless; and these are used for animal feed as grain, whole plant (hay, silage or green feed) or straw. Several studies have shown that forage of barley is higher in CP than forage of oat, triticale and spring wheat. Sixteen forage type barley varieties were tested by PCBFA as part of the Regional Silage Variety Trials (RSVT). It is necessary to test new barley varieties as they become available and identify those with superior yield and quality that could replace the present varieties used by producers or varieties that could be incorporated into the producers current forage production systems in the different regions of the province.


  • To compare barley varieties for forage yield and quality

  • To communicate findings to beef cattle producers in the Peace Region and to other parts of Alberta through the RSVTs (The results will also be reported in the Alberta Seed Guide (


The trial took place at Fairview Research Farm (NW5-82-3W6) on RR #35, MD of Fairview. The site was left to fallow in the summer of 2012, but had a Pioneer® brand canola variety trial in 2011. Prior to seeding, soil samples were taken at 0-6” depth for N, P, K & S tests, after which the site was harrowed. After harrowing, a pre-seed weed control was carried out with Credit®. The soil test showed that the site had a pH of 5.4 and 8.8% organic matter.

Plant Material, Experimental Design, Seeding and Crop Management

The treatments consisted of 16 barley varieties (10 two-row and 6 six-row varieties). Most of them have been briefly described in the “2013 Cereal Research Report” by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada & Alberta Agri-culture and Rural Development ($Department/deptdocs.nsf/all/fcd5506/$FILE/2013_cereal_research_report.pdf).

Two-row barley varieties:

  • Busby - feed barley, rough awned

  • CDC Austenson - rough awn variety, high feed yield

  • CDC Cowboy - forage barley

  • CDC Coalition - general purpose type, good yield potential

  • CDC Maverick - a new smooth awned forage barley for swath grazing, bale grazing and silage

  • Conlon - smooth awned, easily the nicest barley to roll

  • Gadsby - rough awned, general purpose barley

  • Ponoka - feed barley for grain or silage

  • Seebe - feed barley for silage

  • Xena - semi-smooth awns

Six-row barley varieties:

  • AC Ranger - feed barley, smooth awns

  • Chigwell - feed barley, smooth awns

  • Muskwa - smooth awned, hulled, general purpose type

  • Sundre - feed barley for grain and forage

  • Trochu - feed barley for silage , smooth awn

  • Vivar - feed barley

The treatments (16 barley varieties) were arranged in a randomized complete block design with four replica-tions. Plot size at seeding was 8.5 m long 6 rows at 23 cm (9 inches) spacing between rows. Plot length was later trimmed to 6.5 m long. Seeding rate was 250 live seeds m-2. The calculated seed rate varied from 88 lbs/acre for Muskwa to 157 lbs/acre for CDC Maverick. All seeds were treated. A Fabro plot drill equipped with Atom jet openers was used to seed on May 23, 2013. All plots were fertilized with a blend of 90N-30P-20K-30S (lbs/acre). In crop spraying was done with Frontline XL.

Field Notes and Forage Yield Estimation

Plant stand was visually inspected in all plots to assess adequacy of crop emergence at 4 weeks after seeding. Prior to harvest, notes were taken on plant lodging. Harvesting for forage yield was done at the soft dough stage. The plots were assessed to estimate any major part of rows without plants to determine the actual harvest area per plot. The above ground parts of plants were harvested on August 1, 2013. For each plot, four 3 m long inner rows were hand harvested with a sickle knife or cordless grass shears and weighed for plot fresh forage yield. About 0.5 kg of the freshly harvested forage was sub-sampled and air-dried for a few days to constant weight for forage dry matter (DM) yield estimation.

Forage Quality Analysis

The forage quality (based on % dry matter bases) was determined using two dry composite forage samples per treatment, one for replications 1 & 2, and the other for replications 3 & 4. The samples were analyzed for feed quality using standard laboratory procedures for wet chemistry analysis.

Results and Discussion

Forage Moisture Content and DM Yield at Soft-Dough Stage

The forage moisture content at harvest at the soft dough stage varied from 65.9% for Chigwell to 68.9% for Ponoka (Table 1). The forage DM yield was highest for AC Ranger (8638 lbs DM/acre) and lowest for Vivar (6995 lbs DM/acre), giving a difference of 1643 lbs DM/acre between the two barley varieties (Table 1). Sev-en of the 16 barley varieties tested had >8000 lbs DM/acre.

Forage Quality (Table 1)

Generally, forage protein content was >11% for all barley varieties. Protein varied from 12.0% for Conlon to 15.4% for CDC Austenson. All varieties exceeded the recommended protein values for a dry gestating cow in mid and late pregnancy stages, which respectively requires 7 and 9% protein and even for a lactating cow that requires 11% protein. This further confirms the value of forage type barley varieties used as silage and feed to different categories of beef cows.

Three (Ca, Mg & K) of the 5 macro minerals analyzed for varied among the 16 barley varieties tested. AC Ranger consistently had the highest forage Ca, Mg & K contents. All macro minerals analyzed for in this study (Ca, P, Mg, K, Na) were well above the recommended values for a dry gestating cow both in the mid and late pregnancy stages. But for a lactating cow, the requirements of Mg, K and Na were all met by the barley varie-ties tested. The Ca requirement by a lactating cow was only met by Ponoka, while the P requirement was only met by CDC Cowboy and Conlon.

Energy content (TDN) was similar for all varieties and mostly well above 62%. This shows that the suggested energy requirements for a dry gestating cow, which is 55% TDN at mid-pregnancy stage and 60% at late preg-nancy stage have both been adequately met by all barley varieties. For a lactating cow, which requires 65% TDN, only 3 (Busby, Conlon and Chigwell) of the 16 varieties sufficiently met this amount.

Conlon is one of the two smooth-awned 2-row varieties tested here. It had the highest DM (8519 lbs/acre) among the 2-row varieties and ranked 3rd in general. This variety has also shown some feed quality potential probably because it is easily the nicest barley to roll. It has consistently out performed all other varieties in ADF and digestible energy content, as well as in the respective net energy for lactation, maintenance and gain.


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