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Forage Type Barley Varieties for Greenfeed and Silage: Yield and Quality

Updated: May 25, 2023

Research Coordinator: Dr. Akim Omokanye

Location: Fairview Research Farm RR #35, MD of Fairview

From: Peace Country Beef & Forage Association 2014 Annual Report

In 2014, PCBFA took part in the Regional Variety Testing program (Regional Silage Variety Trials (RSVT). The program includes testing of new barley varieties as they become available for adaption, forage yield and quality. This year, 17 forage type barley varieties were tested. In addition to the findings presented here from our trial, the results across the different trial sites in the province will also be reported in the Alberta Seed Guide (


The study site was at Fairview Research Farm (NW5-82-3W6) on RR #35, MD of Fairview. The site used was left to fallow in the summer of 2013. Prior to seeding, soil test at 0-6” soil depth done at Exova laboratory (Edmonton) showed an OM of 7.1% and a pH of 5.8. The site was rotor tilled and we sprayed Credit® as a pre-seed weed control after tilling.

The treatments consisted of 17 barley varieties (10 two-row and 7 six-row varieties), which were arranged in a randomized complete block design in 4 replications in small plots (8.5 m long 6 rows). Seeding rate was 250 live seeds m-2. We seeded with a plot drill at a spacing of 23 cm (9 inches) between rows on May 23, 2014. All seeds were treated. We fertilized with a blend of 90N-30P-20K-30S (lbs/acre). In crop spraying was done once with Frontline XL at 2-4 leaf stage of barley. The 17 barley varieties tested are listed below.

Two-row barley varieties-

1. Busby- feed barley, rough awned

2. CDC Austenson-rough awn variety

3. CDC Cowboy-forage barley

4. CDC Coalition - general purpose type, good yield potential

5. CDC Maverick– a new smooth-awned forage barley

6. Conlon - smooth awned, easily the nicest barley to roll

7. Gadsby - rough awned, general purpose barley

8. Ponoka - feed barley for grain or silage

9. Seebe - feed barley for silage

10. Xena - semi-smooth awns (check for the 2-row barley)

Six-row barley varieties tested-

1. AC Ranger-feed barley, smooth awns

2. Amisk - rough awned, semi-dwarf, general purpose barley

3. Chigwell - feed barley, smooth awns

4. Muskwa - semi-dwarf, smooth-awned, hulled, general purpose type

5. Sundre - feed barley for grain and forage

6. Trochu - feed barley for silage , smooth awn

7. Vivar-feed barley (check for the 6-row barley)

Harvesting for forage yield was done at the soft dough stage on July 29, 2014. For each plot, two 4 m long inner rows were hand harvested with a sickle knife and weighed fresh. About 0.5 kg of the freshly harvested forage was sub-sampled and air-dried for a few days for forage dry matter (DM) yield estimation.

The forage quality (based on % dry matter basis) 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 by Central Testing Laboratory Limited (Winnipeg, Manitoba) using standard laboratory procedures for wet chemistry analysis.


Forage Dry Matter (DM) Yield

The forage DM yield of barley varieties tested varied from 3674 lbs/acre for Seebe to 5704 lbs/acre for CDC Austenson (see Figure 1). The mean DM yield for the 17 varieties was 4835 lbs/acre. Only 9 of the 17 varieties tested (ten 2-row & four 6-row varieties) had higher forage DM than mean DM yield. Overall, both 2– and 6-row barley varieties had similar DM yields (4858 vs 4803 lbs/ac). Generally, DM yields of barley varieties tested were lower in 2014 compared to 2013, which had 6995-8638 lbs/acre (see PCBFA Annual Report 2013). The difference was attributed to lower rainfall in 2014 (3.13 inches) than 2013 (7.50 inches) from seeding to harvest at the soft-dough stage.

Forage Crude Protein (CP) Content

The forage protein was highest for CDC Austenson (15.0% CP), followed by AC Ranger (14.5% CP) and then CDC Coalition (14.2% CP) (see Figure 2). The forage CP was generally above 12% for the 17 barley varieties tested. The forage protein obtained for all varieties met the requirements of a mature beef cow, which requires 7% CP in the mid-pregnancy, 9% CP in the late-pregnancy and 11% CP after calving.

The energy content (%TDN) as shown in Figure 3 was generally above 70% for all varieties. Busby (2-row) had the highest energy (87% TDN), followed by Trochu (6-row) and then Conlon (2-row). Other forms of energy measured such as digestible energy (DE), metabolizable energy (ME), net energy for lactation (NEL), net energy for maintenance (NEM), and net energy for gain (NEG) were all higher for Busby than other varieties.

Using %TDN, the Rule of Thumb is 55-60-65. This rule says that for a mature beef cow to maintain her body condition score (BCS) through the winter, the ration must have a TDN energy reading of 55% in mid pregnancy, 60% in late pregnancy and 65% after calving. For a growing and finishing calf, the energy requirement is 65-70% TDN. This shows that all the barley varieties we tested in the present study met and in most cases exceeded the energy requirement of a young and/or mature beef cow.

Forage Macro minerals

The forage Ca content for all barley varieties was generally higher than the 0.18% Ca needed by a dry gestating cow. However, for a lactating cow, only 5 (CDC Coalition, Gadsby, Ponoka, Muskwa and AC Ranger) of the 17 barley varieties tested met the 0.42% Ca needed by this category of cow. For a growing and a finishing calf, only 3 varieties (Busby, Seebe and Trochu) were short of meeting the 0.31% Ca requirement of these calves.

With the exception of Busby, Conlon and Trochu, all barley varieties did not have enough P for a dry, gestating cow. All varieties had sufficient amounts of Mg and K needed by a growing and a finishing calf, as well as those needed by a mature beef cow.

In conclusion, the forage protein, energy, Mg and K contents of all varieties tested were adequate for all categories of beef cattle. But going by the DM production, the 7 top barley varieties that have produced higher DM than the overall mean DM (4835 lbs/acre) are CDC Austenson, Conlon, Gadsby, AC Ranger, CDC Maverick, CDC Coalition and Sundre. Five of these 7 varieties belong to the 2-row barley type, an indication that the 2-row barley type may be better yielding and adapted crop for greenfeed hay or silage production in this area. Any of these top varieties would therefore be a good alternative to Xena (check for the 2-row barley) or Vivar (check for the 6-row barley) in Fairview and area.

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