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Regional Silage Variety Trial for Beef Cattle Diets: Barley Varieties 2020

Research Coordinator: Dr. Akim Omokanye

Location: Fairview Research Farm

From: Peace Country Beef & Forage Association 2020 Annual Report

Cereals are easily ensiled since water soluble carbohydrate levels are high, buffering capacity is low, and moisture content is easily controlled. Feed and forage-type barley varieties can be grown for swath grazing, greenfeed, or silage. In the Peace region, barley is the preferred monocrop cereal crop for silage. Every year, PCBFA takes part in the Regional Silage Variety Trials (RSVTs) for different crop species and varieties. New varieties of barley are registered on a regular basis. Every year, PCBFA tests new barley varieties as they become available along with older varieties for silage. The RSVTs provide scientifically sound variety performance information to livestock producers, industry, and extension specialists. In addition to the findings of the barley variety trial from Fairview being presented in this report, the results from the RSVTs across the different trial sites in Alberta will also be reported in the Alberta Seed Guide (


To identify barley varieties with superior forage yield and quality for silage for beef cattle production.


Experimental Site: Fairview Research Farm (NW-5-82-3-W6M) on RR #35, MD of Fairview.

Site soil information from the surface soil (0-6” soil depth) before seeding: pH = 6.2, organic matter = 4.7% and electrical conductivity = 0.21 (dS/m).

Cropping history: Before the fall of 2018, when the site was sprayed out with Roundup at 1.0 L/acre and tilled, the previous crop was alfalfa for hay production for over 15 years.

Experimental design and treatments: A randomized complete block design was used in four replications in small plots measuring 8 m x 1.8 m.

The following 19 barley varieties were tested for silage production and feed quality:

1. CDC Maverick – 2-row forage barley variety

2. Amisk – rough awned, 6-row, semi-dwarf general purpose barley

3. Sundre – 6-row barley

4. AB Tofield (new) – 6-row forage and feed barley variety

5. AB Wrangler – 2-row barley variety

6. Canmore – 2-row general purpose barley variety

7. Claymore – 2-row barley variety

8. Legacy – 6-row barley variety

9. CDC Cowboy– 2-row dual purpose barley variety

10. Altorado – 2-row barley variety

11. CDC Austenson – 2-row barley variety with semi-smooth awns

12. AC Metcalfe – 2-row barley variety

13. CDC Fraser – 2-row barley variety

14. SR18524 (new) – 6-row forage and feed barley variety

15. TR18647 (new) – 2-row forage and feed barley variety

16. AB Advantage (new) – 6-row forage barley variety

17. AB Brewnet (new) – 2-row barley variety

18. CDC Bow (new) – 2-row barley variety

19. AB Cattlelac (new) – 2-row forage barley variety

Seeds were treated with Vibrance Quattro cereal seed treatment before seeding.

Seeding rate: 300 plants/m2 (27.8 plants/ft2).

Seeding date: May 28.

Seeding depth was 0.75”.

Seeding method: Six rows were seeded using a Fabro plot drill equipped with disc-type openers on 23 cm (9 inches) row spacing.

Surface spring soil moisture at seeding: 13.2% (0-5 cm soil depth).

Surface spring soil temperature at seeding: 9.5°C (0-5 cm soil depth).

Fertility for an average barley yield (actual lbs/ac) was applied at: 37 N + 35 P2O5 + 0 K2O + 13 S

Spraying: Pre-emergent (StartUp glyphosate + LI surfactant); In-crop (Prestige XL at 0.71 L/acre).

Measurements taken include: barley height, plant lodging rating a day before harvest and forage dry matter (DM) yield on August 18th when the barley were at the soft-dough stage. Forage samples were shipped to A & L laboratory, Ontario for forage quality determination.


Plant Height

With greater than 100 cm in height, CDC Cowboy, CDC Maverick and CDC Bow were significantly taller in plant height than most barley varieties tested.

Stem Lodging or Breakage

Fairview witnessed a strong storm on August 3 at the trial site and this caused significant plant lodging of most barley varieties tested here. The storm was a combination of wind, rain, and hail that resulted in 28.3 mm of rainfall over a short period.

CDC Maverick, CDC Cowboy, Metcalfe, and Sundre were more affected by the storm with up to about 40% of the plants fallen almost flat to the ground after the storm (Table 1). Altorado, Amisk, Claymore, CDC Fraser, and SR18524 had excellent lodging resistance.

Forage Dry Matter Yield

The statistical analysis showed that forage DM yield was significantly influenced by barley varieties. With the exception of AB Wrangler variety, the variety called Altorado significantly produced higher forage DM yield than other barley varieties. Altorado produced 10681 lbs DM yield/acre compared to 6985 - 8991 lbs DM yield/acre for other barley varieties (excluding AB Wrangler variety) (Figure 1). Altorado therefore shows a forage DM yield advantage of 1690 - 3696 lbs DM yield/acre over most barley varieties tested here in this study. Next to Altorado in forage DM yield was AB Wrangler variety with 9509 lbs DM yield/acre.

Forage Quality

Cattle require energy, protein, water, vitamins, and minerals in suitable amounts to provide adequate nutrition.

Protein is a critical nutrient in all beef cattle diets. Cattle protein requirements vary with stage of production, size of the animal, and expected performance. Although protein supplementation is often a high cost item in a beef cattle feeding program, sometimes protein supplementation is needed to meet the animal’s requirements. In this study, the forage crude protein (CP) content was statistically similar for all barley varieties tested.

Barley varieties generally had 9.70 –11.5% CP (Figure 2). All barley varieties examined here seemed to have sufficient CP for a dry gestating beef cow, which requires 7% CP in mid-pregnancy (second trimester) and 9% CP in late-pregnancy (third-trimester). However, for a lactating beef cow that requires 11% CP, a few barley varieties such as CDC Austenson and CDC Fraser fell short of this requirement.

As a reminder, signs of protein deficiency include lowered appetite, weight loss, poor growth, depressed reproductive performance, and reduced milk production. Providing adequate protein in beef cattle diets is important for animal health and productivity as well as ranch profitability.

TDN is useful for beef cow rations that are primarily forage. Energy is necessary for maintenance (feed digestion, core body functions, and activity requirements) and to support growth, lactation, and reproduction. It accounts for the largest proportion of feed costs and is the nutrient required by cattle in the largest amount. The forage energy as determined by total digestible nutrients (TDN) was similar for all varieties tested (Figure 3). Barley varieties had 65.2-71.8% TDN (Figure 3), an indication that the energy requirements of different categories of mature beef cattle as well as growing and finishing calves have been met by these varieties.

Forage detergent fibres, other forms of energy (NEL, NEG, and NEM) and relative feed value (RFV) were all similar for the barley varieties tested here in the present study (Table 2).

At least 17 minerals are required by beef cattle and are divided into two groups: macro-minerals and micro-minerals (or trace-minerals). Macro-minerals are those required in relatively large amounts for bodily functions, while micro or trace minerals are required in much smaller amounts. With the exception of Fe (a trace mineral), both macro and trace minerals measured for the barley varieties tested here were all similar for the varieties (Table 3).

In the study reported here, all barley varieties had adequate Ca (except for 4 of the 19 varieties), K, Na, and Fe for mature beef cattle. None of the varieties had been able to meet the 0.26% P and 10ppm Cu needed for mature beef cattle. Several varieties also fell short of meeting the S, Zn, and Mn requirements of mature beef cattle. This shows that mineral supplementations would be required when feeding barley to beef cattle



Overall, Altorado variety was the most impressive. Altrodao had an excellent lodging resistance. It produced the highest forage DM yield of 10681 lbs DM yield/acre, and a yield advantage of 1172 - 3696 lbs DM yield/acre over other barley varieties. Next to Altorado in forage DM yield was AB Wrangler variety with 9509 lbs DM yield/acre. It is important to note that most varieties tested here in this study produced >8000 lbs DM yield/acre, an indication that most of the varieties have good forage potential as well.

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