Regional Silage Variety Trials: 1. Barley Varieties

Trial Site: Fairview Research Farm

Research Coordinator: Dr. Akim Omokanye

From: Peace Country Beef & Forage Association 2017 Annual Report

According to the Alberta Agriculture & Forestry publication “Barley Production in Alberta”, of the major cereal crops, barley is the most sensitive and responsive to the environment. Its wide distribution is the result of very wide genetic variation within the crop, with specific varieties adapted to specific environments. The Regional Silage Variety Trials (RSVTs) are replicated province wide and they are an important source of information for forage-based livestock production regarding the forage yield potential and quality performance of new crop varieties as they become available. The RSVTs are carried out in small plot replicated trials. PCBFA’s yearly trials provide unbiased, comprehensive information that assists producers to make better crop choices for silage or greenfeed production. The results from this site and other parts of the province will also be reported in the Alberta Seed Guide (


To identify barley varieties with superior forage yield and quality, for use as silage in beef cattle production systems.


  • Project Site: Fairview Research Farm (NW5-82-3W6) on RR #35, MD of Fairview.

  • Previous Crop: Alfalfa for over 10 years before spraying out in 2016 (chemical fallow)

  • Site Soil Information (0-6” depth): Soil tests done at Exova laboratory (Edmonton) prior to seeding showed pH = 5.8 and soil organic matter = 7.0 %.

  • The field was cultivated (disced & harrowed) before seeding.

  • Experimental Design: Randomized complete block design in 4 replications.

Treatments (barley varieties): The following 14 barley varieties were tested:

1. Conlon - 2-row, feed and malting barley

2. AC Ranger - 6-row, forage/feed barley, smooth awns

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

4. CDC Austenson (Check) - 2-row, rough awned variety, high feed yield

5. CDC Maverick - a new 2-row forage variety, smooth awned for improved palatability

6. Altorado - 2-row, feed barley, erect to semi-erect growth habit at tillering

7. CDC Coalition - 2-row, feed barley

8. Gadsby - 2-row, rough awned, general purpose barley

9. CDC Meredith - 2-row, malting barley

10. Claymore - 2-row, semi-erect, feed barley

11. Sundre - 6 row, smooth-awned, feed barley for grain and forage

12. Canmore - a new 2-row general purpose barley

13. CDC Cowboy - 2-row, forage variety

14. Champion - 2-row, feed barley

  • Seeding Rate: 300 plants/m2 (27.8 plants/ft2 )

  • Seeding Method: 6-row Fabro plot drill with 9” row spacing

  • Seeding Date: May 30

  • Fertility (actual lbs/acre): 89 N + 50 P + 29 K + 24 S

  • Plot size: 11.04 m2 (118.8 ft2 )

  • Spraying: In-crop spraying was done once with Curtail M (800 ml/acre) + Fluroxyoyr (170ml/acre)

  • Measurements taken at soft dough stage on August 8: height, lodging, forage yield & forage quality.

Results and Interpretation

Forage Dry Matter (DM) Yield & Crop Growth

Forage DM yield was significantly affected by barley variety. CDC Cowboy, Canmore and CDC Maverick were in the top 3, producing over 9000 lbs DM/acre (Table 1). Two of the top 3 forage DM yields came from newer barley varieties (CDC Maverick and Canmore. Forage DM yield value was lower for Amisk, Ranger and Conlon (with <8000 lbs DM/acre) than other barley varieties tested. The barley varieties (Amisk, Ranger and Conlon) that produced lower forage DM yield in this study were mostly either early maturing or dwarf types.

CDC Maverick and CDC Cowboy grew taller than other varieties, while Conlon and Amisk appeared to be shorter in height than others. No lodging was observed with any of the varieties tested.

Forage Quality

Crude Protein (CP): The forage CP varied from 8.2% for Canmore to about 11% for CDC Cowboy barley (Table 1). Except for the Canmore variety, which fell slightly short of 9% CP, the forage CP from all barley varieties was generally sufficient for a dry gestating beef cow that requires 7% CP at mid-pregnancy stage and 9% CP at late-pregnancy stage.

Energy: Energy is probably the most important nutritional consideration in beef cattle production in cold climates. The total digestible nutrients (TDN) and other forms of energy (net energy for lactation, NEL ; net energy for gain, NEG; net energy for maintenance, NEM) measured here all showed similar values for barley varieties.

The forage TDN varied from 66.6% for Claymore to 71.5% for Conlon. The forage NEL , NEG and NEM respectively varied from 1.52-1.63 Mcal/kg, 0.92-1.06 Mcal/kg and 1.64-1.78 Mcal/kg (Table 1).

Taking into consideration the TDN requirements of a mature beef cow (65% TDN), all barley varieties tested here had adequate TDN.

A dry gestating cow requires a NEM value of 0.97-1.10 Mcal/kg and 1.19-1.28 Mcal/kg during lactation. All barley varieties tested here have exceeded the NEM requirements of these categories of beef cows. All varieties were well within the 1.08-2.29 Mcal/kg NEM required by growing and finishing calves. Similarly, all varieties were within the 0.53-1.37 Mcal/kg NEG needed by growing and finishing calves.

The ability of the tested barley varieties to meet the energy requirements (TDN and NEm) of a mature beef cow, as well as the NEG for growing and finishing calves is important to cow-calf producers in the Peace Region. It is particularly important during winter, as this will mean a substantial savings in feed energy costs.

Minerals: The results of macro- and trace-minerals measured here are shown in Table 1.

For the macro-minerals, the barley varieties tested differed slightly in forage Ca, P, Mg and S. Forage Ca value was highest (0.45% Ca) for the AC Ranger variety. Forage P value was highest (0.21% P) for CDC Coalition. Both AC ranger and CDC Cowboy had higher forage Mg value (0.20% Mg) than other varieties. Both forage K and Na however showed similar values for all varieties tested.

Like CP and TDN, animal mineral requirements can also vary with the stage and level of production. All barley varieties tested in the current study had sufficient amounts of Ca, P, and Mg for dry gestating beef cows. However, none of the varieties were able to meet the 0.58% Ca, 0.26% P and 0.20% Mg (except AC Ranger & CDC Cowboy) required by lactating beef cows. Two varieties (Claymore and Altorado) fell short of meeting the 0.06-0.08% Na required by a dry gestating cow. Most of the varieties also fell short of the 0.15% S needed by a dry gestating beef cow. The K requirement of a mature beef cow (0.70% K) was met by all varieties.

For the trace minerals, all barley varieties tested in this study fell short of the 10 ppm Cu needed by mature beef cows. Most varieties had adequate Fe (50 ppm) and all varieties had sufficient Zn (30 ppm) for mature beef cows. All varieties fell short of the 40 ppm Mn needed by mature beef cows.

Because of the inability of any particular varieties tested in this study to meet the mineral requirements of mature beef cows at different physiological stages, it therefore indicates that some form of mineral supplementation to address the short fall of both macro and trace minerals is needed.

A Few Notes on Loose Smut

This year, we observed a few barley stands with loose smut disease (see attached pictures). The smut diseases take a large annual toll by reducing yields and quality of the crop. Seed treatment prior to seeding is recommended. Even with treated seed, soil infection often prevents complete control. Loose smut can easily be identified in the field.

Disease management is critical for those interested in maximizing small grains yield and grain quality.

General Symptoms: Heads will contain a black/brown dusty mass of spores in the place of kernels and chaff. These spores eventually blow away, leaving a bare spike with a sooty appearance. Heads of infected tillers emerge from the boot earlier than healthy tillers and prior to heading, diseased plants may appear darker than healthy plants.

Description: The disease is caused by the fungus, Ustilago tritici and yield losses can be significant in some situations. Spores of the fungus often enter the field on infested seed. After seed germination, the fungus grows within the plant without producing symptoms. When the head emerges the fungus invades the contents of the head, converting everything except the pericarp membrane and rachis to a mass of black fungal spores.

Management: Plant certified disease-free seed. Utilize recommended seed treatment fungicides.


Overall, most of the barley varieties tested have potential for forage production for beef cattle. Three varieties in particular, CDC Cowboy, Canmore and CDC Maverick, stand out as producing over 9000 lbs acre compared to others with lower values. Two of the top 3 forage DM yields came from newer barley varieties (CDC Maverick and Canmore). Some form of mineral supplementation is needed to address the short fall of both macro and trace minerals for the barley varieties tested here.

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