Feed barley study has eye on swine, poultry markets

Barley is well known as a good feed for western Canadian beef cattle.

But traditionally, it has not been seen as good for single stomach animals, such as swine and poultry, because of its high-fibre content.

Now Calgary-based Canadian Bio-Systems Inc. is conducting new research that could offer solutions on how to change that.

“The market here is, you’ve got this widely grown crop. It’s price competitive, local, and with the right technology then you can just keep using more and more of that input and maximize profitability,” said Rob Patterson technical director at Canadian Bio-Systems.

“Any time a producer can use something right in their own province, that’s the benefit, rather than relying on long haul freight, hauling things in from other parts of the world.”

For the study, the Alberta Barley Commission collected about 30 samples from various producer districts in the fall of 2017.

Patterson said the company first looked at wheat to get a baseline for comparison purposes and found that Canadian wheat ranks highly in feed quality next to any crop worldwide.

“But no one had ever looked at barley, so the quality of the barley, especially in Alberta, is really high; good protein level, good amino acid levels, but there is a lot of fibre.”

He said if producers were able to know the components of the barley, they could then add an enzyme to feed rations and make the barley more suitable for swine and poultry.

“But you’re able to feed even more barley, if you link it in with the enzyme. So, then you’re able to, depending on the price of barley, you’re able to increase the amount of barley, get the same amount of nutrition out of the feed at a lower price.”

A key difference between barley and other major feed types is the level of non-starch polysaccharides (NSP), a component of fibre, which Patterson described as being like porridge. He said it creates a gummy substance that slows things down in the intestinal tract of one-stomached animals. That’s not optimal for digestion and nutrition, but the right enzyme can break those substances down.

“So, the big difference between, say on the wheats and the barleys, the barleys more than the wheats, versus, say corn, is that the fibre, those NSPs, tend to like to solubilize in water.”

Overall, he said the study probably didn’t tell producers anything new.

“I think it just confirmed what they probably were supposing or what they had been told already. This is a high-quality feed for the livestock sector.”

He added too often barley is heavily discounted if it fails to reach malting requirements.

“But it … still has good value, from a protein side of things anyway, and that we can feed this to hogs and we can feed this to poultry species and get some good value there.”

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