New data and analysis from a survey of barley samples from across Alberta will help Canadian livestock producers and industry get more bang per bite from this important feed ingredient.
The survey was led by Canadian Bio-Systems Inc. (CBS Inc.) and the University of Manitoba, with sample collection assistance from the Alberta Barley Commission.
“Today we have an excellent opportunity to get more nutrition and benefits from feed barley,” says Dr Anangelina Archile, CBS Inc. Technical Services Manager, who helped lead the survey initiative. “Because of the prominent role of this feed source, particularly in Western Canada, the improvements we make can have a very strong positive impact on the economics and competitiveness of livestock production in this region and other key areas. But to get the most out of feed barley, we first need to better understand its real-world nutritional profile at a deeper level. That’s what this new barley survey is all about.”
For the 2017-2018 barley survey, samples were collected by the Alberta Barley Commission from locations across Alberta after the completion of the 2017 harvesting season. All samples were then analysed at the University of Manitoba’s Department of Animal Science. This process produced a wealth of data on a variety of parameters including starch, protein, non-starch polysaccharides (NSP) – both water soluble and insoluble – neutral detergent fibre (NDF) and phosphorus (phytate and non-phytate).
The results provide a deeper understanding of the nutritional profile of barley, piecing together a puzzle picture that can be maximised through dietary strategies including advanced feed technology options. On average, crude protein was 10.7% and varied considerably with a minimum value of 8.6% and a maximum value of 15.3%. Starch content on average was 53.2% and likewise showed substantial variability with a minimum value of 48.9% and a maximum value of 57.9%.
NSP on average was 17%, with 72.9% of that water insoluble and 27.1 water soluble. The NSP values, particularly the water soluble component, were much larger than the same component identified in surveys for wheat, with beta-glucan comprising the primary water soluble NSP for barley. “This is significant because we know that high dietary levels of beta-glucan can increase the viscosity of digesta within the intestinal tract of swine and poultry, negatively affecting the feed value of barley,” says Archile. “However, knowing this, producers can use feed technology, such as enzyme formulations customised for this purpose, to hydrolyse the beta-glucans and thereby greatly increase the nutrition and energy capture.”
NDF on average was 13.6%, which is somewhat lower than values commonly estimated, however this is still relatively high compared to the NDF of other feed crops such as wheat, which has an estimated NDF of around 9.31%, and corn, which has an estimated NDF at around 10.4%. “Barley has more hard-to-digest components, such as fibre, compared to other common feed ingredients,” says Archile. “The information we have uncovered will help us understand those components and how to mitigate or neutralise them as barriers to feed value. We have the tools and strategies today to accomplish this. The survey results help give us the blueprint of what we are dealing with. This will help our approaches be more precise and effective.”
Another key finding is that 50% of barley phosphorus content is tied up within phytate molecules, which are indigestible. Producers commonly supplement diets with inorganic phosphorus, a practice that can add substantial cost. However, advanced feed technology, such as certain phytase and multi-carbohydrase enzyme formulations, can breakdown these molecules and liberate the organic phosphorus. “This can instantly add value to feed barley and reduce cost by eliminating the need to supplement,” says Archile. Further barley surveys are planned for additional years.