New barley survey powers strategies to harvest more feed value

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Barley Field under an agitated sky on the south shore of Lac Saint-Jean, Quebec.

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.”

Deeper understanding of nutritional profile

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 analyzed 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 maximized through dietary strategies including advanced feed technology options. On average, crude protein was 10.7 percent and varied considerably with a minimum value of 8.6 percent and a maximum value of 15.3 percent. Starch content on average was 53.2 percent and likewise showed substantial variability with a minimum value of 48.9 percent and a maximum value of 57.9 percent.

Supporting greater precision, bang per bite

NSP on average was 17 percent, with 72.9 percent 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 customized for this purpose, to hydrolyze the beta-glucans and thereby greatly increase the nutrition and energy capture.”

NDF on average was 13.6 percent, 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 percent, and corn, which has an estimated NDF at around 10.4 percent. “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 neutralize 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.”

Adding value to feed barley usage

Another key finding is that 50 percent 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, says Archile. The new barley survey complements a CBS Inc. led Canada-wide and international wheat survey initiative now entering its fourth year. Both efforts are part of a broader CBS Inc. focus on supporting feed ingredients expertise. The surveys also help power CBS Inc.’s  iNSPect feed analysis app. This web and mobile interface allows users to input information on the type of diet they are feeding and receive instant analysis to support optimized feeding strategies. CBS Inc. is an innovation-focused company that researches, develops and manufactures a wide range of bio-based products used in feed, food and industrial applications, leveraging over 30 years of research and development. More information is available at www.canadianbio.com.

Click here to view a more detailed summary including charts of the Barley Survey findings.

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