Barley Malt Feed Variations in Diets For Growing and Finishing Beef Steers


Vern Anderson, Jon Schoonmaker,
and Nicole Wolkenhauer

NDSU Carrington Research Extension Center



More calves are being fed on North Dakota farms and ranches in recent years.  Many cow/calf producers have limited facilities to feed their calves and often rely on self-feeders for concentrates and forages.  A simple, safe, palatable, and nutritious feed is needed for use in self feeders.  Co-product feeds are typically high in fiber and low in starch with some variation in protein content based on source and processing method.  North Dakota has an abundance of these types of feeds.  Considering that processors typically export 80-90 percent of their co-product feeds, increasing usage near the site of production should reduce shipping costs and simplify feeding calves.  Calves can be fed with home-grown feeds and forages, but frequently protein or other nutrients need to be purchased.  Most co-products contain relatively high levels of protein, are moderate to high in energy and offer the convenience of year round availability, no requirement for processing, and store well for long periods of time.  More producers are considering finishing their backgrounded calves to capture returns from superior genetics and carcass quality premiums.  Developing finishing rations using some of the same ingredients in the growing diets offers less chance for stress in switching rations and reduces logistics of shipping, bin storage, and mixing feeds.


Barley malt, the residual feed from malting barley, offers significant potential in growing and finishing diets.  Barley malt is considered a very palatable and safe feed, a good protein source, and is price competitive.  This project was undertaken to explore methods of improving barley malt feed by using two different formulations in rations for growing and finishing steer calves.


Barley Malt Co-Product

Barley malt feed consists of thin and light kernels of malting barley screened off prior to the malting process, but are mostly spent and dried barley malt sprouts.  The pelleted feed is widely used in beef cow/calf, creep feed, heifer development, and steer feedlot diets.  This feed contains high levels of fiber and is competitively priced protein source.   Barley malt is marketed in competition with other co-products in the Northern Plains.  It is available throughout the year, comes pelleted, can be contracted for future delivery, and handles and stores very well in all types of bins.  In a steer growing trial with corn and barley malt vs. corn and wheat midds, barley malt fed steers gained 3.09 lbs. /day vs. 3.43 lbs. for calves fed wheat midds.  The percentage of sprouts in the barley malt feed affected steer performance.  Sprouts at 50 percent of the barley malt formulation produced gains .62 lb. per day less than wheat midds; 60 percent sprouts were .30 lbs. per day less; and 80 percent sprouts were .10 lb. less than wheat midds.  Wheat midds contain the germ of the kernel and some starch.  Considering the digestible fiber in midds, oil in the germ, and starch content, the TDN value of wheat midds is estimated at about 80-81 percent compared to 76-77 percent for barley malt.


Barley malt has been observed to be highly palatable for young calves.  However, the energy density is less than required for small calves so a creep feed formulation with barley malt should contain more nutrient dense grains such as corn or peas.  Some commercial supplements are available to make a balanced and productive calf starter or creep feed based on barley malt or other co-products.



Preconditioned Angus crossbred beef steer calves (n=48) raised at the Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and backgrounded at the Hettinger Research Extension Center were delivered to the Carrington Research Extension Center in mid January, 2003.  Calves were individually weighed after a warm up diet of mixed barley malt pellets at the start of the trial and allotted randomly to one of six pens with three pens per treatment.  Treatments were: 1) control, conventional barley malt feed; 2) barley malt feed supplemented with a proprietary additive package.  The additive package was a liquid feed mix included at 7 percent of the dry malt product prior to pelleting.  Nutrients in the liquid additive included soluble protein, fat, and minerals.  Table 1 provides a comparison of nutrients in the two barley malt products.



During a 56-day growing period, the two different barley malt feeds were fed to appetite daily in fenceline bunks.  This free-choice offering of a single feed was an attempt to mimic a self feeder.  An ionophore-mineral supplement was fed top-dressed on the barley malt feeds at 1 lb. per head daily.  Low quality grass hay was offered in large round bale ring feeders inside each pen.  Bales were weighed when fed and an estimate of wasted hay made when the next bale was added.  Calves were weighed at 28-day intervals.  Calves had all been previously vaccinated and dewormed.  A Synovex S implant was administered at the start of the growing period.

The finishing period extended for another 84 days with calves remaining in the same pens and respective barley malt treatments as growing.  A totally mixed finishing diet was offered that contained approximately 18 percent barley malt, corn grain, silage, and chopped hay.  The 63 Mcal NEg diet was fed daily in fenceline bunks to appetite.  Calves were weighed every 28 days.  Table 2 contains the respective ingredient proportions for the two treatments for each feeding phase.



Results and Discussion

There was very little difference in the nutritional value of the two formulations (Table 1).  A reduction in ADF from 40.06 to 32.37 percent and an increase in fat content from 1.88 to 2.92 percent for the additive formulation were the only apparent differences.  Calves in this study consumed 109 percent of the predicted intake during the growing period, suggesting that this feed is highly palatable; however, there was very little difference in intake of the two feeds (Table 2).  Hay intake measurement was not precise as wasted hay was estimated.  Average weight of steers for each period, dry matter intake, and feed efficiency are reported in Table 3.  During finishing, feed intake did not differ (P>.05) and averaged 26.30 lbs./hd/d.  However, calves on the control malt product gained faster (P=.04) during the first weigh period but there were no differences (P>.05) in gain after that.  Numerically, average daily gain for the control group was .25 lb./hd/d more than the additive group during growing and .14 lb. more per day during finishing.  Feed efficiency was not different (P>.05) for the two treatments with numerical variation observed for the first period with the advantage to the control calves.




This study suggests that the control barley malt product is a very acceptable feed as no improvement was observed during either growing or finishing for the additive.  The lack of any advantage for the malt product with the additive suggests animal nutrient requirements were being met with the basic product.  Calves at this stage of growth require no more than a 13.5 percent crude protein diet which was provided in both treatments.  It appears that the neutral detergent fiber and the digestible fiber component of the control product may offer some advantages which may be compensated for by the additives.



Barley malt can be a useful feed when fed alone or in combinations with other grains and forages during growing and finishing.  Appropriate supplementation is necessary as the phosphorous level needs to be balance with high calcium supplements to avoid waterbelly in steers. Economic comparisons require assessment of the feed cost (on a cost per nutrient basis), shipping, storage, and mixing.


Literature Cited

Anderson, V.L. and E. J. Bock. 2000.  Malting Barley Co-products or Wheat Midds in Corn Based Diets for Growing Yearling Steers.  Carrington Research Extension Center Beef Production Field Day Proceedings, Vol. 23:20-21.


Appreciation is expressed to Cargill Malt for support of this project.