Barley Malt as Creep Feed for Beef Calves


Vern Anderson

NDSU Carrington Research Extension Center



Up to half of the barley crop grown in the Northern Plains is used for malt.  After malting, a residual mixture consisting of variable amounts of thin and light barley, screenings, and dried sprouts is mixed together, pelleted, and marketed as livestock feed.  Past research indicates this feed is very palatable, and can be used in a wide range of beef cattle rations.  With many other co-product feeds on the market, there is substantial competition for market share.  This study was conducted to compare conventional barley malt feed with a higher protein variation formulated using a higher proportion of dried sprouts.  This new product is labeled as “Dura-Sprout” to reflect the pellet durability of the feed.



On July 31, 2003, 98 crossbred beef cows and their calves were stratified by calf birth date and allotted to six pens with three pens per treatment.  The two treatments were variations of pelleted barley malt feed (Table 1).  The pelleted feeds were offered as creep feed for 56 days prior to weaning.  Cows were blocked by age with two pens of mature cows and one block of first calf heifers allotted to each treatment.  Cow and calf weights were recorded at the initiation of the trial, after 28 days and at the end of the 56 day study on September 25, 2003.  Mature cows averaged 1298 pounds while the first calf heifers averaged 1224 pounds at initiation of the study.  Calves from mature cows averaged 383 pounds and first calf heifer calves averaged 363 pounds at the start of the trial.  Initial weights by treatment and days of age for cows and calves are presented in Table 2.



Supplementing creep fed malt sprouts with other
ingredients may improve calf performance.



The two pelleted feeds were offered in small feedbunks in enclosed creep areas.  Bunks were checked daily and feed delivered approximately weekly or as needed to insure access to creep feed at all times.  The two feeds were analyzed at the NDSU Nutrition Laboratory for common nutrient values.



Creep feed intake was similar between treatments (P>.05).  Dry matter intake increased as expected from period one to period two.  Daily gains and feed efficiency were not different (P>.05) during either period and overall.  Current knowledge of the optimum protein level in creep feed suggest that no more than 16 percent crude protein is needed.  The extra protein provided from the Dura-Sprout pellet apparently did not contribute to improved performance.   However, the simplicity of filling creep feeders with one ingredient is attractive to cattlemen.  Using this higher protein pellet in a mixed diet with higher energy ingredients such as corn or barley, may provide a more economical diet and increase calf growth.  It appears from the analysis (Table 1) that the Dura-Sprout pellet has slightly more energy than the conventional barley malt pellet.  The lack of any improvement in performance from an energy and protein advantage even with similar intake suggests that the calf did not capture any extra energy and protein.  It appears that we cannot accurately predict performance from some of the high fiber co-products on the market.  Supplementing creep fed malt sprouts with other ingredients (grains, minerals, or additives) may improve calf performance as was observed by Anderson (1997) when wheat midds were fed alone compared to mixing with a concentrated mineral product.  Some commercial feeds are available that can be included at a small proportion of the diet that would improve calf performance measurably.  Certainly more research in formulation and mixing of ingredients with specific co-products is warranted.



Offering co-products such as barley-malt sprouts as creep feed should improve calf performance over no creep feed but may not produce the maximum gain, however feed costs per unit gain may be attractive with this single ingredient creep feed.  Supplementation of energy and minerals may be warranted for maximum calf gain.



Anderson, V. L. 1997. The effect of feeding supplemented vs non-supplemented wheat midds as creep feed to calves from first-calf heifers.  NDSU Carrington Research Extension Center, Beef and Bison Field Day Proceedings. Vol 20:11-12.