Cattle producers may be able to use lower test-weight barley as feed, Greg Lardy, North Dakota State University Extension beef cattle specialist, says.

Lardy says early harvest in North Dakota is indicating light test-weight barley, the result of dry conditions in many regions of the state. Low test-weight barley is lower in starch and higher in fiber than normal test weight grain, which results in lower energy content, but producers may not notice any reductions in performance of their livestock, he says.

"However, as barley test weight approaches 40 lbs. or less, the energy content is low enough where differences in feed efficiency are noticeable. Animals offered high-concentrate diets will tend to consume more of the lighter test-weight grain as a mechanism to compensate for the lower energy content. This results in poorer feed conversion efficiency," he says. Lardy recommends producers consider pricing lower test-weight grain according to its feeding value.

Another option, if crop insurance regulations allow, is to harvest light test-weight grain as a hay crop, Lardy says. "Forage is short in many areas of the state this year and light test-weight barley harvested as a forage crop will be a useful feedstuff for wintering beef cattle or as an ingredient in backgrounding rations."

For more info on the effect of test weight on feeding value of barley for beef cattle and sheep, visit or