13 November 1998

Is processing own barley a cost-effective option?

A PLENTIFUL supply of poor quality feed barley means producers should work out how much can be paid for processing. And in some cases, feeding whole barley can save money, says MLC beef scientist Duncan Pullar.

Work supported by the MLC and carried out at SAC Edinburgh by Basil Lowman and Mitch Lewis has produced a ready reckoner graph which allows cattle finishers to decide whether it is worth processing barley.

A simple measure of specific weight gives enough information required to decide whether processing will add value to barley before feeding. For example, for barley with a specific weight of 51kg/hectolitre, valued at £60/t, the maximum rate paid for processing is £11.50/t.

A processing cost greater than this is not worth the effort, and feed the barley whole is the best option, says Dr Pullar.

Where the same sample is valued at only £50/t, then the maximum processing cost worth considering would be only £9.50/t.

With a significant amount of poor quality barley around this year, and margins tight for beef finishers, saving £10/t on processing is well worth it.

"By not processing barley, an increased proportion of undigested grain will be seen in the faeces, but this is acceptable in the overall economic equation," he says.

But Dr Lowman has one cautionary note: "It is worth remembering that undigested grains in farmyard muck will provide a source of volunteer barley plants in years to come, so remember this when is comes to spreading." &#42

Hectolitre weight

A simple way to measure hectolitre weight is using a can or cylinder which is exactly 1 litre in volume. The can is filled with grain and levelled off with a ruler to get the correct volume and then weighed to the nearest 10g (taking account of the can weight). The answer in grams should be divided by 10 to give the hectolitre weight; 520g in 1 litre is 52kg/hectolitre.