Researchers at the Texas AgriLife Extension Service are testing whether barley could become an all-in-one crop in the cattle industry. Barley could make a good grazing alternative, but researchers are looking for a kind of magic bullet ‒‒ a line of barley that would be ideal for both feed and forage for beef and dairy cattle statewide.
Dr. Clark Neely, small grains and oil seed specialist at AgriLife, told the Texas Farm Bureau that no particular line of barley has yet shown itself a top contender for feed and forage needs among cattle. That’s despite Neely and his team having evaluated more than 800 barley lines since the study began in 2014. About 150 lines of barley have been more closely studied.
The reason behind the research is to find an efficient and hardy crop that could be applied statewide. One nagging issue, however, is that different barleys react to the various climates of Texas in different ways.
But if researchers can find the right line, barley offers two major advantages over wheat ‒ the usual feed and forage crop for cattle in Texas. Barley is hardier in cooler weather, which would benefit the Panhandle and more windswept parts of the state. Barley’s also far more resistant than wheat to the Hessian fly ‒ a pest that often vexes ranchers and wheat farmers, especially in South and Central Texas.
According to the AgriLife Extension Service in Lubbock, the cost of treating wheat for Hessian flies is between 7 and 13 dollars per 100 pounds of treated seed.