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"Designer" Barleys Add Value to Two Traditional Montana Crops

By Tana Kappel

Montana produces lots of wheat, barley and beef. Now, two of those crops should see significant added value in the coming decade.

In the coming years, new high-feed value barleys developed by MSU researchers should help cattle producers in barley-growing states make more money from their beef calves. And growers of the new barleys should see an expanding market for their product.

Jan Bowman (left) and Tom Blake worked together to develop Valier, a new variety of barley that has performed well in the field and the feedlot.
One promising new barley variety, Valier, was released last spring to foundation seed growers in Montana. Named after a Montana town in the Golden Triangle region, Valier has performed well in the field and in the feedlot, says the researcher who developed it, MSU barley breeder Tom Blake.

Because Valier is short -- two inches shorter than Lewis, a popular malting variety --it has greater resistance to lodging, or falling over. Also, Valier produces high test-weight grain and outyields most commonly grown varieties, says Blake.

"It's performing as well as the best barley varieties, easily 10 percent better than Harrington, the most widely grown variety in Montana," says Blake.

Yet what makes Valier unique is the increase in feed value, which puts it on par with corn-based feed rations.

"We're seeing a significant -- 10 to 12 percent -- increase over traditional barley varieties" in weight gain of calves in feedlot studies, says Jan Bowman, MSU animal nutritionist, who is collaborating with Blake.

The researchers received federal funding to began their unique study in 1996. It's the only research program of its kind in the world to use feed value as a breeding selection criterion.

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