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Barley is a versatile and useful crop with applications ranging from feed and food production to beverage manufacturing. In the United States, it is grown mostly in the northern states of Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon and Washington. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and barley farmers alike are reporting a successful 2015 crop based on favorable weather conditions in the growing region. USDA’s July crop production forecast estimated total barley production at 4.5 million metric tons (206.7 million bushels).
Because of the premium it commands, most barley grown in the United States is intended for malting purposes. However, the grain does make its way into feed rations for livestock. When it is harvested as a grain or forage, barley serves a nutritional purpose for cattle.
According to North Dakota State University’s Animal Science Department, barley is used primarily as an energy and protein source in beef cattle diets. The nutrient content of barley compares favorably with that of corn, sorghum and other grains. Although barley’s energy content is lower than that of corn, it contains more crude protein than corn.
In order for cattle to use the grain most efficiently, barley must be processed for optimal utilization. Dry-rolling is the most common and least expensive processing method used to crush the kernels.