With higher fiber content than other grains, barley is a versatile forage crop with many uses. Barley straw (especially six-row barleys with the highest protein content) can be used as feed for ruminants, as a bedding material, or in the reclamation of saline soils.
Barley will need to be rolled, flaked, ground, or pelleted in order to break the bran layer for proper efficiency when being used as feed. High levels of starch give barley a good dry matter content with a similar protein amount to wheat, but higher than maize. Generally high in fiber content, hulless varieties contain half the fiber content of hulled varieties and 1% – 2% more protein. Hulless varieties are also more digestible and less bulky. Compared with other cereal grains, barley is higher in digestible amino acids. Barley is especially beneficial to ruminants with high gross energy content and high energy digestibility. Although barley contains more phosphorus than other grains, that phosphorus has high bioavailability and can help reduce phosphorus excretion.
A shorter growing season of 60 – 70 days and ripening before harsh conditions occur means the areas where barley can be planted extends further north and south than other forage crops. Barley will flower and mature earlier than wheat and enable producers who double-crop to get an earlier head start.