Hull-less barley is far superior to conventional hulled barley for feeding to swine, according to research at Virginia Tech’s Tidewater Research Station. From a crop stand-point, yields per acre are comparable. 

Because its fiber content is lower and energy level higher than conventional barley, hull-less or “naked” barley offers a superior option for swine diets, says Allen Harper, who was in charge of the research project. Hull-less barley’s test weight is about 20 percent higher, and it has higher protein and lysine levels.

Harper points out that barley’s test weight has a direct relationship with energy content and feeding value. He and associates fed commercial-type swine finishing diets, using corn, wheat, conventional barley and hull-less barley. All diets were pelleted. The barleys were used two to one with corn. A small amount of fat was included in the hull-less barley ration.

In the six-week trial, involving 84-pound pigs, the hull-less barley group’s rate of gain was the same – a little more than 2 pounds per head per day – as the all-corn group. Feed conversion also was essentially the same. Both produced better performance than the conventional-barley group.

Harper believes hull-less or “naked” barley may have a bright future in pork production. He points out that USDA scientists are evaluating it as a feed stock for new ethanol plants that may be built in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic Region. Consequently, distillers-dried-grain solubles produced from hull-less barley may become more readily available for swine feeding.