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Oklahoma cattleman praises VT’s hulless barley
By JANE W. GRAHAM
WINCHESTER, Va. (March 21, 2017) — An Oklahoma cattleman who recently spoke at a cereal grain meeting is a big fan of the hulless barley Virginia Tech has developed.
C.R. Freeman of Lone Wolf, Okla., said he sees a tremendous opportunity for the Virginia-developed grain. He has had experience with it the past few years as he looked for a cattle feed comparable to corn that can be raised cheaply and efficiently.
He said he thinks he’s found it in Virginia Tech’s “Amazing 10” hulless barley, the fourth hulless cultivar of the university has released since Carl Griffey, a small grain breeder there, began work trying to develop the grain in the early to mid-1990s.
Freeman shared his experience growing 20,000 acres of hulless barley to feed the 10,000 cattle he raises annually with about 40 people attending an informational meeting recently in Winchester, Va. and in a subsequent telephone interview.
“Virginia needs to be proud,” he said of the barley Griffey has developed.
Griffey was also a speaker at the Winchester meeting organized by Dan Brann, a retired Virginia Extension small grains specialist and farmer, and Bruce Beahm, retired manager of the Virginia Crop Improvement Association Seed Farm in Mt. Holly, Va.
The meeting, sponsored by the Virginia Identity Preserved Grains, Keystone Agricultural Group Seeds, Virginia Tech and Penn State, was designed in part to promote hulless barley as a viable feed grain for livestock.
The usefulness of hulless barley is not limited to feeding beef cattle, those attending the Winchester meeting learned. They heard success stories from farmers and scientists working with swine, poultry and dairy cattle as well.
Brann and Beahm fear that hulless barely needs to be aggressively marketed to insure that it is available to those who can benefit from it.
“We both believe an adapted, high yielding, quality feed ingredient is a terrible thing to lose,” Brann said. “If markets are not developed, the only hulless barley breeding program in the Eastern U. S. may be ‘put on the shelf.’”
Wade Thomason, Virginia Extension grains specialist and one of the meeting’s speakers, has posted a link to video of the entire meeting online at www.grains.cses.vt.edu.
Freeman heads two companies that finish cattle; Premium Beef and Grain for grain-fed cattle and Pure Beef for grass-fed cattle.
Freeman said his state averages around 24 inches of rain annually about half the rainfall in the Mid-Atlantic.
This makes growing corn and uncertain and costly way to feed cattle and the drought tolerance of barley is a better fit.
From his office at Virginia Tech, Griffey said barley is probably the most drought resistant of all the cereal grains.
Ten years ago, Freeman said, he started looking at what he called “a forgotten grain,” barley.
“We didn’t get the test weight we were looking for,” he said. “Then we found VT hulless barley.”
According to Brann, “Amaze 10” had test yields exceeding 6,000 pounds of grain or over 12 tons of silage per acre on dry land. Both men reported the hulless barley is easy to roll when grown. It is the most frequently grown hulless cultivar grown in the Mid-Atlantic as well, Brann said.
Griffey said the university has released four hulless barley cultivars over the years; Doyce in 2003, Eve in 2007, Dan in 2007 and Amazing 10 in 2013.
Freeman said he likes the barley for its forage qualities as well as the advantages of its harvested grain. Griffey said it is a winter variety, being planted in the fall. Freeman is able to graze Amaze 10 through fall, winter and spring and then reap a grain crop, he said. He also makes silage from it.
He has found a further advantage for marketing the beef from his pasture fed cattle. Freeman added beef in his pasture fed line has a whiter fat than grain-fed beef, giving it more eye-appeal to the grocery shopper.