L:ooking for a great forage barley. We have some great suggestions!

Top Forage Barley Choices

March 11, 2024 | Kelly Barany, Chin Ridge Seeds (en-CA)


So you are looking for a great forage barley this year?

You have come to the right place!

There are so many barley varieties out there, it is often difficult to narrow down which variety you want to seed. In this article we talk about the key considerations to picking a forage barley and the varieties that are our top picks to meet our customers' needs.

Key considerations when selecting a forage barley:

  1. When choosing a forage barley, it is important to consider if you are going to silage your barley or use it as green feed /swath grazing? If you are looking for green feed or to swath graze, we strongly recommend that you look for a barley with a smooth awn. This protects the mouths of cattle from getting poked and infected from rough awns and protects cattle health. This is less important, likely, in a silage situation.
  2. Are you wanting to harvest some of the crop for grain yield? If you are planning to harvest some of your crop for grain yield then it is very important to look at the grain yield information about different barleys because some forage barleys are great for forage yield and not so good for grain yield.
  3. Do you have adequate moisture? In very dry situations, we probably would not recommend a 6 row barley.
  4. Is standability a big issue for you? If you are in an irrigation scenario then standability becomes a key criteria. If you don't want to put a plant growth regulator on your crop then picking a variety that will stand is very important.

Our top choices:

We have quite a different number of barley varieties available, but here are our top choices for forage barley.

Our Top Four:

  • CDC Renegade Barley: Don't miss out on Renegade Barley folks! If you have been waiting for the latest and greatest 2 row forage/feed barley, THIS IS IT! We jokingly say that "It's not your dad's barley!" because not only does it hit it out of the park with forage yields but, unlike previous 2 row forage barleys like Cowboy and Maverick, it has excellent grain yields AND with its smooth awn, it is easier on herd health for swath grazing etc.
  • AB Wrangler Barley: Wrangler barley is one of those varieties that had a bit of slow start in catching on but customers have been coming back now because of its high yield and excellent disease resistance package. It has excellent nutritional value and seems to have some drought tolerance. Probably not the best choice for an irrigation scenerio but on dryland Wranger is a nice forage/grain variety to consider.
  • AB Advantage Barley: With it's smooth awn and excellent standability, this 6 row barley is still an excellent choice for those customers looking for a combination forage/grain feed option. AB Advantage has the plant material to provide excellent forage yield and its smooth awn makes it well adapted to swath grazing or green feed. It also performs well for grain yield. We recommend that you have fairly good moisture potential though for this variety to ensure the seeds come out plump and to meet the bushel weight targets. Also while it has decent standability, it is taller than some barleys so in a high input situation we would recommend a growth regulator.
  • Esma Barley: While we mainly focus on selling Esma for barley grain yield, it has shown up to be an excellent performer in silage trials. It doesn't have a smooth awn and will not have as much plant height as other varieties, but it is a top performer for grain or forage yield and will stand up better on irrigation than some other barleys.

And just a side note on CDC Maverick Barley: For the dryland ranch farmer who wants a high yielding forage barley that will do well with minimal inputs, Maverick barley has been a popular choice. It did not make our top variety list this year because while it provides a very good forage yield, it does not provide the best grain yield. Also it doesn't have the straw strength to stand up well in an irrigation situation. That said, Maverick Barley has been very successful because it is very palatable, in fact we have nicknamed it "cow candy" because cattle seem to really enjoy forage grown from Maverick Barley. It also has a nice big kernel with a heavy bushel weight when harvested for grain which makes it excellent for rolling for feed purposes.

  • For a look at our total barley lineup and a comparison of the different varieties, see our comparison chart.