Barley vs Wheat for HydroGreen Fodder Production
Growing 31.08.20

Barley vs Wheat for HydroGreen Fodder Production

Homepage Resource Center Barley vs Wheat for HydroGreen Fodder Production

A HydroGreen Perspective

The production of fodder from sprouted grain has been going on for many centuries, and even though many different types of grain have been used to grow fodder, the vast majority of the world’s experience with fodder production has been with barley.  And, even though fodder production was been researched at HydroGreen using many different species and varieties of grain, the vast majority of HydroGreen’s experience has been with barley as well…until very recently.  In the early summer of 2019, three overly curious animal scientists joined the tech staff at HydroGreen.  At that time, good quality barley seed was both rare and expensive.  So, these new members of the HydroGreen team began in earnest an evaluation of wheat as the parent grain for HydroGreen fodder production.  The following represents their current position regarding barley vs wheat as the parent grain, and why.  The “why” encompasses Nutrition, Yield, Cost, Cleanliness, Access and Applications in Diets.


When a grain is germinated and the very early stages of root growth and shoot growth occur, there are many changes in the forms of nutrients supplied by the parent grain that were intended to be the ideal nutrient forms to support the infant plant.  Both HydroGreen Barley and HydroGreen Wheat are the results of this process and therefore possess these highly digestible nutrient forms, and in some cases, significantly higher nutrient levels compared to the parent grain.  Examples of these changes, based on typical nutrient values for the parent grain and the laboratory report database from actual production of both HydroGreen Barley (HGB) and HydroGreen Wheat (HGW) are listed here:

  • Much higher nutrient digestibility
  • Higher protein
  • Higher ADF and NDF (digestible fiber)
  • Lower NFC (non-fiber carbohydrate), Lower Starch and Higher Sugar
  • Lower Energy (TDN, NE, DE and ME)
  • Much higher vitamin levels
  • Very limited non-nutritional or anti-nutritional components


Of the three most expensive macro-nutrients in most diets, Crude Protein, Energy expressed as TDN, and Phosphorus are impacted as follows:

Crude Protein for HGB increases by about 30% or 4 percentage units, and for HGW increases by about 11% or 2 percentage units.  HGW typically has a 2 percentage unit advantage over HGB for Crude Protein.

Energy expressed as TDN decreases by about 7% or 9 percentage units for HGB, and decreases by about 6% or 5.4 percentage units for HGW.  HGW typically has a 2 percentage unit advantage over HGB for TDN.

Phosphorus concentration tends to change very little from the concentration in the parent grain, but HGW tends to have a 14.3% or .06 percentage unit advantage over HGB for Phosphorus.

Yield [lbs of fodder (as fed and dry matter basis) per lb of parent grain]

Both parent grains tend to have the same or similar yields of HydroGreen fodder on a wet or as fed basis.  We will use 5:1 for both in the following calculations.  However, since HGW will typically enjoy a 30% or 5.5 percentage unit advantage over HGB on a dry matter basis, and since dry matter is where the nutrients reside, the yield of nutrient-carrying material is far better for HGW.

Example – Crude Protein

100 lbs Barley Seed = 500 lbs HGB x 18% DM x 16.25% Crude Protein = 14.63 lbs CP

100 lbs Wheat Seed = 500 lbs HGW x 23.5% DM x 18.25% Crude Protein = 21.44 lbs CP

Example – Energy

100 lbs Barley Seed = 500 lbs HGB x 18% DM x 78.5% TDN = 70.65 lbs TDN

100 lbs Wheat Seed = 500 lbs HGW x 23.5% DM x 80.5% TDN = 94.59 lbs TDN

Example – Phosphorus

100 lbs Barley Seed = 500 lbs HGB x 18% DM x 0.42% Phosphorus = 0.378 lbs Phos

100 lbs Wheat Seed = 500 lbs HGW x 23.5% DM x 0.48% Phosphorus = 0.564 lbs Phos


The cost of Barley grain is highly variable, and so is the quality.  Generally, the higher quality and clean Barley grain will be double the price of mill-run Barley grain.  Barley grain is priced/cwt, or per 100 lbs, even though the standard test weight for a bushel of Barley is 48 lbs.  High quality and clean Barley that costs $9.00/cwt, costs $4.32/bushel or $0.09/lb.  Good quality Wheat at $5.00 per bushel (60 lbs/bushel) costs $8.30/cwt or $0.083/lb.  It is important to know the relative costs of good quality Barley and Wheat when evaluating their use as parent grains for HydroGreen production, but remember, HGW yields considerably more Crude Protein, Energy and Phosphorus per pound of parent grain than HGB; roughly 47% more CP, 34% more Energy and 49% more Phosphorus.  Wheat can be significantly more costly/lb than Barley and still be a great buy!


Just by virtue of their respective seed coat textures, wheat will generally be cleaner coming into the HydroGreen system, and remain cleaner after going through HydroGreen’s patented seed cleaner before going onto the growing table.


Wheat is generally easier to find and purchase world wide.

Dry Matter in Rations

Most production animal diets will have a dry matter minimum built into the formulation specs to assure the animal can actually consume enough of the diet to meet nutrient requirements.  Because HGW is drier than HGB:

1. it is easier to meet dry matter minimums with HGW

2. More HGW can be formulated into the diet for a given dry matter minimum target

The Bottom Line:  Wheat is a great choice for HydroGreen fodder production!  

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