No, cows won't get drunk from eating barley used in distilling

Malting barley grown in Cormack and used by local distillery will go back to the farm to feed the cows.

Farming barley a win-win for dairy farmers and local distilleries, says Ian Richardson

Dairy farmer Ian Richardson (in black t-shirt) says local distillers will save money by buying barley from his farm to make their product. (Twitter)

A trial crop of barley on Newfoundland's west coast this year will go to a local distillery, then back to the farmer, who will be able to feed it to dairy cows.

Ian Richardson, who runs Larch Grove Farm in Cormack, says even though the barley being fed to cows will be used in the distilling process, his cows won't get drunk.

Each employee gets one bottle of their vodka, so the workers are all excited for it too.- Ian Richardson

"No, it's been done for hundreds of years. Literally there's no difference between the barley we would feed our cows and what malting barley is," he said.

"By the time it gets back to me all the alcohol will be gone out of it."

The provincial government last week announced it was pairing the farm with a local distillery, to explore the market for malting barley.

Dairy farmer Ian Richardson says barley used for distilling, and then fed to his cows, doesn't degrade the value of the feed. (CBC)

Richardson said 10 or 11 acres of cerveza malting barley should be ready to harvest by late September, and will go to the Newfoundland Distillery in Clarke's Beach, where the company will make vodka and gin.

If the crop is viable for both Richardson's farm and the distillery, it could be a first step toward a new industry option.

"The distiller has the chance to buy it on-island, which would save them a lot on freight, and plus they'd be able to sell it as a local product," said Richardson.

"The biggest benefit too is they said each employee gets one bottle of their vodka, so the workers are all excited for it too."

Benefit of rotating crops

Last year, Richardson planted a crop of barley to see how it would do, and the crop was a success, he said.

"For us the biggest reason we do it is to have a crop rotation put in. One thing that we've struggled with for years here is the ability to turn our fields over. We've grown a lot of forages for a lot of years and we've started to run into weed problems," he said.

From left, Peter Wilkins, MHA Scott Reid, farmer Ian Richardson and Minister of Fisheries and Land Resources Steve Crocker. (Newfoundland Distillery Company/Facebook)

"In Newfoundland we have a lot of frost and stuff so it's hard for us to turn our fields over, so this gives us the ability to just mow-till barley right into existing fields that are already there, we can rotate our crops that way."

As for feeding his cows barley that's been used in a distilling process, Richardson said it doesn't vary much from the raw.

"They need part of the barley that's not used really ... They want the sugar part of it, and the cows can utilize the rest of it," he said.

"It's common practice in agriculture that we try not to waste anything, so we use whatever's left over and we feed it to our livestock."

With files from the Corner Brook Morning Show