Forage analysis is a necessary component of modern dairy and beef cattle production. Forages are plant materials of grass, legume or grain origin that are eaten by ruminants livestock. Ruminants have the ability to metabolize the high fiber low energy forages into milk production and weight gain.
Modern dairy farms optimize the feed stuffs being fed to the dairy cows to maximize the milk production while the cows are on milk. The nutritional requirements vary across the milk cycle, and larger farms formulate the feed to several stages of the milk cycle.
Typically, dairy cows are fed a compound feed mixture known as Total Mixed Ration (TMR), which is composed of forage, feed concentrates , protein supplements, and mineral / vitamin pre-mixes. The TMRs are typically mixed each day in a mixer wagon to ensure the proper and consistent feeding of the herd. The largest source of nutritional variation in the ration is the forage, and the nutritional value of the forage can vary widely based on specie of the plant, maturity of the plants at harvest, environmental conditions, ensiling process etc. Accurate analysis of the forage input is critical to producing a consistent ration.
A typical analysis of forages will contain over 30 constituents including moisture, protein, aNDF, ADF, lignin, starch, minerals and digestibilities along with calculations for various energy and nutritional parameters. Traditional laboratory techniques would require days of highly skilled analytical work, expensive equipment, laboratory space, and dangerous chemicals to obtain these data. NIR technology has the ability to accurately analyze a forage sample for all of these constituents simultaneously in under a minute, with minimal sample preparation and no hazardous chemicals.
Modern herd management requires precise and consistent animal nutrition to optimize animal performance. This is very difficult to accomplish as natural feed stuffs show wide nutritional variation, even within same cuttings of forages. On site frequent analysis of the forage components allows for precise ration formulation that maximizes animal performance and results in increased profits.