Friday, November 14, 2014

Understanding a forage report

Not sure whether the bale in the feeder is providing the ewes what they need? Run a forage test to find out what's really in there. 

The majority of my Monday involved taking advantage of the final hours of 2014's short sleeve weather. The goal? Take core samples of our baleage before winter's chill sets in. The core samples were then sent to a forage lab where the results would tell us everything we wanted to know about our baleage and then some more.

Why wait until November to take? We made baleage, which needs a few weeks to cure before it's considered ready. Our last batch was made in mid-September, so I waited until those bales were ready and tested all the batches in one go.

Results came back Wednesday and I had to remind myself of what some of the terms and initialisms on the forms meant. Below are a few of the terms that can be found in a forage report. If you have any questions, I suggest talking to one of your extension nutritionists. They know these terms pretty well (and they don't have to look them up either).

Glossary of (basic) terms:

ADFAcid Detergent fiber. The least digestible fiber (higher the number the poorer the forage).
Ashmineral content of the feed (inorganic matter in the feedstuff). 
Crude Protein—nitrogen from protein as well as non-protein nitrogen sources such as ammonia, DNA and RNA. 
DMIestimated level of intake an animal must consume of a ration that contains the energy concentration recommended by nutrient tables.
Dry mattereverything in the feed except water
Fatamount of crude fat in the forage.
Lignincomponent of cell walls that is indigestible.
Moistureamount of water in the forage.
NDF—Neutral detergent fiber, makes up the bulky part of the plant. 
NEG(net energy for gain or growth) estimate of energy available used for weight gain once maintenance is achieved.  
NEL(net energy for lactation) estimate of energy available for lactation after needs for maintenance have been met. 
NEM(net energy for maintenance) estimate of available energy to keep the animal as is.
NFC—Non-fibrous carbohydrates (sugars, starches)
pHmeasure of acidity or alkalinity.
RFVrelative feed value. 100 is considered average. 
Soluble Proteinprotein that is able to be broken down in the rumen.
TDNtotal digestible nutrients. Also a measure of the energy value of the feedstuff.