Feed Testing

 Knowledge Nuggets | Fact Sheets | Research Papers

Knowledge Nuggets

  • Nutrient concentration can vary considerably in feeds, especially forages. Protein in alfalfa hay can range from 10 to 25 percent or more; grass hay will contain between four and 18 percent protein.
  • Use feed tests to target specific feeds to different livestock. Feed high quality forage to animals with high nutrient needs, and lower quality forage to animals with lower nutrient needs.
  • Feed tests can help establish the dollar value of a forage. Use these tests to establish the value of your forage and to help determine what forages to feed, buy, or sell.
  • Forage tests are useful to evaluate production practices like fertilization, time of harvest, or method of harvest. Management skills can improve by learning how changes in production practices affect the quality of your forages.
  • Livestock are most productive when fed a balanced ration. Unfortunately, many rations are balanced using average values which result in over- or under-feeding certain nutrients. More economical and better balanced rations can be formulated using nutrient concentrations determined from feed analysis.
  • Analyze all feedstuffs that can substantially influence ration cost or animal performance. Analysis is especially important when potential differences between estimated nutrient composition and actual composition are great. For example, high moisture feeds should be analyzed for moisture. Without this analysis the amount of the feed to be included in the ration cannot be accurately determined.
  • Analyses is most useful when the forage is to be fed to livestock especially sensitive to nutrient level in the forage, such as young growing livestock, and nursing beef cows.
  • Always test non-traditional forages or other feeds not commonly raised or fed, and test feeds produced under adverse weather conditions. These feeds often contain a different nutrient concentration than anticipated.
  • Sight, smell, and touch are misleading indicators of feed value. Stage of maturity at harvest, foreign material or pests, color, and leafiness can be detected visually but provide limited nutritional information.
  • Nutrient analyses most commonly are done by extracting important compounds in a laboratory and determining their amount in the feed. When representative feed samples are tested chemically, accurate predictions of performance can be made.
  • Near infrared reflectance (NIR) spectroscopy is a rapid, reliable, low-cost, computerized method to analyze feeds for their nutrient content. It uses near infrared light to determine nutrient contents.

Forage Quality in Perspective

Forage Testing for Beef Cattle

Importance of Feed Testing and How to Obtain a Proper Sample - Video

Know Your Forages

National Forage Testing Association Home Page

Testing Livestock Feeds For Beef Cattle, Dairy Cattle, Sheep and Horses

Variation in Nutritional Value of Western Canadian Feed Ingredients
  For more information about the content of this document, contact Grant Lastiwka.
This document is maintained by Mary Ann Nelson.
This information published to the web on March 20, 2003.
Last Reviewed/Revised on January 23, 2017.

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