Forages cover up to 80% of energy intake for livestock, particularly for beef and dairy cattle. For instance, it provides protein and fibre that is essential for feed conversion, gut health and rumination. Plus, many forages can actually provide nearly all, if not all, required minerals and trace minerals, especially when alfalfa and other legumes are included.
Despite its importance, the nutritional composition of forage is difficult to predict. It varies from batch to batch and even within the same batch. Occasional tests are often insufficient when deciding how to get the best out of material. For instance, studies show that there is significant variation in the nutrient and dry matter content across the silage clamp.
Innovative analytical solutions for forage testing more essential data in the hands of farmers. This includes parameters such as moisture, protein, fibre and more. Specifically, automation of chemical methods and use of indirect methods such as near infrared are increasingly important for high throughput and quick turnaround time in the laboratory. The growing potential of NIR for forage testing at the feed lot or on the farm can generate new levels of analytical data leading to more rational and effective use of forage as an essential feed source.