Why analyze forages for their nutrient content? The obvious answer to this question is to use the results to balance rations for lactating cows as well as dry cows and heifers. The goal when balancing rations is to optimize cattle performance while keeping feed costs reasonable and using home-grown feeds available. As importantly as using the results to balance rations, these results should be used to evaluate whether the quality of forages harvested can be improved. These evaluations can be of forages harvested by others or those harvested as part of the home dairy farming operation. By using these results, one can determine if forages need to be harvested earlier/later, different varieties need to be used in the future, or changes in agronomic practices need to be instituted to prevent decreases in forage quality.
Key analyzes for evaluating forage quality?Energy is the hardest nutritional component to provide in diets for lactating and growing cattle. Higher quality forages are more digestible and support greater dry matter intakes. Thus, they allow greater quantities of forage to be included in the ration, lowering total feed cost and supporting cattle growth, greater early-lactation milk production, and improved reproductive performance compared to lower quality forages. ~ Dr. Donna Amaral-Phillips, excerpt of article KY Dairy Notes, available here.