Testing Feeds: A Recurrent Procedure for Animal Performance and Well-being

Analyzing Feed

Test your feed. You have heard it over and over again. But do you do it enough? To some degree it is the results of the report that can indicate how often, or not, you should sample your feed.

Feeds are sampled and analyzed for different reasons. Commonly, we all want to know the nutrient concentrations, as they can vary considerably. Some may decide to feed high quality feeds to the most productive livestock, whereas the low quality feed is used for animals with lower nutritional requirements. Those who cash crop use the nutritional value to establish a dollar value for selling the crop. However, testing can also be a means to determine the time of harvest, whether extra nutrients should be applied on the field, or approaches to maintain or improve storage and feed-out techniques. Sampling is the First and Most important step

In a recent Ruminant Feed Industry meeting, Ron Piett of A & L Laboratories stated that sampling is the first and most important step of the entire analysis process. He indicated that the purpose of sampling a product is to determine the quality, through laboratory analysis, to identify the nutritional and anti-nutritional components. Both are just as important. For example, a mineral may need to be added if results are lower than expected, or steps may be taken to reduce the levels if they are too high.  The analysis is what eventually is used to “facilitate the creation of a ration designed to maintain good health or optimum performance of the species” says Piett.

Common Mistakes

Laboratories get their fair share of samples that are difficult to analyze and in some cases impossible. Nelmy Narvaez, of SGS Laboratories commented on common errors that are seen when forage samples arrive at the laboratory. These samples may give an inaccurate representation of the feed from which it was taken, and as a result may not supply the required nutrients for the animal.

  1. Errors seen in samples that arrive at the laboratory for testing are as followed: 1. Pulling hay samples from an intact bale causing samples to consist of stems, and no leaves. A large amount of hay samples that arrive at the laboratory are not cored- this is recommended for a representative sample.
  2. A core sampler is a long rod that is attached to a drill, or used by hand depending on type, to drive into bales to sample from several locations. For round bales, sample towards the middle of the bales. To sample square bales point the rod at a 90 degree angle so that multiple layers are obtained within a sample.
  3. Samples are unrepresentative. Take samples from multiple spots; mix them to get a homogeneous sample, and then sub-sample approximately 500gram. 3. Too much oxygen left in the sample bag. Remove all air from the sample by pressing the air out before closing it. Oxygen left in the bag will allow aerobic microorganisms to proliferate. The sample bag may generate pressure, causing the sample bag to tear.
  4. Samples sizes are too big and bags are overfilled. It is difficult to properly mix these, and require more sub sampling in the lab. Overfilled bags can open up during shipping. Therefore, 500g samples are recommended.
  5. Samples send out to the laboratory on Friday. This often results in samples sitting in a warehouse over the weekend. The fresher the sample, the better!

Improper labelling. To ensure proper analysis is done, label the samples clearly. Labelling should include what feed it is, date of sampling, and your name or farm name.

Anita Heeg

Feed Ingredients and By Products Specialist, OMAFRA


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