It’s important to know what you’re paying for when buying forages, or what nutrients your homegrown forages are providing in the ration.

Forages are typically variable in chemical composition. The primary reason for this variability is that forages are harvested at various stages of physiological maturity, but harvest methods, plant variety, soil fertility, and weather conditions also play important roles.

An article in the November 2012 California Dairy Newsletter takes a look at the three major components of feed analysis: dry matter, crude protein and fiber (ADF & NDF).

"Our intention is to bring a general understanding to the “what’s and why’s” of basic wet chemistry analysis," say Jennifer Heguy, University of California dairy advisor, Ed DePeters, University of California-Davis, and Jed Asmus, independent nutritionist.

"It’s imperative for nutritionists to test forages for quality parameters to formulate rations, but it’s also helpful for you to be able to read your forage results and have a basic understanding of the different components," they conclude. "The concept of DM (dry matter) is something everyone working with feed on your dairy, including feeders, should understand."

For more information, see the November 2012 California Dairy Newsletter. Once there, scroll down to “Back to Basics: The ABC’s of Forage Analysis” on page 2.