In addition to formulating the right balance of nutrients in a dairy’s total mixed ration (TMR), the size of the ration’s feed particles also is an important factor to regulate. Particle size distribution can impact forage neutral detergent fiber (NDF) intake, total NDF intake, and forage dry matter intake.

Penn State University has developed an accurate, affordable on-farm tool to quantitatively determine the forage particle size in forages and TMRs. Penn State Extension dairy specialist Jud Heinrichs says The Penn State Forage Particle Size Separator was developed to simulate the cumbersome laboratory method for evaluating forage particle size in a quick and practical process that can be performed on the dairy. The tool evaluates not only the particles greater than a particular size, but also the overall distribution of feed particles being consumed by the cow.

Heinrichs says newer systems of harvesting corn silage that include chopping and rolling in one process can create silage with a desirable long particle length (10% of particles greater than 0.75 inches), without large pieces of whole cobs or stalks. The result is a readily packable product that can achieve excellent fermentation and high palatability while maintaining good particle length.

Read more of Heinrichs’ insights, along with instructions on using the Penn State Forage Particle Size Separator, by following this link.