Beef School, Ep 14: Tips for collecting and interpreting feed analyses

One of the most important metrics in improving profitability and productivity (not to mention animal welfare, and arguably, environmental stewardship) is feed quality.

In this episode of the Beef School, Leland Fuhr, DairySmart Nutrition and BeefSmart Consulting, provides tips on everything from sampling winter feed to analyzing the results. After all, as Fuhr says, “you don’t know what you don’t measure.”

Collecting a representative sample

“Collecting the sample is going to vary, depending on what type of sample it is,” says Fuhr, adding samples can come from dry grains, forages that are wet or dry, to even liquids.

“What we really want to get to when sampling any of these ingredients though, is reducing the variation of your samples,” he says. “If you take it from only one spot, you might get a very skewed result that’s going to set you off on the wrong step, whereas if you take from multiple sampling points, you’re going to reduce the variation with that.”

In a sample of 100 to 200 bales, for example, Fuhr says he would try to sample around 20 per cent of the bales. And in a large sample, he suggests collecting one, then subsampling from there. Producers can also continue to sample as they’re feeding, to ensure their initial analysis result was accurate.

Interpreting the results

The results of a feed test can be a bit daunting to analyze.

“My recommendation would be for producers to work with someone that is knowledgable on these,” says Fuhr, who suggests consulting with someone long before sampling even occurs.

“The most important day of the year is the day you decide to turn the key to that harvester, because that is going to have the biggest influence on what quality of feed you get off.”

See more Beef School episodes here!

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