Dairy One Forage Lab: What’s in Your Feed?

When farmers need to know exactly what their cow is eating, one solution is the Dairy One Forage Laboratory. This lab and its team are dedicated to providing an analysis report on forage samples they receive from individuals, ranging from dairy farmers to nutritionists to zoos and aquariums. Today we’ll give an overview of what happens when you submit a sample to this lab. 

First, a customer sends in their forage sample to be analyzed. When submitting a sample, you must follow the guidelines for taking a good forage sample, such as collecting several subsamples to form a composite. Next, select a test package to determine what the Forage team will be providing you in terms of sample test results. You may want to know how much dry matter is in your feed or perhaps your nutritionist wants a clearer picture of the mineral makeup. 

We spoke with Megan Wheeler, the Forage Lab Department Supervisor for Fiber, Minerals, and Proteins, about forage packages that are frequently requested by customers. “Our top forage test requests are the Forage NIR (325), Forage NIR Prime (321), Forage NIR Pro (327), and Wet Chemistry Minerals (329),” said Wheeler.  

So, what do those tests do? When a forage sample is received, it is placed in an oven to be dried to remove moisture and determine dry matter content. Then it is ground down to a 1 mm particle size in order for it to be analyzed by the lab. The different analytical packages determine what results are provided and what method the lab uses for the analysis. 

For instance, a Wet Chemistry test can be used with any type of forage sample. Whereas NIR (Near Infrared Reflectance Spectroscopy) is calibration-based technology that provides a rapid analysis with a multitude of components but is limited to common feeds and forages. 

In addition to the forced air ovens and the NIR instruments, the lab also uses a wide variety of other instruments and extractions to determine the nutritional content of a sample. For instance, an ICP is used to read minerals, Leco instruments are used to read proteins, and Ankom technology is used for fiber analyses. When samples are received by the Forage Laboratory, it typically takes 24 hours to complete a NIR test, and for mineral tests, it usually takes about 1 to 2 business days. Some wet chemistry testing can take approximately 3-4 business days depending on the components requested.  

The Forage Lab has analyzed thousands of samples within a calendar year, and the results they pull have an impact on what animals are being fed. For instance, a customer who owned horses said, “due to several health issues it’s critical I know what I’m feeding my horses. The feed analysis service is amazing. They have incredibly quick turnaround time and are great to talk to regarding questions.” 

“We’re very proud of the work we do,” said Wheeler. “Customers sometimes will send us photos of their animals to show us the impact of our forage tests. We enjoy seeing these images and the result of our teamwork.” 

If you want to send in a forage test for analysis, visit our submitting a forage sample page to get the process started today!