Have you ever switched forages or made minor changes to the ration and had milk production drop? Even minor changes in forage quality can impact production in a big way. Having a handle on forage quality as well as a test to accurately measure forage quality will be key to maintaining milk production, especially with new high-quality alfalfa varieties, like HarvXtra alfalfa, coming to market.
“If forage quality is unusually high or low, not average, NIR analysis can be less accurate,” says David Weakley, Ph.D., director of dairy forage research for Calibrate Technologies.
As new varieties of high-quality alfalfa enter the marketplace, it’s important to measure and understand digestibility. High-quality forages are more digestible, and digestibility can have a big impact on rumen function.
For example, if you decide to change alfalfa varieties to a genetically enhanced variety with a 10%-15% decreased lignin content, the digestibility of the fiber, and the resulting effect on rumen fill, will change. Research shows this reduction in lignin can result in a 10%-15% increase in digestibility, proving minor changes in lignin can have a major impact on digestibility. The use of a fiber digestibility test will ensure accurate utilization of forages in the ration and help sustain milk production.
To minimize potential variability in results and maximize forage performance, tests for neutral detergent fiber (NDF) and neutral detergent fiber digestibility (NDFd) should be conducted, in conjunction with analysis for other essential nutrients. By providing more accurate insights into the quality of forages being fed, a fiber digestibility test can also help optimize the cows’ diet for higher intake and milk production or higher feed efficiency.
Fiber digestibility tests give you an edge by providing precise insights where it matters most – in the rumen. These insights allow optimization of feed use in the ration to help achieve a higher standard of nutritional performance with benefits like an increase in forage utilization, higher animal performance and greater profit potential.