Current Progressive Dairy digital edition

Analyzing 2020 ration ingredients

Progressive Dairy Editor Audrey Schmitz Published on 05 February 2021

Back home at my parents’ dairy for Christmas, my daughter Stella just had to see all of Grandpa’s “moo cows.” While exploring the farm, she found grain spilled underneath the young heifer bin.

She grasped tiny handfuls of the ground corn and then teetered over to the calves, where she sprinkled teaspoon amounts from her small fists into their bunk.



Once satisfied she had given all the young heifers grain, she grabbed two more fistfuls and made off to feed the milk cows. Luck would have it that the cow she picked to feed is halter-broke and somewhat friendly. Kneeling next to where my daughter stood beside the feedbunk, I held Stella’s hand full of grain out to the cow. Timidly, the cow stretched her nose closer, sniffing the grain and nuzzling our fingers to test the contents of our outstretched hands. Then, curling her tongue, the cow licked the grain from our palms. The look on Stella’s face was of shock and awe. Mouth gaping and eyes wide, she wasn’t quite sure what to think of the cow’s rough-surfaced tongue and how it tickled her fingers. She recovered quickly though by insisting that we get even more grain to feed the cow.

There is only so much testing and sampling a cow can do herself to avoid feedstuffs that could negatively affect her health. The rest is left to be prevented by producers and their feeders and nutritionists.

To get the most out of your forages, it is important to understand what can hinder fiber digestion, such as rumen pH and mycotoxins (2020 corn silage harvest analysis and mycotoxin risks). For the feedstuffs that were harvested in 2020 and are currently being fed, it is important to conduct analysis.

Since dairy farmers harvest and store a whole year’s worth of feed only a few times a year, it is important to be successful at it (A forage report's value is in its analysis). Forage reports can help explain whether the growing, harvesting and storing phases for your forages were successful – or if they need some revamping.

The value of a forage report comes from its analysis and the actions taken by the farm thereafter. Understanding your forage report can give you and your nutritionist valuable insight for formulating diets, creating projections and making changes to those diets, and should be used when transitioning from last year’s forage to this year’s. It can also give farms the chance to identify opportunities and challenges that need fixing as well as successes to duplicate for next season.


Diet formulations are only as good as the accuracy of the nutrient data for forages and feeds (Feed mixing and delivery: The importance of maximizing accuracy). This means that regular, constant testing and analysis is an important part of the program. Development of a sound testing and analysis program and working with a lab that can provide a quick, accurate turnaround is essential.

Access to a rapid turnaround of comprehensive near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy (NIR) forage analysis results by U.S. feed and forage labs now takes the guesswork out of ensiled forage (Forage fiber digestibility drives milk income). A good representative sample on a regular and frequent basis allows both the producer and consultant to have close insight into their ensiled forage inventory quality and how it changes over time.

Take charge of your 2020 ration ingredients by having them tested to ensure peace of mind that the diet formulated is, indeed, the diet delivered.  end mark

Audrey Schmitz
  • Audrey Schmitz

  • Editor
  • Progressive Dairy
  • Email Audrey Schmitz