Find Our Most Frequent Questions Below
Want to find out more about forage, analysis reports and the Forage Analysis Assurance Group? Have a look at the answers to our most frequently asked questions below. More information on wider forage related subjects is available from our Links page or contact us.
Forage refers to grass and crops grown to feed livestock. Forage may be defined as the vegetative matter, fresh or preserved, utilised as feed for animals. Forage crops include grasses, legumes, crucifers and other crops cultivated and used in the form of hay, pasture, fodder and silage..
Silage is the material produced by controlled fermentation or “pickling” of forages such as grass or cereal crops. The purpose is to preserve the forage by during the process known as ensiling to provide feed for livestock over winter months. In common use, the terms silage and forage are often used interchangeably.
Forage analysis provides information on the nutritional quality of that forage sample, for example, the dry matter, protein and fibre content of the forage or silage. It can also be carried out on fresh grass, hay and haylage and other feed materials..
Knowing the nutritional quality of silage and forage, allows feeds and diets to be formulated that optimise livestock production. Forage analysis is an integral part of modern animal production. Livestock managers require detailed information about the feedstuffs of their herds in order to best achieve production goals, whether they are concerned with economic efficiency, nutrient efficiency or maximum yields.
The FAA Group is made up of laboratories who carry out forage analysis and other businesses which are related to making silage and formulating feeds for livestock..
A forage analysis report should contain information on the nutrient content in the forage including levels of crude protein, starch, sugar, NDF etc as well as other parameters that are used to indicate how the forage will behave when digested, particularly by ruminants. Most forage reports will show ranges of expected results for different types of forage – you or your registered Feed Adviser will be able to easily see where your forage sample sits within this range. Look for the FAA Group quality mark on your analysis reports – this will show that the laboratory is a member of the group and you can be sure of reliable analysis. See more - FAA Group and Quality
An understanding of the nutrient content of your forage is key to deciding if additional compound feed or supplements are needed to give your livestock a balanced and optimised ration. Members of the Feed Adviser Register are trained and experienced in devising the optimum diet that combines home-grown forage with bought-in feeds.
Speak to your laboratory or if you use the services of a Feed Adviser, ask them to evaluate the report and explain the results.
Forage can be analysed by wet chemistry techniques in a laboratory and by rapid techniques such as NIRS – Near Infrared Reflectance Spectroscopy which can be used within a laboratory or out on farm.
There are various factors that can affect accuracy of the silage analysis:
- silage itself a naturally variable material
- the process of taking a sample from a bale, clamp or pit
- different instruments used for analysis
- operator technique within laboratories
- sample preparation technique used e.g. fresh, dried or dried and ground
FAA Group members take part in a Proficiency Test using monthly standard samples which enables each laboratory to ensure the conformity of their instruments and processes. This provides confidence that the results are as accurate as they can be, given the current science.
This could simply be down to the technique used to take a sample. Have a look at our page on correct sampling methods. Also speak to your analysing laboratory about any concerns you have – they will be happy to help.
Make sure you are using a laboratory that is a member of the FAA Group – in that way you can be sure that quality assured procedures are being followed to give you reliable, consistent and accurate results.
The FAA Group performance report shows the results of the Proficiency Test in which all the laboratory members take part every month in the silage feeding season.
The Proficiency Test provides each laboratory with a set of samples of different forage types which they analyse according to their normal commercial method. This data is collated and compared across all laboratory members; then statistical analysis is applied to give a grade based on their analysed results for key parameters.
The grades are reported in the form of a graph and table where is it easy to see the grade each laboratory has achieved. The grade relates to the level of consistency of analysis compared to a master laboratory carrying out wet chemistry, the gold standard of analysis.
A and B grades demonstrate consistent, accurate and reliable analysis independent of the technique being used. Users can be confident in forage analysis by members of the FAA Group.
For further details on specific analysis, cost etc, contact the laboratory directly.
You can send your forage sample directly by post or courier. Speak to your laboratory to confirm the best method for them. Don’t forget that samples should be sent as soon as possible after taking. Look at our information on Correct Sampling
It is recommended that samples are not frozen. Freezing could affect the analysis results and may extend the turnaround time for results.
Freezing should only be considered if there are known delays in getting a sample to a laboratory – in this case, make sure your laboratory knows that the sample has been frozen as they may need to make additional checks or follow a different procedure.
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If you have any questions or comments, please speak to any of our laboratory members, your registered Feed Adviser or Use our Contact Form