Forage Analysis with NIR Spectrometers in the Field or at the Farm

High quality forage is one of the best methods for improving feeding efficiency and livestock health. Economically, forage is cheaper than concentrates/supplements. It’s also healthier, enhancing animal digestive functions and it can even improve the fatty acid profile of meat. Knowing the quality of forage being bought or sold should be taken into consideration to improve overall farming profitability. Spectroradiometers can provide information on key characteristics of forage, including hay, haylage, silage, straw, fodder, even pasture.

For example a PSR+ 3500 or a PSR-1100f spectroradiometer can be used in situ to measure the substantial daily variability in different forages. These agricultural spectroradiometers can measure:

  • Dry matter content (DM) – the effects of moisture
  • Crude protein
  • Starch
  • Acid detergent fiber (ADF)
  • Neutral detergent fiber (NDF)
  • Crude fat
  • Ash

For both the people producing the forage and the people using the forage, this information can lead to a better total mixed ration (TMR) that results in more efficient and cost-effective feeding of livestock and dairy cattle.

The importance of high quality, rich in nutrient forage (whether hay, haylage, silage, straw, fodder, pasture or other types) can’t be overestimated. Forage is balance with supplemental feed – knowing the right mix is key to livestock health. In 2012 forage from that year was drought-stressed – both livestock and dairy farmers who didn’t take this into account in the TMR calculations ended-up with sick animals.

Field portable NIR spectrometers and spectroradiometers provide in the field forage analysis.

Forage can include hay, hay silage, silage, straw, fodder, and pasture. Testing the nutrients in forage can help producers and users to become more efficient in managing total mixed ration values fopr livestock and using the right kind and amount of supplemental feeds.

Reflectance of grass field section measured using a PSR-1100f with a standard 4 degree FOV lens. Red trace represents a control solar scan as measured from a reflectance panel. The blue trace is the scan of field grass.

Field portable spectrtoradiometers and spectrometers can deliver the following advantages over lab methods:

  • Samples are more accurate as they are taken directly in the field or at the silo
  • Real-time results provide the ability to do spot testing
  • There’s no sample prep, no sample destruction, no shipment to a lab and waiting for results
  • You can track forage trends and plan your supplemental use
  • Test as weather and storage conditions change
  • Save scans as ASCII files for use with other chemometric and analysis programs
  • With a full range spectroradiometer, such as the PSR+ 3500, use EZ-ID sample identification software with its Custom Library Builder module to create a specific calibration library to suit your particular requirements