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Winter Feeding: Sampling Stored Forages •
Evaluating By-Product and Alternative Feeds and Forages for Sheep and Goats
Tips for Producers Dealing with the Drought
Calendar of Events
Winter Feeding: Sampling Stored Forages
Steven M. Jones,
Associate Professor Animal Science
Testing the nutrient value of forage is a valuable tool that can
be utilized to balance livestock rations. Guessing thenutrient
content of a major feed ingredient such as hay can be costly to
livestock producers. To realize the value in hay or other stored
forage, we needan analysis.
Most livestock producers will need to supplement this winter with
some kind of stored forage. High prices for soybean meal, corn and
other commodities further justify the cost of a forage analysis.
Forage test forms can be obtained from your county Extension office.
These forms contain complete instructions on how to collect forage
samples. Proper collection and identification of a sample is very
important. A tool is needed to collect hay samples.
The cost for forage analysis is$18.00 per sample. Considering the
cost of grain supplementation this year, the cost of analysis will
easily pay for itself by preventing over supplementation. The real
value is in correctly balancing diets so that productivity of the
herd is maintainedor improved, resulting in increased profitability.
Each hay type and cutting should be sampled and analyzed
separately. Hay harvested on different dates within a cutting should
also be sampled separately. Therefore, it is important that each
cutting is stored separately and can be identified with its forage
The real value of forage analysis is in correctly balancing diets
so that productivity of the herd is maintained or improved,
resulting in increased profitability.
When sampling forages, one cannot over stress the importance of
proper sampling technique. Samples should be representative and
selected at random. In summary, sample each lot of forage
separately, and make sure that the forage can be identified with its
analysis when feeding.
- Core samples are preferred over grab samples. Even with
hay that is not weathered, multiple core samples will contain a
better distribution of plant material, which will result in a
more accurate assessment of nutrient composition. Hay sampling
probes are available for use through county Extension offices in
Arkansas. Samples should be taken from the end of square bales
and from the side of round bales and stacks.
- To correctly sample rectangular bales, drive the bit into
the end of 15 to 20 bales from a particular lot of hay. Drill to
the full depth of the sample tube on loose bales and half depth
in tight bales. Mix the cores thoroughly and send the entire
sample to the lab in a sealed plastic bag.
- Large round bales should be sampled on the rounded side of
- Twenty to thirty percent of the bales must be sampled to
accurately estimate the nutrient composition of the hay. A
demonstration project at the University of Arkansas showed
differences of5 percent TDN when as few as 5 percent of bales
were sampled within a single hay lot. A minimum of six
individually core sampled round bales is necessary to have
sufficient sample size for an analysis. Sample size should
represent the larger of the two, either 6 bales or 20 percent of
the number of bales in a lot.
Upon receiving the results from a forage analysis, the next step
is to interpret the results. The results are separated into two
columns - AS FED BASIS and DRY MATTER BASIS. When comparing a forage
analysis to animal requirements, the values reported under dry
matter basis should be used. The following information is reported
when a forage sample is submitted for routine analysis through the
University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.
- Moisture - water content of a feed
- Dry Matter - 100 minus the water content. Used to convert AS
FED to DRY MATTER. Example: 8.9 - 91.3 x 100 = 9.8.
- Crude Protein - a measure of plant nitrogen multiplied times
- Acid Detergent Fiber - a measure of plant cellulose and
lignin. Acid detergent fiber is commonly used to estimate
- Neutral Detergent Fiber - a measure of plant hemicellulose,
cellulose and lignin. Neutral detergent fiber may also be used
to estimate digestibility and is highly correlated with forage
- Total Digestible Nutrients (TDN) - an estimate of the supply
of energy. The number for total digestible nutrients is derived
from equations developed from feeding trials. Equations commonly
utilize acid detergent fiber to estimate TDN but may also
include crude protein and/or neutral detergent fiber.
- Net Energy for Lactation - an estimate of the supply of
energy commonly used for balancing dairy cow/goat rations.
The time and money spent forage testing has consistently been
shown to be a valuable tool for avoiding costly feeding errors.
However, a forage testis of little value if the producer is not
willing to interpret the results and make supplemental feeding
changes when necessary. Knowing the forage nutrient content can save
money in the winter feed program. A forage analysis is the only way
to accurately balance a ration or mineral program. Lastly, the
forage analysis determines forage feeding value so you can compare
cost of potential supplements.
By-Product and Alternative Feeds and Forages for Sheep and Goats
Steven M. Jones, Associate Professor Animal Science
The year 2010 has been a challenging one for sheep and goat
producers in regard to feed costs and forage and hay availability.
This will extend through the winter months of 2011. Many regions of
the state experienced significant drought, while other regions were
too dry to have normal hay quantities.
There have been many questions this year on by-product feeds and
alternative forages -some producers trying to economize the feed
bill and some simply trying to find adequate quantities of forage.
There are also many misconceptions about by-product and alternative
feedstuffs. It's amazing what people believe based only on hearsay
and not factor science.
Cattle and horses have been extensively researched for
nutritional acceptance of by-product feeds that are available. That
is not the case for sheep and goats. So, in one way we are relying
somewhat on hearsay. Research IS becoming available for small
ruminants in response to being fed these by-product feeds, but we
still do not have the depth that has occurred with cattle. However,
there are some proven scientific principles that are in place that
must be adhered to until this area is thoroughly researched.
Nutritional Profile. Sheep and goats are ruminants;
therefore, they are able to use a variety of feedstuffs to a certain
When considering an alternative feedstuff, it is imperative to
get an analysis of that feedstuff. One can use book values as a
means to get some initial information, but an actual analysis of a
feedstuff is very important. Most nutritional or chemical analysis
of a feed on forage will list items individually.
Energy. Energy content of a feedstuff is reflected by the
values contained in lab reports from the item's total digestible
nutrients (TDN). Feeds high in energy content usually have certain
characteristics. They are lower in fiber content, have a high starch
level, have a high fat content or some combination of the three. For
instance, corn grain is low in fiber and high in starch. Dried
distillers grains (a by-product of corn used in ethanol production)
is as high in energy as corn, even though it has three times the
fiber and very little starch. This is because it has high fat levels
(9 to 12 percent).
High energy feeds are often used in sheep and goat rations.
However, care must be taken when feeding high energy feeds. High
starch containing feeds can cause lactic acidosis. Thus, feeds high
indigestible starch should be introduced to ruminants slowly and
over a period of time in a "step-up" fashion. It is usually
recommended that fat levels of ruminant diets not exceed 6 to 8
percent of the diet dry matter. So, feeds high in energy from fat
can often only be used as a portion of the energy feed of a ration.
Fiber Content. The fiber content of feedstuff is reflected
on a feed analysis report by the variables entitled NDF, ADF and
lignin. NDF stands for neutral detergent fiber and represents the
fiber fraction containing hemicellulose, cellulose and lignin. ADF
stands for acid detergent fiber and represents the cellulose and
lignin content. These values are reported on a percentage basis.
The NDF value is important because it contains the entire fiber
content and relates to how much of the feed an animal can physically
consume. The ADF value is used as a predictor of how much of the
feed is actually digested. The book values for a high-quality
alfalfa hay have a NDF content of 45 percent and an ADF of 35
percent. Compare these values to an NDF of 87 percent and an ADF of
68 percent for low-quality filler forage such as cottonseed hulls.
Protein. Protein content of a feed analysis report is
fairly straight forward. It is reported as a percentage. With
by-product or alternative feeds or forages, it is also a good idea to
check on the level of heat damaged protein. This is often reflected
as unavailable protein, ADF-N, bound protein or insoluble protein.
The higher the number, the less digestible the amount of crude
protein contained in the sample being analyzed and the more heat
damage that has occurred.
Just because a feed
is a by-product doesn't mean it is economical
to feed. It is
important when comparing prices of feedstuffs to
variables as equal as possible.
Minerals and Vitamins. These are usually listed
individually. All of them are important, but of particular
importance are the amounts of calcium, phosphorous, copper and
sulfur. Many by-product and alternative feeds are low in calcium and
are often high in phosphorous. This doesn't preclude the use of them
in a ration but does mean extra calcium will need to be added. The
ratio of calcium to phosphorous for male sheep and goats should be
at least 2:1 to help prevent urinary calculi.
Copper is important to note, to avoid copper toxicity in sheep.
Levels over 15 ppm should catch your attention.
Some areas of Arkansas have soils deficient in selenium. Selenium
deficiencies will predispose animals to White Muscledisease in young
animals or cause abortions in late term.
Sulfur is also high in many of the corn by products from either
ethanol or sugar production. Sulfur can interfere with thiamine
(Vitamin B1) absorption, leading to the disease polioencephalitis.
If high levels of these by-products are used, then thiamine should
be included in the ration.
Cost Comparison. Just because a feed is a by-product
doesn't mean it is economical to feed. It is important when
comparing prices of feedstuffs to make all variables as equal as
possible. This includes the amount of dry matter, price per unit of
nutrient and on an equal weight basis. Dry matter content is
important when evaluating alternative feeds. When considering a
feedstuff, decide what it will primarily be used for. Then compare
it to a standard. For instance, compare a protein feed to the price
of soybean meal on a cost per unit of protein. Compare energy feeds
to corn, etc. Make sure to standardize price per common unit of
measure - price per ton for hay, price per pound for corn, etc.
There is no perfect, complete feed for sheep and goats. Even
commonly used feeds such as corn and mixed hay have to be fed in
proper amounts and fortified with other nutrients. There are
objective sources of information available to advise people about
the use of by-product or alternative feeds. Contact your county
Extension agent as a potential source of information.
Tips for Producers Dealing with the
Steven M. Jones, Associate Professor Animal
Science and Shane Gadberry, PhD Associate Professor Animal Science
Drought has made this a tough year for sheep and goat producers
in many parts of Arkansas. On October 12, 2010, the U.S. drought
indicates two-thirds of Arkansas being in moderate to severe
drought. Although some parts of the state have had rainfall since
that time, some areas still have not had measureable rainfall as of
November 1. Reported hay production in Central and Southern Arkansas
near the end of August was 5075% of normal. In addition, the drier
than normal autumn has slowed or suppressed stockpiling of warm
season grasses and slowed perennial cool season grasses such as
fescue, and annuals such as ryegrass have emerged only in
correlation to the rainfall. .
Drought-affected pastures rarely produce adequate amounts of
forage. Hay is in short supply, and what is available tends to be of
below average quality. Drought stressed plants tend to be nutrient
deficient, especially in protein. Hay analysis reports for
2010indicate adequate energy as a general rule as compared to
averages. However, those same samples are well below average for
protein. On an average year, our hays are adequate for protein for
small ruminants, with the exception of lactating females and young
growing kids/lambs. Therefore, supplementation is usually
concentrated on providing energy requirements. The drought of 2010
has created challenges in both volume of hay and quality. Many
producers are faced with winter supplementation for both protein and
energy with limited hay inventories.
The drought of 2010 has created challenges in both volume of hay
and quality. Many producers are faced with winter supplementation
for both protein and energy with limited hay inventories.
Complicating the issue of short forage supply is a major increase
in feed prices. During the drought of2005, corn was priced at
$2.86/bu. Since midsummer, grain prices have strengthened with
currently traded corn at about $5.50/bu. and soybeans at $12.42/bu.
The price of commodities is correlated with the price of corn and
soybean meal, to a lesser extent. As the price of corn increases,
soybean hulls, corn gluten feed and rice bran prices will follow the
corn price and it has!
The approach used to stretch a shortage of forage will vary
depending on the severity of the situation on your farm. Listed
below are a few things to consider.
- Inventory available forage, both hay and potential grazing.
Calculate amount and quality of hay needed for the herd. Next,
determine the amount of time expected until pasture will be
available. Now, you have real data needed to determine what and
how much supplementation will be needed.
- Weigh hay bales, both large round and squares. Bale weights
will vary depending on forage species, baler type and moisture
content. Recent data from the Arkansas 300Days of Grazing
Program indicates the following bale weight averages for 2010:
a) 4x5 bales - 730 lb, b) 4x6 -950 lb and c) small squares - 45
- Reduce storage and feeding waste. Hay storage and feeding
losses can reach a magnitude of 40%.Feeding hay in rings or hay
feeders will keep feeding losses below 15%.
- Body condition score your herd. Through the winter months
you want to maintain or increase body condition score,
especially for pregnant females that will reach parturition in
late winter or early spring. Thin animals are more susceptible
to disease and parasites, plus females that kid or lamb thin
will have reduced milk production.
- Inventory your herd and separate by nutrient requirements.
Growing animals and lactating animals need the highest quality
feeds because their requirements for protein and energy are
greater. Females in early to mid-gestation and bucks are at
maintenance requirements. Separating the herd by nutrient
requirements allows you to allocate existing feed resources and
strategically feed more expensive supplements to those animals
requiring them, thus saving money.
- Reduce herd size by culling least productive does/ewes. If
feed resources are limited, now is the time to seriously look at
reducing the herd. Criteria to consider include: a)
- Internal Parasites. Chronic parasite carriers should be
culled. Maintain records so that parasite tolerant goats can
be retained and wormy and coccidiosisprone goats can be
identified for culling.
- Poor mothering instincts, bad udders and teats and low
- Old does and ewes.
- Body conformation and structure.
- Nonbreeders. Both males and females who do not breed on
a recurring basis should be culled.
- Don't graze too long on short grass - it will take even
longer to recover. Better to concentrate livestock in one area
that is "sacrificed" and feed them there. Let the grass grow
back before grazing. Grazing short grass just means you will
have short grass for even a longer time.
Producers need to plan for the most effective management and
conservation of their resources in drought affected areas. Decisions
you make now may affect production next year. Early planning and
decisions regarding the management of livestock are most critical.
Every operation may have different options based on stocking rates,
production status of the animals, total available feed resources and
the financial position and cash flow situation of the operation.
Calendar of Events
|December 5, 2010
||AGPA meeting, 1 p.m.
||Heifer Ranch in Perryville.
Steven M. Jones, Associate Professor
The information given herein is for educational purposes only.
Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the
understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement
by the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is implied.
Printed by the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension
Service Printing Services.
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