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Topics : Forage Quality & Testing : Putting Forage Quality in Perspective

Putting Forage Quality in Perspective

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Additional Forage Quality Information via the Forage Information System (FIS)

What is Forage Quality

Fluctuations in milk prices, feed costs, and government programs are forcing dairy farmers to become more efficient with their farm operation. Since feed accounts for approximately one-half of the total cost of producing milk, and high quality forage optimizes the productivity of the animals, increasing the quality of forage available is one of the best methods of improving overall feeding efficiency. To effectively produce high quality forage, it is necessary to understand what forage quality is and to keep the factors influencing forage quality in perspective.

Forage quality is defined as the sum total of the plant constituents that influence an animal's use of the feed. Along with its quality, the overall potential feeding value of a forage feed is influenced by the form in which it is fed (e.g., particle size), the palatability of the forage, and by the quality of other feeds in the ration (associative feed effects).

What is quality forage worth?

The value of high quality forage in a balanced ration is evident in Table 3. When three hays of low, medium, and high quality, along with corn silage and a mixed feed grain are used to balance a ration, total feed cost for the high quality hay ratio is $0.11 less per cow per day than the medium quality hay ration. Income over grain cost is $0.45 more per cow per day for the high quality hay ration than for the medium-quality hay. For 100 cows over a year, this difference is greater than $16,000. Low quality hay does not allow an animal to consume enough digestible energy to be highly productive.