Frequently asked questions
How much does a feed test cost in Australia?
Feed Tests (Forage assays) in Australia cost between $50-70/sample. A good forage assay provides great guidance on how and when a fodder can be used to achieve best outcomes. Not all forage assays are accurate or complete
Make sure your Feed Test gives you the most usable parameters. A more complete assay has more nutrients parameters
Consider how accurate the numbers are from your Feed Test/Forage Assay.
Use a lab with good technical support.
Make the most of your Feed Test/Forage assay by engaging with a qualified nutritionist.
As a user or potential user of a Feed Test one of the first questions you ask is how much it will cost. While most people will say it depends. I’ll do my best to answer this question.
The use of the results you get from a Feed Test does require some knowledge and details. You can’t compare apples with oranges, but we can help you can get a sense of the cost and value creation in using Feed Tests. So here goes.
Like most assay’s there is a range of options. A bit like buying a car you have different models and each model has distinctive features. It’s the same with Feed Tests. The actual type of Assay you require will have unique features and how you use those features will influence the. Your nutritionist or the lab can help you define the best test for you.
For Feed Tests (Forage assay) in Australia most cost between $50-70/test. That’s not the end of the story though. The amount and accuracy of information you get from your Feed Test will make a big difference on how its used and ultimately on animal performance. For example, we know the Forage Lab Australia Assay (www.foragelabsaustralia.com.au ) very well and have great confidence in the values measured and the recommendations that come with it. Why? Because they are built over 40 years and more than 400,000 samples per year pass through the base calibrations from Cumberland Valley Assay Services (CVAS) in the USA. CVAS is the mostly highly rated Forage lab in the USA. You and we can trust the Feed Tests done with their calibrations.
Let’s look at some of the options and features you may consider.
How many parameters do you get with your Feed Test? Put simply a more complete description of fodder requires more numbers to show more nutrient levels, and better performance prediction
You need to be able to trust the numbers from your Feed Test. We believe Forage Labs Australia use the best calibrations in the world for your Fodder assay.
What sort of technical support do you get from your Feed Test lab? Are there experienced nutritionists you can seek advice from available? Or are you on your own with a simple set of numbers?
What does it cost?
Using a detailed and accurate forage analysis will give you a far greater opportunity to optimise animal performance. We also strongly support the use of a qualified nutritionist to assist in designing your feed program.
When to test silage
To get an accurate and reliable forage assay for your silage it is best to take your sample after the silage has completed its fermentation process, to reach stable state is generally a minimum 6 weeks after being ensiled.
There are three main phases of silage fermentation
- Aerobic phase – the more O2 the lower the potential quality of the silage and faster degradation of quality
- Fermentation phase – silage acid production for forage preservation. You can see a breakdown of your silage acids on your Forage Lab Australia report.
- Stable phase – feed is ready to use.
Using a thermometer to check for stable state by monitoring the temperature change daily until there is no change is an excellent way to check if you have achieved stable state and the silage is no longer changing quality.
- 60-70 % lactic acids of total acids (3-8 % DM grass or 4 – 8 % DM Maize)
- Lactic acid : acetic acid – 3:1
- Butyric acid <0.5 % (less is better)
- Propionic acid < 0.5 %
A feed testing sampling corer is the best way to acquire a sample of the silage, as you are able to sample a number of different bales areor areas on a silage pit. When sampling stacks/pits, it is recommended to take multiple samples from the face (after removing that days feed) as you move further in, and also retest regularly as you work your way through the stack.
Canola Feed Test by NIR in Australia
Forage Lab Australia can test canola hay and canola silage via NIR with a 2-3 day turnaround at no extra charge.
Canola forage is a common feed source this in 2018/19 year due to the number of failed ’18 crops that have been salvaged for animal feed.
As we have seen on the number of feed analysis of canola through the lab, this can be a good source of protein and energy, with lower NDF than some other hays or silages.
The most crucial component to measure in canola forage is measuring the Soluble Protein content and nitrate level. Due to the nature of canola, they can have abnormally high nitrate content compared to other animal feeds. The amount of nitrates can vary significantly between samples, therefore we highly recommend testing.
The A1 basic NIR will provide all your standard parameters and give a “low”, “medium” or “high” indicator for nitrates for $61.00 + GST. However, for a specific accurate reading we recommend the A1 + DCAD, which includes wet chemistry analysis and provides the A1 NIR, mineral levels and nitrate level for $136.00 + GST.
Non-standard feed samples
Forage Lab Australia are able to provide an extensive range of testing for all your byproduct or alternative feeds such as fruit, vegetables, chocolate, lollies, native grasses, brewers grains and many more.
Due to the number of samples we receive of alternative feeds compared to standard forages and grains, we do not have an NIR calibration set for all byproducts.
Due to our passion and standard of only providing the most accurate results possible, thousands of samples are built into each calibration and regularly backed up and updated with wet chemistry. Therefore to ensure we always provide the best answers, some of our alternative samples we receive must be completed via wet chemistry at our parent lab, Cumberland Valley Analytical Services in the United States. For this comprehensive analysis we require 2-3 weeks to comprehensively test your feeds.
Please do not hesitate to contact our friendly team if you have any questions.
How to take a feed sample?
To achieve accurate results, quality in is quality out. It is very important to get a representative sample of your feed.
With silage and hay this can be difficult, therefore we recommend using a corer for these samples.
Additionally, it can still be challenging to get a representative sample of silage stacks, therefore it can be best to take one sample before opening (after fermentation process is complete) to understand the average quality, followed by a number of tests off the face as you move through.
You can use any clean bag or container that will keep the sample together. A large to A4 size Ziploc bag works best, especially for silage as you want to remove as much oxygen as possible and prevent any leaking in the postage.
A clean plastic bottle or jar respectively that will not leak, placed inside a sealed Ziploc bag.
Forage and Grain
- NIR 100-200g
- Wet Chemistry – 200g minimum
- For any additional tests provide an extra 25g
As an easy guide, more is better so 1/2 - 2/3 of an A4 ziploc bag is a good amount , especially if you would like additional tests after you receive your initial results. For grain a small size Ziploc bag is appropriate.
- Livestock Suitability Package 500 ml
- E.coli 200 ml
- Salmonella 1 Litre
- 500 g frozen in an airtight plastic jar, with airspace allowed and placed in a zoploc bag.
For fast turnaround express shipping will get the samples to us faster, to process and get back to you in a timely manner.
If posting silage, pasture or manure make sure to send express on a Monday or Tuesday to prevent sitting in the post during the weekend.
And don’t forget to include a submission form with your details and test types, this can be found on the Forage Lab Australia website under “Forms and Pricing”
Public Holiday Delays
Forage Lab Australia is based in Bendigo, Victoria and the parent lab, Cumberland Valley Analytical Services (CVAS) is based in Pennsylvania, United States.
The reason we include the American public holidays is because all of our NIR reports are double & Triple checked in the US. They are first checked in Australia by our Forage Lab team and then overnight they are checked by our international data specialist Meryl, who has been working with the CVAS family since its beginning. Meryl checks each value to ensure it is at its highest accuracy before being released into a Forage Lab Report. Therefore, some delays can be expected when there is either a public holiday in Australia or America.
Australian Public Holidays (Victoria) 2019
- 1 Jan New Year's Day
- 28 Jan Australia Day Holiday
- 11 Ma Labour Day
- 19 Apr Good Friday
- 20 Apr Day following Good Friday
- 21 Apr Easter Sunday
- 22 Apr Easter Monday
- 25 Apr Anzac Day
- 10 Jun Queen's Birthday
- 27 Sep AFL Grand Final Friday
- 5 Nov Melbourne Cup Day
- 25 Dec Christmas Day
- 26 Dec Boxing Day
American Public Holidays
- 1 Jan New Year's Day
- 21 Jan Martin Luther King Jr. Day
- 18 Feb Presidents' Day
- 27 May Memorial Day
- 04 Jul Independence Day
- 02 Sep Labor Day
- 14 Oct Columbus Day
- 11 Nov Veterans Day
- 28 Nov Thanksgiving
- 29 Nov Day after Thanksgiving
- 25 Dec Christmas Day
Understanding your energy calculation for feed tests
Forage Lab Australia energy values; some realism is valuable
Periodically we are asked at Forage Lab “why are my energy levels a bit lower than some labs on a forage lab assay?”
Our response is a balanced one and runs along these lines…
Energy is a catch all term, and the number generated as MJ/kg of Metabolizable energy or Net energy is in fact not a directly measured number in any lab.
Energy is a number that is calculated or derived from measurements of other nutritional parameters, and we then use those numbers to predict an energy value.
There are numerous methods of predicting an energy level, with various equations available using measurements of different feed parameters, and then predicting an energy from that. The input parameters are not consistent across all equations, and even with the same inputs different equations can produce different energy outcomes.
So, it comes as no surprise that on the same fodder, we can get very different energy levels predicted from different equations. The question then becomes, what are the good methods to use?
As an affiliate of the large Cumberland valley lab in USA, we choose to employ the equations of the highly esteemed Professor Bill Weiss of The Ohio State university. These are widely accepted as the standard to adhere to in the ruminant sector of the USA and across much of the world. They come with the well sorted research background efforts of Professor Weiss, who is widely acclaimed for his research efforts in ruminant nutrition and physiology. Professor Weiss is also the chairman of the current National Research Council (NRC) on dairy. The NRC set the accepted standards for dairy nutrition globally through its NRC books published periodically.
The equations in use include a number of parameters including protein, NDF, NDF digestibility, lignin, fat, ash. All of these parameters can be accurately and directly measured, and with these numbers we are able to use Professor Weiss’s equations to predict energy. They are complex equations but produce reliable and realistic predictions of energy levels.
We use the term reliable and realistic for good reason. The aim of forage assays is NOT to produce an energy, fibre, protein or other nutrient number that is just “larger” for nutritional parameters of our feedstuff. The aim is to produce a set of nutrient outputs that are accurate and will reflect likely animal performance.
Simply getting a higher ME number on a hay at one lab vs another won’t make the hay perform any better. The number you want is the one that best reflects likely production outcomes in meat or milk.
At forage lab Australia, we feel our methodology is objective, well supported by university work and excellent; importantly it does indeed produce energy predictions that are closely in line with how the animal see’s things.
We are well aware that some labs are generating higher ME numbers on a forage than Forage lab Australia. That clearly doesn’t make the result a better result for the animal. We remain happy and confident that our slightly more modest numbers are well based when the implications of things like ash, lignin, NDF digestibility and so on are considered. If your lab is not generating these numbers for consideration and display on your lab analysis, perhaps the energy predication displayed may lack a bit as well.
Generating a reliable energy value goes hand in hand with a generating more comprehensive forage report overall.
In a broader context, it’s fair to say that forage lab assays are designed by and for people who want reliable and realistic predictions of a wide range of nutrients. This includes but is not limited to a realistic energy value.
With forage lab assays you can be confident that the numbers will relate accurately to resulting animal performance
- Sugars / Soluble Carbohydrates
Forage Lab Australia provide Water Soluble Carbohydrates (or Sugars) on all hay samples in addition to Ethanol Soluble Carbohydrates.
ESC – Ethanol Soluble Carbohydrates is a measure of simple sugars capturing monosaccharides, disaccharides, oligosaccharides and some of the fructans.
WSC - As per ESC this is a measure of sugars but captures more of the fructans within feeds. Therefore, WSC will be slightly higher than ESC.
- Equine energy equation
The equine Energy calculation and the Non-Structural Carbohydrates (NSC) are both based on the Water Soluble Carbohydrates (WSC), as opposed to Ethanol Soluble Carbohydrates (ESC).
This has been adjusted as of February 2019 therefore numbers on recent tests may appear higher on comparable feeds that were tested prior to February 2019.
- High ash content
In the past our lab has offered the services to recheck values by chemistry that were not conducive to NIR analysis due to a high concentration of inorganic material within the sample. This is a costly and inefficient exercise for all parties involved as high ash material should be done through wet chemistry procedures for accurate results.
Starting January 3rd, 2019 we will no longer be performing NIR 4 verification on all samples that have an ash value of 20% or above. The samples will be reported as is with the following memo:
“This sample has excessive ash and will not be read well by NIR. We would recommend a wet chemistry package be selected such as B2 Wet Chemistry package. Alternatively, take another sample with less soil/contamination and send in for a standard NIR. Please call our office if you would like to change to a chemistry-based package”
As a way to streamline efficiency for our clients, our affiliates, and ourselves we feel that any client who estimates that they may have a sample with inorganic contamination resulting in high ash should request chemistry packages in lieu of NIR. This will allow us to facilitate their needs as accurately and effectively as possible. We will still be performing NIR 4 verifications for other circumstances as usual, but will be changing our procedure for high ash samples only at this time. If there are any questions please direct them to our office.