Changing the way forages are analysed for the better

The introduction of the portable NIR4 Farm forage analyser has forever changed how Ruminant Nutritionist Hefin Richards delivers advice to his customers on-farm.

The Profeed Nutritionist explains in the below video that using NIR4 Farm means that forage results are available in minutes and not days.

This allows them to be discussed while still with the farmer and any changes to the ration or feed management, that are needed, can be implemented immediately.

Launched by AB Vista in 2015, NIR4 Farm is a hand-held NIR (near infrared) spectrometer capable of real-time analysis of forages – grazed grass, clamped silage or haylage – and moist feeds.

And it’s having a major impact wherever it’s been adopted.

Vital on-farm tool

Another nutritionist who’s been using the technology extensively is KW’s Dr. Matt Witt and during the past 15 months NIR4 Farm has become a vital tool on-farm.

“It means that when I’m with the customer, troubleshooting or looking to make decisions about the ration, I’m working with up-to-date facts about forage quality, not estimates or past data.

“The end result is greater feeding precision, better feed efficiency and, ultimately, increased margins and profitability for the customer,” he said.

Video: Learn more about the full benefits of NIR4 Farm

Benefits of NIR4 Farm:
  • Real-time forage and moist feed analysis.
  • Accurate data for troubleshooting and ration formulation.
  • Rapid decision making before leaving the farm.
  • Web portal to access and analyse results.
  • NIR calibrations regularly updated to maintain accuracy.
  • The result? More consistent nutrient supply to the cow and greater feed efficiency.

Forage quality variation

Data from an analysis carried out at Moulton College last year showed that even across a single clamp face, maize silage dry matter varied by nearly 8%, NDF content by 3%, starch by 9% and energy levels by 0.5 MJ ME/kg DM.

The results came from ten samples taken across the full width of the face and matched similar results seen in grass silages.

*as measured by NIR4 Farm
*as measured by NIR4 Farm

maize silage 2

Rapid analysis benefits

One of the farms where Dr. Witt used NIR4 Farm was that of Michael George, who runs 1,500 Holsteins across two farms near Haverfordwest in the UK – in partnership with his brother Roland and two sons, James and Charles.

Farm facts:
  • Brynhyfryd Holsteins.
  • 1,300 cows in milk.
  • Herd averaging 36L/cow/day at 4% butterfat.
  • Cows are housed year-round.
  • Diet based heavily on conserved forages.

When milk yields dropped early last year, Dr. Witt was quickly able to diagnose the problem using NIR4 Farm – a difference in energy content of around 1MJ ME/kg DM between the top and bottom of the grass silage clamp being fed.

“The portable NIR highlighted just how big the variation in forage feed value can be, not just between clamps, but also within the same clamp,” Michael George stated.

“We could see the dividing line on the clamp face, but we had no idea the difference in feed value was so great.

“Once we knew, we could make sure equal amounts of silage were taken from both areas to keep an even mix,” he added.

Feed decision support

NIR4 Farm also works for fresh grass and moist feeds.

It’s enabled Dr. Witt to explain to other customers why certain fields produce better quality silage when cut, or higher milk yields when grazed, and proven invaluable for checking the dry matter and protein content of moist feeds.

13981 - NIR4 for Liquorice

Helping work out the potential value of bought-in forages has been another benefit.

“The time saved compared to the traditional approach of taking samples, posting them to the laboratory and waiting for the result, is a big plus,” he added.

“Rather than the results coming back when you’ve mentally moved on, you can have the conversation about what the results mean there and then, on the farm, when the issues are fresh in everyone’s mind and the cows are in front of you.”

More information

For more information check out the video, call the AB Vista office on +44 28 9447 3478 or the AB Vista Nutritionist Martin McConnell on 086 8109398, where you can also book an NIR4 Farm demonstration.