Analyses that contribute in assessing forage quality have become widely adopted by dairy producers. These evaluation methods have become highly influential when it comes to ingredient purchasing and diet formulation for dairy cattle.
Neutral Detergent Fiber determinations in cattle have become a necessity for producers. This is especially true for the dairy industry.
The ability of transforming fiber into energy and protein for human nutrition is a key role of ruminants within our food system. Ruminants’ unique capacity to digest fiber, a growing human population which increases competition over croplands, and higher feed concentrate prices are all reasons that highlight the importance of forage inclusion in ruminant nutrition. Therefore, being able to produce and include high-quality forages within dairy cow diets, is a key determinant in dairy farm profitability. Analyses that contribute in assessing forage quality have become widely adopted by dairy producers. These evaluation methods have become highly influential when it comes to ingredient purchasing and diet formulation for dairy cattle.
Neutral detergent fiber (NDF) is a measure of the proportion of cell wall in plant tissue, expressed as a proportion of total dry matter. Adequate NDF in dairy cow diets enables proper rumen function, but the challenge of feeding increasing neutral detergent fiber concentrations to high-producing dairy cows is that it may lead to excessive gut fill and limit feed intake.
The level of neutral detergent fibre in the animal ration influences the animal’s intake of dry matter and the time of rumination. NDF is the most common measure of fibre used for animal feed analysis. It measures most of the structural components in plant cells (i.e. lignin, hemicellulose, cellulose).
“When a forage has a very high NDF, it is negatively correlated with lower consumption. That is, the animal fills up faster. Forage with low Neutral Detergent Fiber means the cow has more food in the rumen and can produce more milk,” asserts Jorge Mario Noreña, agronomist and professor at the National University of Colombia in Medellín.”
|Optimum intake is achieved
when NDF content
|=||28% to 34 % of total diet dry matter|
|Maximum NDF intake
|Example: 1% x 600 kg cow = 6 kg of NDF from forage||=||1% of the cow’s body weight|
|Maximum NDF intake
in the total ration
|Example: 1.2% x 600 kg cow = 7.2 kg of NDF from the total diet||=||1.2% of body weight (1.3% for a high-producing cow)|
Feed analysis laboratories offer these NDF digestibility assays, but they are time-consuming for the lab and therefore costly. To reduce the cost of acquiring these estimates, many laboratories offer near infrared reflectance spectroscopy (NIRS) predictions of ivNDFD as an alternative to “wet chemistry.”
Near infrared assessment of NDFD
NIRS instruments bounce specific wavelengths of light off feed samples and measure the light absorbed or reflected back. The patterns of absorption and reflectance are indicative of the chemical composition of the feed material tested. To make use of these patterns, reference feeds are analyzed both with wet chemistry methods and by NIRS, and prediction equations are built from those relationships. It is important to note that NIRS analysis cannot be more accurate than wet chemistry analysis from that particular lab.
Best practices for NDFD analysis
To get the most value from investments in NDFD analysis, it is important to consider the following:
Legumes have less total NDF and lower NDF digestibility compared to grasses.
Grass silage and hay have a very wide range of NDF digestibility because grass species are so diverse and are utilised at extreme ranges in maturity (e.g. grazing vegetative grass versus feeding straw).
Corn silage can have a wide range of NDF digestibility, but it is uncommon to see the extremes because corn silage is harvested and stored within a relatively narrow range of maturity. Extremes in corn silage NDF digestibility can occur when corn silage is harvested at an over mature stage (NDF digestibility = low), or when a brown midrib variety is used (NDF digestibility = high).
Source:Abstract taken and modified from“Making use of NDF digestibility analyses for dairy cattle diets.”
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