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DELVING DEEPER INTO FORAGE

New forage analysis technology that will help farmers and nutritionists make better use of homegrown fodder through more accurate and reliable evaluation is now available in the UK.  Eurofins Agro UK, an agricultural materials analysis specialist, is launching a combination of laboratory testing and SCiO, a handheld device, which will enable farmers to draw on global data index figures and benchmark values to measure forage more accurately than ever before.

Eurofins has developed the most comprehensive database of forage samples to analyse and benchmark forage. The global benchmark values and rumen character charts are being made available to farmers in the UK for the first time. “Using Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) we dry and grind forage samples before analysing them. This removes any inconsistencies in the shape and density of the sample to provide the most accurate result,” says Daniel Robinson, Eurofins Agro UK, Managing Director. “The properties of the forage sample are then fed into our unique rumen character charts that show the nutritional value of the sample against a number of parameters,” he adds.

Adjusting the TMR can be achieved more accurately and consistently by using regular testing. “Understanding the make up of forage enables farmers and their nutritionists to judge what additional supplements may be required. Our tests show the nutritional value of forage to the rumen, which is a fundamental part of creating the correct TMR,” explains Mr Robinson. By using the tests, farmers will receive the most accurate forage measurement to enable them to maximise profit and yield by adjusting the ration to the optimum level. “Weighing a ration is one thing but understanding the exact make up of that ration is a new level of precision,” says Mr Robinson.

Data from the samples provided is analysed for dry matter content, pH levels, ME and 23 other parameters. “By removing the moisture in the sample, we are essentially removing the ‘fog’ that other tests cannot see through. Drying the sample leaves only the solid content which once ground to a consistent 1mm thickness is exposed to the infrared light to provide greater detail than any other test on the market,” explains Mr Robinson. Uniquely, Eurofins can identify and test samples using only data generated about that forage type. “We are the only company that can test against specific forage types. This means we can identify that a sample is made up of grass or maize, or beans, and benchmark it against datasets that only include other like for like samples. The accuracy is unparalleled,” he says.

All samples sent to Eurofins are saved into the company’s global database to be used for future benchmarking. The farmer receives a report that draws on this database to offer more detailed and accurate forage insight. “We have developed an unrivalled database for dried and ground analysis containing thousands of NIR-spectra generated samples.  The number of data-points is far greater than those contained within the conventional databases used in the UK. By means of a mathematical model, based on a local calibration, we are able to derive a greater number of parameters for a wider range of forage types, raw materials and TMR,” says Mr Robinson.

In conjunction with laboratory testing, Eurofins has also launched a new handheld testing device called SCiO. “SciO enables farmers to test forage as often as is needed. It is best used to measure forage between lab tests to help farmers adjust to climatic changes or heating in the clamp,” says Mr Robinson. The device is cloud based and is constantly updated with new data from Eurofins’ central database. It costs £400 and carries a subscription of £50 per month which includes unlimited testing and an initial laboratory test to start the process.