Rock River Laboratory Data Distillations HeaderData Distillations

Data Distillations is published monthly and utilizes Rock River Laboratory’s vast database of feedstuff information from across the United States, along with our expert team, to share important insights.

In an effort to help the agriculture industry stay in front of challenges and opportunities with available feedstuffs, relevant graphs will be shared, along with what our team members are gleaning based on those graphs. Prepare for and remedy the ups and downs of feedstuffs components you utilize in your rations with the help of another set of eyes. Sign up to receive alerts when new Data Distillations are available each month by completing the thirty-second form at the bottom of this page.

We’ve spent over 40 years equipping the agriculture industry with the tools and answers needed to make decisions for successful outcomes. Our team is happy to help provide additional insights to our accurate analysis of your customer’s feedstuffs. Give us a call or send us an e-mail today to learn more.


May 14th, 2019 Insights

Author: Mark Kirk

Small grain silages

What is the state of this year’s small grain forage? Can these forages rescue us from the low-quality corn silage and poor hay we put up in 2018? Let's take a look at what we are seeing thus far in the samples coming through Rock River Laboratory.

In Figure 1, Dry Matter for Small Grains Silage, we can see that they have reached optimum dry matter so far this year. Remember that achieving high-quality benchmarks with any forage begins with a timely harvest – not necessarily just when the sun is shining, but when plant dry matters are optimum.

Figure 1

Figure 1_Plot of Dry Matter for Small Grains Silage_Rock River Laboratory database

As a result of proper dry matter, the NDFD30 for 2019 (Figure 2, NDFD30 for Small Grains Silage)  is holding strong and keeping up with the previous years’ trends, whereas the silages in the East are out-performing silages from the Midwest and West. After a slight dip in NDFD30 in Midwest silages, it appears there is a recovery happening.

Figure 2

Figure 2_Plot of NDFD30 for Small Grains Silage_Rock River Laboratory database

Figure 3, TTNDFD for Small Grains Silage, demonstrates that there is greater separation or differences in the regional measurements than we find if only reviewing NDFD30. Silages from the East are still leading the pack with greater TTNDFD, while silages from the Midwest are out-performing Western silages.

Figure 3

Figure 3_Plot of TTNDFD for Small Grains Silage_Rock River Laboratory database

These graphs provide hope that this year’s small grain silages may supply the extra boost needed to start the recovery from 2018’s poor-quality forages.


April 15th, 2019 Insights

Author: John Goeser

Unique 2018 feeding value wasn’t just about corn silage

When pulling a number database trend graphics together for upcoming industry meetings, I stumbled upon several telling graphics showcasing corn grain nutritional value. In many areas, butterfat and milk components have been very strong. However, the strength in butterfat may soon waiver, with warmer temperatures and wild yeast loads present in silage coming on as indicated on the right-hand side of Figure 1. One overlooked component to the strong milk fat and protein production the past few months is likely corn grain.

Figure 1: Total yeast counts (colony forming unit, CFU, per g) in feeds analyzed by Rock River Laboratory for the US, since 2017.

Data Distillations_Yeast

Corn grain feed value depends on several things, including growing conditions (environment), genetics, grain maturity (i.e. milk line), particle size, and fermentation extent. The finer the particle size and the greater the fermentation extent, the better the feeding value. However, with limited ensiling potential and more mature grain, both of which are correlated to grain dry matter, rumen starch digestibility and feed values are tempered. The 2018 corn grain crop, now well documented within Rock River Laboratory’s database, is solidly showcasing its feed value.

The 2018 crop, being fed out from September 2018 through today, looks to be markedly drier than prior crops, as evidenced in Figure 2. The average dry matter looks to be well above 70 percent (or significantly less than 30 percent moisture) for the 2018 crop. Contrast this to years past, and you’ll notice moistures for the Midwest and Northeastern US trended closer to, or greater than, 30 percent.

Figure 2: Corn grain dry matter content for US samples analyzed by Rock River Laboratory since 2017.

Data Distillations_Corn Grain Dry Matter

What does a drier corn grain mean? Likely drier corn correlates with a harder (more mature) grain and less fermentation potential. Both of these factors affect rumen starch digestibility, which we can now better directly view via Figure 3. Rumen starch digestibility appears to be 5 to 10 units off of the 2017 crop, and these differences appear to be present through to April. Lesser rumen starch potential equates to alternate rumen microbial growth patterns and could be a contributing factor toward substantially greater milk components. Prior to today, the discussion has focused on silage, however, the story looks to extend to grains as well.

Figure 3: In situ rumen starch digestibility (percent of starch, 7 hr) for US samples analyzed by Rock River Laboratory since 2017.

Data Distillations_In Situ Starch D in Corn Grain

To check grain potential, consider checking both fecal starch (to assess total tract starch digestibility, for dairy or beef manure) and grain rumen starch digestibility. Consult with the Rock River Laboratory nutrition support team for additional guidelines, and to help with results interpretation.


March 12th, 2019 Insights

Author: Cliff Ocker

Feedstuff Fatty Acid Content and Variation

As Nutritionists, we do not accept book values for crude protein (CP), neutral detergent fiber (NDF), and starch in our forages, so why are we accepting book values for fatty acids and why are we comfortable using total fat values in our diets? Similar to crude protein being broken down into individual amino acids, fat can also be broken down into individual fatty acids. Fatty acids are nutritionally the most important part of fat and are 2.25 times more energy-rich than carbohydrates and proteins in the diet. 

With energy often being the most limiting nutrient in the diet, we should look closer at these values, yet we regularly rely on book values for fatty acid supply. Note the variation of ether extract (fat) and total fatty acids in a couple of forages [below], but also observe the difference in ether extract (EE) versus total fatty acids (TFA). A fatty acid profile is available, by NIR, on your forage samples via Rock River Laboratory’s Comprehensive Nutrient Package.

Data Distillations_Haylage Fat Content Graph

Data Distillations_Corn Silage Fat Content Graph

One popular thought is, “If the level of fatty acid (FA) in a forage is low enough, why should I bother?” Keep in mind that typically, the largest part of the diet is forage and it can have a compounding effect. This can change the fatty acid profile in a total mixed ration (TMR) significantly. Using book values versus actual FA values in the diet can change the FA supply from 10 percent to 50 percent, significantly affecting the diet and cow performance.  Additionally, forages can contribute more than you think to the Rumen unsaturated fatty acid load (RUFAL) (C18:1, 2 and 3), as noted in the chart below:

Data Distillations_Fatty Acid Content in Feedstuffs Table

As we head into warmer temperatures, keep in mind that there is a seasonal effect on how fats are metabolized within the cow.  Ration adjustments should be considered to help maintain energy levels, milk fat, and animal health and performance.


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Rock River Laboratory

Founded in 1976, Rock River Laboratory is a family-owned laboratory network that provides production assistance to the agricultural industry through the use of advanced diagnostic systems, progressive techniques, and research-supported analyses.  Employing a team of top specialists in their respective fields, Rock River Laboratory provides accurate, cost-effective, and timely analytical results to customers worldwide, while featuring unsurpassed customer service.

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