Handheld silage analysis device enables daily testing

Eurofins Agro UK, an analytical services company, has launched a handheld silage analysis device along with a new set of indexes to help farmers improve their feeding accuracy and silage making.

The business, which uses the less common method of dried and ground Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) to analyse silage, believes this level of testing and data will help farmers adjust feeding strategies more accurately.

The purpose of the handheld analyser called SCiO, which uses NIRs technology, is to enable farmers to test dry matter between usual silage testing so that rations can be adjusted accordingly.

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Eurofins Agro UK managingdirector Daniel Robinson explains: “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.”

“Understanding the makeup 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 total mixed ration (TMR),” he adds.

The cloud-based device costs £400 and carries a subscription of £50 per month which includes unlimited testing and an initial laboratory test to start the process.

New indexes

Eurofins has also launched new indexes which will give farmers a summary of information on grass and clamp management, which aim to be easier to interpret than a lengthy report.

The results can be compared to a rolling five-year UK average, as well as a target range.

The new indexes are:

Conservation Index: shows how well conserved the silage is, what the losses are in the fermentation process

Parameters used to develop index: DM%, pH, NDF, ammonia fraction, acetic acid, propionic acid, butyric acid etc

Heating Index: shows if the clamp is likely to suffer aerobic spoilage once opened

Parameters used to develop index: DM%, pH, NDF, ammonia fraction, acetic acid, propionic acid etc

N Index: shows if nitrogen application and mowing timing was optimal

Parameters used to develop index: Nitrate, CP, NDF, ammonia, crude ash etc

S Index: shows if sulphur provision was insufficient, optimal or excessive

Parameters used to develop index: Sulphur, CP, NDF, Crude ash etc (requires mineral analysis)

Gerrard Abbink, an independent agricultural consultant and farmer, believes that the sulphur index is particularly valuable given that 50% of UK silages show sulphur-deficiency and sulphur is so key to yielding protein.