Data Distillations header image Data 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.


October 18th, 2019 Insights

Author: John Goeser, PhD, PAS

What's hiding in your TMR?

With an unparalleled start and finish to the growing season for many farms across the US, the primary concern has been harvesting crops to be ensiled at ideal maturities and dry matter. As the harvest eventually winds down, the focus will turn toward better understanding of the forage quality in silos. And remember, quality is defined as both energy value per pound as well as the ensiled forages’ cleanliness. Clean forage is devoid of mold, yeast, bacteria, and mycotoxin contamination. 

As many ran out of forage earlier in the season, the 2019 hay, hayalge, and corn silage crop inclusion in total mixed rations (TMR) has come on quickly. Hence, reflecting on TMR contaminants can be a reasonable way to assess the latter quality definition for 2019 grown forages. 

Figure 1 demonstrates total yeast load in TMR for individual samples submitted and analyzed by Rock River Laboratory. Here we recognize an upward trend in total yeast load in diets across the US. This can equate to unstable rations in the feed bunk and even digestive upset. 

Figure 1: Yeast counts (CFU/g) for TMR submitted and analyzed by Rock River Laboratory since October 2017

Yeah counts for TMR submitted and analyzed by Rock River Laboratory since October 2017

Figure 2 portrays mold counts by quarter for the past two years and also separates the database by region with population distribution graphs. Here we recognize the Western US has numerically less mold levels lately as compared to  the Midwestern US, which appears to be on the upward swing. 

Figure 2: Mold counts (CFU/g) for TMR submitted and analyzed by Rock River Laboratory since October 2017

Mold counts (CFU/g) for TMR submitted and analyzed by Rock River Laboratory since October 2017

In Figure 3, we wrap our arms around one of the mycotoxins that some molds produce, vomitoxin. Here we can see that the Midwestern and Eastern US showcase above 1.0 ppm threshold levels across  several samples submitted to Rock River Laboratory.

Figure 3: Vomitoxin levels (ppm) for TMR submitted and analyzed by Rock River Laboratory since October 2017

Vomitoxin levels (ppm) for TMR submitted and analyzed by Rock River Laboratory since October 2017

Lastly, Figure 4 portrays total Enterobacteriaceae count as an indicator for undesirable bacterial contamination inTMR. The red line on the graphic represents an ideal (clean) level of around 100 to 200 colony forming units (CFU) of bacteria per gram. While low numbers of samples have been assayed recently, there appears to be an upward trend in this microbiology measure.

Figure 4: Enterobacteria counts (CFU/g) for TMR submitted and analyzed by Rock River Laboratory since October 2017

Enterobacteria counts (CFU/g) for TMR submitted and analyzed by Rock River Laboratory since October 2017

Recapping the microbial and vomitoxin measures, recognize that the extremely wet conditions for many in the Eastern and Northern half the US are contributing to the microbial growth and challenges. If your TMR is challenged with these, work backward and determine where the contamination is from. Identify both the factor at play (i.e. fungal or bacterial) and then work back to find the source to best mitigate the issue.


September 23rd, 2019 Insights

Author: Cliff Ocker

What can we learn from 0-hour starch digestibility?

As corn harvest is upon us, howbeit in various stages across the country, we start to look at the quality of what we just harvested.  In recent years, we have directed more of our attention to the digestibility of the nutrients in our forage and grain versus just the level of nutrients (fiber, starch, etc.).

For starch, we have looked primarily at a 7-hour digestibility value to help us capture the potentially digestible or rumen-available starch. I would like to draw your attention to an additional value to help us evaluate starch digestibility. For about five years, Rock River Laboratory has offered (as part of the Comprehensive Nutritional Analysis, CNA, by NIR) a 0-hour starch digestibility. This value can provide an edge on balancing diets as this value changes in forages and grains.

There are two main drivers of starch digestibility: moisture and particle size. A 0-hour time point provides a value for the small particle fraction that will pass through a 50-micron nylon bag, dipped in warm water, which helps quantify the very rapidly digested rumen starch. This is similar to adding corn starch to the diet, for rapid digestion or bug (microbes) food.

As shown in Figure 1 below, the 0-hour starch value will fluctuate over time in storage, just like the 3 and 7-hour values, so constant monitoring is important. Additionally, as shown in Figure 2, the 0-hour time point can be influenced significantly by the moisture of the crop at harvest. Rock River Laboratory has options to run samples by wet chemistry as well, with an ‘as fed’ particle size on corn grain to provide more accurate diet values. Please reach out to us for more details.

Figure 1

Rock River Laboratory database graph of 0 hour starch digestibility change over time in storage for corn silage

Figure 2

Rock River Laboratory graph of 0 hour starch digestibility by moisture content for corn grain and corn silage


August 15th, 2019 Insights

Author: Mark Kirk

Missing Crude Protein in 2019 Haylages 

Haylage has several beneficial nutritional characteristics that make it a high-quality feedstuff for dairy cows. These benefits come from a few different components, including structural fiber (i.e., neutral detergent fiber- NDF), protein, pectin, starch/sugar, minerals, and fat.

The protein component of haylage is very important as it is a critical, and expensive, nutrient in rations of dairy cows. Recommended Crude Protein (CP) levels in dairy diets range from 17 to 18 percent of dry matter (DM) in early lactation cows, but only as low as 12-13 percent in far-off dry cows. Having to buy protein sources to add to rations can be offset by growing and harvesting high-quality haylage that generally averages close to 20 percent CP as a percent of DM, and is substantially higher than the CP supplied by corn silage. 

Unfortunately, so far this year, samples of haylage submitted to Rock River Laboratory have seen a significant decrease in CP. The haylages from the West have held steady in their CP averages, while the haylages from the East have dipped slightly.Haylages from the Midwest have fallen off the greatest. 

Plot of Crude Protein for Haylage from Rock River Laboratory's database

Sometimes an increase in DM, because the crop has been harvested too mature, can cause a fall off of CP. From all indications, this does not appear to be the reason, as percent of DM has held relatively steady. 

Plot of Dry Matter for Haylage from Rock River Laboratory database


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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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