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© 1989, The Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska on behalf of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension. All rights reserved.


This NebGuide provides tips on how to determine feeds you should analyze and nutrients to measure. It tells how to interpret the results of feed analysis.

Why Test Feeds?

Nutrient concentration can vary considerably in feeds, especially forages. Protein in alfalfa hay can range from 10 to 25 percent or more of the dry matter; grass hay will contain between four and 18 percent protein.

Use feed tests to target specific feeds to different livestock. Feed high quality forage to the most productive livestock or when nutrient needs are highest. Feed lower quality forage to animals with lower nutrient needs.

Feed tests can help establish the dollar value of a forage, in the cash market or in personal use inventories. Use these tests to establish the value of your forage and to help determine what forages to feed, buy, or sell.

Forage tests are useful to evaluate production practices like fertilization, time of harvest, method of harvest, etc., that may influence forage quality. Management skills can improve by learning how changes in production practices affect the quality of your forages.

Livestock are most productive when fed a ration balanced according to their nutrient needs. Unfortunately, many rations are balanced using average values for each feedstuff. These so-called "book values" often result in over- or under-feeding certain nutrients. More economical and better balanced rations can be formulated using nutrient concentrations determined from feed analysis.