You had your hay tested to make sure it will meet the nutritional needs of your animals . . .now what? What do all those numbers mean? Hopefully this will help!
Dry Matter (DM) is the amount of dry matter in the forage. It should be at least 80% but 85% and above is preferable to prevent heating during storage, forage deterioration and combustion.
Crude Protein (CP) is the amount of Nitrogen. It varies depending on species, stage of maturity and fertilization but is generally between 15-23% for legumes and 8-18% for grasses.
Unavailable Protein is the portion of protein that is bound and therefore un-useable by the animal. Small percentages of unavailable protein are normal.
Adjusted Crude Protein is the value used to evaluate the forage and balance rations. It will usually be the same as the Crude Protein value, unless significant heat damage has occurred.
Acid Detergent Fiber (ADF) uses 2 of the fiber components of the cell wall - lignin and cellulose, to determine how well the animal will be able to digest the forage. The higher the ADF, the lower the digestibility will be.
Neutral Detergent Fiber (NDF) is the total cell wall – lignin, cellulose and hemicellulose and is used to determine how much dry matter the animal can eat. As NDF increases, the dry matter intake usually decreases. This could affect the ability of the equine to eat enough feed to meet the daily nutritional requirements.
Digestive Energy (DE) is just a hint of what the actual amount of energy the animal has available for use might be. It is the gross energy in the forage minus the energy that is lost in feces.
Total Digestive Nutrients (TDN) is the sum of the digestible portions of protein, fat, fiber and other nutrients and gives us an approximate energy value of a forage. The higher the TDN, the better quality forage.
Non Fiber Carbohydrates (NFC) is the measure of the starch and simple sugars in a forage. These are particularly important for horses that are prone to laminitis and those that are insulin resistant.
Ash is the total mineral content of the forage. This includes the minerals inside the plant (internal) and those that are in the dirt picked up during the harvesting process (external). The average internal ash for legumes is around 8% and 6% for grasses, anything more would be from the external sources (dirt/soil accumulated during harvesting, raking and baling). The average ash content for all types of hay is between 9-10%.
Minerals are essential to the health and wellbeing of all animals. Most feed reports analyze forages for Calcium, Phosphorus, Sulfur, Magnesium, Sodium, Potassium, Copper, Iron, Manganese and Zinc. The daily recommended values of these minerals will change depending on age, weight and activity level so you should check with your veterinarian or local extension agent after receiving your results to see if your forage will meet these needs.
For more information about how to test your hay and interpret the report, contact your local livestock agent.