Archive: Help needed with grass clover silage project

Published 1 August 14

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Reliable NIRS analysis for clover and grass silages

Anna Thompson, research technician at the University of Reading, explains why and how she needs your help.

Here at the University of Reading, as part of the DairyCo Research Partnership on Soils, Forage and Grassland in conjunction with the FAA (Forage Analytical Assurance Group), we carry out an exciting investigation into improving the reliability of using Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) for analysing grass clover silage.

At present, most silage analyses in the UK are undertaken by NIRS analysis, this involves using infrared light reflectance to detect certain organic compounds in materials such as feedstuffs. This technique allows inexpensive, rapid and reliable analysis of silage. However, the NIRS calibration equations, which are currently used for silage analysis, do not account for the inclusion of clover in the sample and as a result may introduce some error.

Our hope is to assemble a robust calibration set of 90 different silage samples, from a widespread area, with which to test the accuracy of the current NIRS analysis equations. To achieve this, we’re looking for farmers who like to contribute by allowing us to collect a sample of their grass clover silage.

What is the project about?

This work forms part of a larger project, aiming to increase the viability of home-grown protein inputs, and also targets sustainable production of livestock feed. In this section of the study, it is hoped that a NIRS analysis equation appropriate for grass clover mixtures can be developed. Our analysis of the silage will also help inform how current farm management practices can influence quality.

How will farmers benefit?

With the rising costs associated with protein inputs for animal diets, the use of legume crops is ever more important to profitable farming systems, especially in the organic sector. Ensuring bespoke analyses are available for forages containing clover, will allow farmers to achieve greater accuracy when including grass clover silage into diet formulas. This in turn reduces the need for bought-in proteins and optimising animal performance.

How can you get involved?

If you’re a farmer who grows grass clover mixtures for silage making and would be happy for us to collect a sample, we want to hear from you! The silages we’re looking for can be from a clamp or baled but must have an estimated clover content of 20% or higher. One bale or the equivalent in clamp silage is sufficient. To make the process as quick and easy as possible, we send a collection team directly to your farm, at a time that suits you. Compensation can be provided at the current market value.

Contact us

For more information, or if you would like to contribute a silage sample, contact:

Mr Dave Humphries

Centre for Dairy Research, Arborfield, Reading RG2 9HX

 Farm office: 01189 761 722