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5 Tests

5 Tests You Can Do to Increase Your Profitability

Postive Feed, Ltd. has been doing research and development for many years. We have found that these 5 Tests help cattlemen gather information they need to get better performance from their cattle and achieve higher profitability.

It is important to look at facts, not guesswork, and understand today’s technology in order to take full advantage of its benefits. For example, why would someone fertilize a pasture before knowing what kind of nutrients were already there?

The following are suggestions on how to collect the needed samples to help analyze your situation.

1. Soil Analysis

Soil testing is a means to determine the nutrient supplying power of your soil. The sample should be as representative of the area as possible so the lab results can accurately measure the nutrient status of the sample. Sampling areas may include 20 – 60 acres depending on soil consistency. Scrape surface litter away and take sample to 7 inches or tillage depth. Due to soil variations, core samples should be obtained from 15 locations within the test area (see diagram). You may sample the soil with an auger, soil sampling tool or spade. Sample tubes or augers should be stainless steel or chrome plated. When using a pail to collect soil, it should be plastic to avoid contamination from trace elements. Vegetable oil can be used for lubrication of the probe.

Mix various core samples together and take a subsample of 1 cup to 1 1/2 cups to be put in sample bag. Then identify sample bag by name, number and field number.

Soils that differ in soil type, appearance, crop growth or past treatment should be sampled separately. Avoid small areas that are dead furrows, end rows or are poorly drained. Depending on type of forage to be used, the following methods of taking soil are recommended.

Sampling Depth
  • Tillage method – 0-4″ and 4″-8″.
  • Crop – take sample at main root system levels. Sample should not include roots and organic surface material.
  • Herbicide Residue Sampling – depth is usually 3-4 inches.
  • Sampling for Nitrate, Ammonia Nitrogen and Soluble Salts – Nitrate and ammonia levels may change rapidly if sample is stored moist and warm. Nitrate Nitrogen leaches easily. Deeper samples are required to determine available nitrogen in soil. Take sample from 2-3 foot depth with 7 inch to 1 foot increments to make composite samples. Soluble salts samples should follow same system as nitrate instructions.
  • Subsoil sampling – samples can be collected from chemical or physical characteristics of subsoil layers. Separate samples from plow depth and subsurface can be taken if sodium or salinity problems are suspected.
2. Forage Analysis

The growth stage at which hay is harvested has the largest effect on hay quality. This is especially true for warm season perennial grasses, like bermuda and bahia.

Research has revealed that digestibility and protein levels in Coastal bermuda grass are much higher if the grass has grown for only four weeks, compared to that grown for eight weeks before harvest. Other grasses also lose quality as they age. To obtain high quality grass hay it is important to harvest it at a young growth stage. Bermudagrass should be cut after four weeks for highest quality. Bahiagrass and dallisgrass should also be cut after a similar period. Harvest johnsongrass, pearl millet, or sorghum – sudangrass hybrids at an earlier boot stage or a height of about 40 inches, whichever comes first. Clovers should be cut at an early flowering stage.

Collecting Good Samples For Analysis
  • Sample hay cut from one field at a time. It should be the same variety, fertilized alike, harvested and stored the same.
  • Take a reliable sample with a tube-type hay probe. Sample square bales from the end with cores taken near the center of the end. Sample a minimum of 10 bales (up to 20 is better) from one field and combine cores into composite sample. For large round bales, sample from the side with the probe aimed toward the center of the bale. Include two areas of each large round bale and a minimum of five bales per field. Combine the cores into a composite sample.
  • Place the composite sample for a field into a plastic freezer bag and seal tightly, eliminating as much air as possible.
3. Water Analysis

Imbalanced water can be costly for the cattle rasier. Many of us would be amazed at the fact that an excessive pH factor in some water results in a noticable deficiency in the cattle in that pasture.

Water sources, especially those from the surface or shallow wells, are subject to sudden changes in composition from natural or human causes.

The basic water test for livestock suitability should measure: sodium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, electrical conductivity, sulfate, nitrate and pH content.

When taking a water sample, cleanliness is extremely important. If the sample or container is contaminated with bacteria from human hands or other sources, the coliform bacteria test may be positive, even though the water is not contaminated. It is preferable to use a clean plastic container that has been rinsed several times. Sample should be sent to the laboratory as quickly as possible, and should be refrigerated if there is a delay from sample to shipping.

4. Blood Analysis

Advancements in scientific analysis are making it abundantly clear there are proven ways to solve growth, development and production problems in cattle.

Blood sampling is proving to be an important segment in diagnosing and overcoming nutrional deficiencies or imbalances in cattle. Blood samples should be taken and laboratory analysis interpreted by a qualified veterinarian.

Parameters including albumin level, globulin ratio, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), glucose and mineral levels can provide evidence of nutritional deficiencies and can be used to confirm diagnoses of diseases or metabolic disorders.

Results of blood analysis may be affectd by the method and time of sampling as well as the handling and processing of the sample. For these reasons it is most important to have professionals doing the blood work.

5. Fecal Analysis

Cattle are subject to a number of internal parasites which rob the animal from obtaining proper nutrition from forage and feed. In addition, many internal parasites are blood suckers, causing anemia, poor growth, rough coats and sometimes death.

Three kinds of stomach worms, all blood suckers, in laymen’s terms are: the large stomach worm; the medium or brown stomach worm, and the small stomach worm.

The bovine hookworm may also be found in the small intestine, but they attach to the walls of the intestines. There may also be tapeworms in the small intestine.

Cattle may also have 13 species of coccidia, which may cause diarrhea. The build-up of these parasites can be devastating to calves.

Nodular worms occur in the colon. The larvae cause most damage in the small and large intestine.

Even the liver and bile ducts are inhabited by the common liver fluke. Extreme cases cause diarrhea and in large numbers may cause prostration in calves.

Fecal specimens for microscopic examination must be properly collected for reliable analysis. Freshly expelled fecal material should be collected. Avoid contamination with dirt, straw or other extraneous materials. Repeated examinations provide more accurate results. Collection of several lumps of feces and placing it in a plastic freezer bag with a closure will enable the veterinarian to make an accurate analysis. Each specimen should be identified by livestock number or description.

In order to insure accuracy, observe closely so the specimen truly represents a specific animal. The veterinarian will, through flotation or other methods, determine whether larvae, eggs, or protozoan cysts are present and to what degree.