A rapid test that precisely measures rumen starch digestibility of feed ingredients is helping nutritionist Will VanNostran reduce his client herds’ ration costs.

He estimates savings from 5¢ to 10¢/cow/day depending on ingredient costs.

The test is part of a service called Calibrate Technologies, from Forage Genetics International. Nutritionists enter test results and ration information onto Calibrate’s online calculator, which assigns a rumen degradable starch score.

With that information, they can then balance the starch in the ration and many times substitute lower-priced feeds without lowering milk production, says VanNostran, of Mountain States Consulting, Clovis, NM.

It also helps properly balance for rumen-degradable starch, which can “eliminate” sub-acute ruminal acidosis problems, he says. “So you have a healthier animal, a healthier diet.

“What Calibrate is trying to do is take out variation,” the nutritionist says, with precise starch tests completed by labs certified to offer the technology. At this point, only Sure-Tech Laboratories and Dairyland Laboratories are set up to provide the analysis. Fee structure is based on herd size, ranging from 3¢ to 5¢/cow/day.

On the drawing board: a fiber test that will, as with the starch test, offer a two- to three-day analysis turnaround, says Phil Bollman, Calibrate Technologies marketing manager.

VanNostran has tested the fiber analysis. “We have found that you can actually use lower-quality ingredients to achieve the same milk production, thereby reducing the cost and, most of the time, there’s a real good chance that you’ll increase your components if you do starch and fiber.

“A lot of nutritionists today are subbing for forage fiber, using grain fiber like cottonseed hulls and soy hulls and citrus pulp. At the end of the day, you just can’t do that. Cows are designed to consume forage fiber which promotes a proper rumen environment for a healthy and productive life,” he says.