The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of method of sample preparation on the degradation kinetics of herbage when applying the in situ technique. Ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum cv. Midmar) was harvested at three and four weeks after cutting and fertilizing with 200 kg nitrogen (N)/ha. Freshly cut herbage was used to investigate the following four sample preparation methods. In trial 1, herbage was (1) chopped with a paper-cutting guillotine into 5-10 mm lengths, representing fresh (FR) herbage; (2) chopped and stored frozen at 20 °C in a chest freezer, representing frozen (FN) herbage; (3) chopped, stored frozen at 20 °C for 12 h followed by freeze drying for 48 h and thereafter milled through a 2 mm screen, representing freeze dried (FD) herbage and (4) chopped and oven dried at 65 °C for 48 h and thereafter milled through a 2 mm screen, representing oven dried (OD) herbage. Prepared samples were incubated in three rumen cannulated, lactating Holstein-Friesian cows. The dry matter (DM) and N loss (%) of the FR, FN, FD and OD herbage differed significantly at 0 and 5 hours incubation but not at 24 or 48 hours. Sample characteristics (particle size, wet or dry sample) clearly influenced the degradability of herbage DM and N. Frozen herbage showed similar degradation characteristics to fresh herbage. In trial 2, ryegrass samples were prepared by the same four methods, but at a standardized particle size, namely, chopped into 5 – 10 mm lengths. The treatments were: chopped fresh, chopped frozen, chopped freeze dried and chopped oven dried. The N losses differed significantly between treatments for the 0, 5 and 10 hour incubations, but not at the 22 and 46 hour incubation periods. Although the a, b and c fractions differed significantly between treatments, the effective degradability did not differ for fresh, frozen and freeze dried chopped samples. Oven dried chopped samples had reduced effective degradability and are not recommended for determining effective degradability. It is proposed that fresh chopped herbage be used in degradability studies.
"Experientia docet" - Experience is the best teacher