Okay, so you've sent in a sample of a product to the lab and had it tested for several things. After a short time you get an email from us with a report attached. Opening it up, you look at the report and wonder just what it is telling you. All you wanted to know was if the product was good and instead you've got columns of numbers. There is no box with "Good" or "Bad" checkmarked. I just wanted to know if my product is good or not!

That may be an extreme reaction we've encountered, but the truth is we aren't nutritionists; we aren't trained in that area and although we have had some exposure to it over the years, we aren't qualified to give an expert opinion as such. Our job is test the product to generate the numbers that you see on the report. This is the quantitative side of the analysis. These numbers are then the "tools" that someone trained in nutrition can use to determine the value of this product as a feed or suppliment; this is the qualitative side of the analysis.

Here are some examples of reports that we often send back to our customers. We will be looking at a typical forage, a feed, and a dog treat. First the alfalfa forage:

The top part of the report is pretty simple - it identifies who we are and how to contact us.

The next section gives the report date, lists the people the report is being distributed to, and where the sample originated. This is information that you have given us either previously or at the time we got the sample.

The first part of the assays box gives a labnumber that we ID the sample with, and a description of the sample. We can be as long or short on the description as you wish - the idea is to help YOU identify it when you get the results back.

The layout of the data on the report is done in such a way as to attempt to provide the information in a format that is useful to someone looking at nutritional value. Often because of varying moisture values between different samples, the values are adjusted to a set moisture level so that they can be compared more fairly. Forage samples for instance are reported on as-is, 90% Dry Matter (10% Moisture) and 100% Dry Matter (no Moisture) levels. In an example with two hay samples (one protected in a barn and the other rain-soaked) their respective assays can be compared either as they are with the as-is result, or assuming that drying will occur in the future then both can be compared on an "apples to apples" basis with the same Dry Matter levels.

Please remember that results on reports are in percent unless otherwise stated. If a different unit is used it will be identified immediately after the assay name, such as the Mcal/lb for Nel, or ppm (parts per million) for some trace minerals. Some assays, like pH, will have no units at all.

Rest assured that we don't charge for calculated values; the computer takes the results from the other assays and does the work for us. You will know which values are calculated by looking in the comments section - if a formula is shown, then it was calculated. Or you might see the term 'calculated' under methods after the result. The comments section is also used by some customers to record the Purchase Order number for the work.

Each report must be approved before it is sent out, to reduce inaccurate information. You'll find either a signature or initials at the bottom.

Not every report has every assay. If you're sending in a dog food to us, it is not going to have an Nel value on it. And an alfalfa most likely won't have a fat assay. Certain tests aren't really appropriate or necessary for certain types of products. If you have any questions you can call us with them.

Here is an example of feed (in this case a ration mix) that has been tested:

Notice how some of the assays are different from the forage; a "proximate" analysis of a feed usually includes crude fat. In this case the customer also wanted to check a few minerals. Also, the "*" by the crude protein result shows that it has been tested more than once. We do this on occasion if we aren't confident in our first result either from equipment issues or if the value is very far from the expected or guaranteed level. We will also run a sample in duplicate if the sample was a priority rush or the sample prep yielded a test sample that wasn't as homogeneous as wanted.

Lastly we have a report on a dog treat.

This report does not adjust for various moisture levels but simply gives the as-is results. The total carbohydrates and calories are calculations. A question we often get is "How do I calculate the calories in a serving?" You can calculate the calories per serving as follows:

1. Decide how many treats are a serving and weigh how many ounces they are together.
2. Take the number on the report for calories and multiply by 0.0283; this gives us calories per ounce.
3. Multiply the number from line 1 times the number from line 2. This is your calories per serving.

As an example using our sample report:

1. Three of our treats is a serving that weights 2 ounces.
2. 3293 (from report) X 0.0283 = Calories per ounce = 93.
3. 93 X 2 = Calories per serving = 186.

Different types and sizes of treats will change the weight of your serving size. If you make a change to the size or number of treats in a serving, go back and recalculate with the new serving size.

Remember, we try to report back the descriptions you give us. Be sure to give the samples a name that will identify it when we give you the information back on the report. If you look at the reports six months down the road you might question 'Now what was Sample 1 again?' with no clue.