At this time of year there is a step you can take to optimize the forage production system for your farm. It is a step livestock farmers, especially dairy, can really benefit. We are talking of analysis of what you have to work with. Dairy farmers wouldn’t think of feeding a forage without knowing the nutrients it contains. Yet many forget; don’t have time; don’t get around; to test their soil to see what it contains. An ancient example is that of a wooden rain barrel. You can only fill it as full as the shortest stave. In spite of computer analysis, drone scouting, instant communication, the rain barrel example still holds true – and is ignored. We will pay over $200 for a bag of seed that barely covers 2 acres, but not take a $15 soil test that optimizes the growth of that $200/bag of seed. Traditional or organic, there are basic physical and chemical limitations to yield from your fields. Suboptimal protein or energy will limit milk production. Suboptimal fertilizer nutrients will limit yield. Conversely, one at a high or excess level will limit profitability if you put on more than is needed. It can even create shortages of other nutrients.