A study urns conducted to determine the best method of preparation of silage and freshly cut forage samples for the estimation of rumen degradability by the nylon bag technique. Three types of forage were evaluated: a grass silage, a fresh grass (ryegrass) and a fresh legume (white clover). For each forage, six preparation methods were compared: chopping fresh (FRS); chopping and macerating fresh (FMC); chopping, freezing, thawing and macerating (FRZ); freeze-drying (FD); low-temperature oven-drying (45°C, 72 h) (OVD); high-temperature oven-drying (160°C, 90 min) (DHD). Dried samples were hammer-milled (2·5-mm screen). Chemical composition and rumen degradability were affected by the method of preparation. Protein fractions were sensitive to drying method, and oven-drying reduced nitrogen (N) solubility and degradability as the severity of the heating was increased. OVD and DHD gave lower estimates of N and dry matter (DM) solubility and degradability than FD. The effect of drying method on DM degradability was to reduce solubility and effective degradability, calculated for an outflow rate of 0·033 per h, but not potential degradability.
Silage DM degradability was less affected than that of fresh forages. Freshly prepared samples (FRS, FMC, FRZ) gave lower estimates of N and DM solubility and degradability than FD, the differences being least with silage and FRZ, which was the most effective at rupturing plant structures of the FRS, FMC and FRZ methods. Of the six preparation methods, freeze-drying was the most effective preparation method. FRZ and OVD were less effective, but similar to each other. The small particles (calculated) produced by grinding dried samples may result in an overestimation of zero time losses and hence the degradability of the sample. These undesirable effects might be minimized by coarser grinding (4-mm screen) and correction for particulate matter loss.