Sampling For Winter Hay

Test your forages before you feed them to livestock this winter. Once you know the nutritive value of the hay, you can add any missing supplements and rations. Another reason to test is if you’re a hay producer for a specific market such as horses. It’s important that nutrition values are constant.

Dirk Philipp is an associate professor of forages at the University of Arkansas. He says to take samples from a defined group of bales, ideally from the same field, the same forage base, and same cutting dates.

"The minimum five bales, I would say. You take core samples from that bale in three locations around the bale, and you composite that sample into one sample from that lot, and then that one you’re going to send into your laboratory to get a result back," says Philipp. "And then you do that for your other lots."

Take the samples as close to feeding time as possible, keeping in mind that it might take anywhere from a couple of weeks up to a month to get the results back.

Philipp says the standard test is for total digestible nutrients. However, you can also get any kind of analysis you want for that hay.

"The fiber, or protein, or any other minerals like microminerals or micronutrients that may be important," he says. "If you’ve made hay from a location where you’re not really sure if it’s safe feed for the cattle, you should definitely test for that if you’re unsure about that. And that comes along with the analysis."

The lab analysis is only as good as the sample given to it. Using a hay probe rather than eyeballing or grabbing hay with your hands will allow you to get samples from multiple layers of the bale, and increase the accuracy of the results.

The University of Nebraska has a video on how to take a forage sample. Watch it here.