It is important to take samples of your hay to ensure you know its true nutrient value. Hay is an important part the diet of various livestock, and by having your hay analyzed you will have a better understanding of its quality. High quality hay has high nutrient content (crude protein, digestible energy, and minerals), high intake potential and high palatability. Quality hay should be low but adequate in fiber content, free of dust, musty odor, detrimental weeds, and excessive foreign material.
Below are a few tips on how to collect an adequate hay sample for an analysis
- Select random bales throughout the lot you wish to sample.
- Obtain a sample from as far inside the bale as possible.
- Sampling with hay probe: Reach as far as possible inside the bale with your coring tool. This can be more difficult when bales are wet or when the hay is very mature. In those cases, a spare battery for the drill is helpful especially if a large number of bales are to be probed. The sample should be at least 14 to 20 inches in depth. The diameter of the core should be approximately one-half inch to provide a proper amount of both leaf material and stem or stalk.
- Sampling by hand: It helps to use the short pipe to pry open the bale. The goal is to reach inside with your hand open and grasp tightly a handful of hay material. You want to try to not strip the leaves off when you do the grabbing, so many small handfuls are better than one large handful.
- Make sure you have a large enough sample.
- Sample multiple bales out of a hay lot. The lot should represent at least 10%, or at least 15, random bales.
- Hay that has been baled above 15% moisture should not be sampled for at least four weeks to allow the bales to acclimate to the environment.
- After sampling the desired number of bales, the entire sample should be pulled apart and mixed thoroughly. You cannot rely on the lab to mix your sample.
- Note: If sampling from multiple fields, keep the sample from each lot separate
- Place the sample into re-sealable plastic bag and remove any excess air. It is fine if the bag is not completely full, but you will need approximately ½ a quart of material in the bag.
- Once you have collected and bagged your sample: Label each bag or container with your name, address, sample number, and forage type. You can then send them to the lab of your choosing, but please be aware that you can go through your local extension office.
Have questions? Please feel free to reach out to the CCE Rensselaer Office at 518-272-4210.
Hope you are enjoying the warm, non-rainy weather!