Forage season has swung into full force, and as harvest season begins its approach, don’t forget to send those forage samples in for lab analysis. Analyzing samples is a vital processes in the harvest process, and the team at Hubbard Feeds has compiled a list of tips and considerations to take when sending your forage samples in for analysis this year.
Proper sampling of baled hay should involve a hay probe. Take a core at least 14 to 20 inches in depth, and large enough in diameter to provide an adequate ratio of leaf to stem or leaf to stalk. The core’s diameter should be approximately ½ inch inside diameter to effectively provide a proper amount of both leaf material and stem or stalk.
Make the core on the rounded side of the bale, at a 90° angle to the flat side for large round or at a 90° angle to the cut end of the bale for large square. While the density of the bale and forage type will have an impact on the amount of hay within each six-inch section, the percentage of hay within each section should remain relatively the same.
When sampling alfalfa hay or other legumes, it is standard to sample every cutting, lot or load upon arrival or before selling. Those sampling by cutting or lot should take at least two samples, each consisting of 10 – 15 bales. Those sampling by load should take one sample per load, with 10 – 15 bales sampled from each load.
Samples of Grass or cereal grain dry forages at a rate of 10 – 15 bales per sample, and sample every 100 to 150 bales. Commodity type forage, such as straw or forage sorghum hays, should be sampled at a rate of 10 – 15 bales per 150 – 200 bales for each field. Also, hay that has been baled above 15% moisture should not be sampled for at least 4 weeks.
For loosely stacked hay or ground hay piles, take grab samples of the long stem hay from 5 – 7 stacks, chop or cut the hay as effectively as possible, then take a subsample to submit for analysis. Repeat the process for every 25 – 30 stacks.
When sampling bunkers, pits, drive over piles or high moisture bale age, two sampling periods should be used for the most accurate assessment of nutrient quality: pre-ensiling and post-ensiling. For pre-ensiling samples, collect forages in a container, then take a grab sample from several loads throughout a given time period. Dump the container onto a tarp and thoroughly mix with a shovel, then divide the pile into four equal quadrants. Discard two quadrants from opposite corners, remix the remaining quadrants, and repeat the process of splitting into four equal quadrants, now discarding the opposite corners as before. Combine the remaining quadrants into your sample bag and send in for analysis.
For post-ensiling samples, wait until you have at minimum an 8 feet tall silo face to pull samples from. Pull down the silage in several locations, take several grab samples from the loader bucket, and repeat the quadrant sampling as mentioned before.