Sampling Hay for Feed Analysis

Proper feed analysis is crucial for maintaining the health and productivity of livestock.  Accurate sampling of hay and forage is the first step in obtaining reliable feed analysis results.  This article outlines the best practices for sampling hay and forage to ensure that the samples accurately represent the feed being used.

Sampling hay and forage is essential for several reasons.  Knowing the nutritional content helps formulate balanced diets.  This ensures the animals receive all the essential vitamins and minerals required.  Feed analysis can prevent overfeeding or underfeeding, and in turn will optimize feed costs.  Sampling can also identify potential deficiencies or toxicities in the forage, preventing health issues in livestock.

According to the A&L Great Lakes Laboratories Agricultural Feed Analysis Sampling Guide 

Hay may be sampled as it is stored, if it is dry enough to keep without further curing. Different cuttings should be sampled and analyzed separately unless different cuttings are being fed at the same time, in which case they may be sampled in the same proportions as they are being fed.

 Hay samples should be taken with a core sampler, if possible.

  1. Ensure that tips are sharp enough to cut through the hay to prevent selective sampling.
  2. Core sampler should penetrate at least 12”‐18” into the bale.
  3. If using an electric drill or a hand brace, run the drill at slow speeds. High speeds heat the probe and can damage supplies.
  4. At least 12 cores of hay should be taken from random bales or locations if loose or chopped hay.

When sampling hay to be fed on your farm, avoid sampling decayed or moldy hay or other portions of hay that will be discarded or would likely be refused when fed to animals’ free choice. However, include deteriorated materials if the hay will be ground, sold, or purchased in order to best describe all the hay. Place the entire sample into a plastic bag and seal tightly.

 To sample square or round bales, collect one sample from each 15-20 bales (from a single lot).  The core sample must be pulled from the end of the bale with the core puller inserted in the center.  If these are round bales, take the sample from the wrapped circumference and not the open ends.  By doing this, on both types of bales, the sample will include the most layers and provide the best results.

For additional information about sampling pastures, loose or compressed hay and forage visit the Feed Analysis page on the A&L Great Lakes Laboratories website.  There the sample guide, pricing submittal form and a sample report will be located. 

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