NORTH PLATTE, Neb. — Do you know the quality of the hay or silage that you harvested this past season? It is important to know how much protein and energy your cows will get when you start feeding, or how much supplement to feed. Find out by following instructions for sampling and testing.
Maybe the most important step in sampling hay is deciding which bales and stacks should be included in each sample. Ideally, each sample should include only bales that were produced under similar conditions.
Obviously, the place to start grouping is to separate different types of hay, like alfalfa or CRP or corn stalk or meadow hay. But each cutting of hay probably is different from the other cuttings also, so there is another separation. And no two fields or meadows are ever exactly the same, especially if they were cut more than several days apart, this makes another grouping. And what if part of the field was rained on before it was baled? The hay made without rain damage will likely be different from hay with rain damage.
After you’ve made all these separations, which could result in quite a few groups of similar bales, then and only then are you ready to sample. From each group gather a dozen or more cores from different bales or stacks and combine them into one sample. Be sure to use a good hay probe that can core into at least 12 to 18 inches into the bale.
Finally, send these samples to a certified lab for tests of crude protein and energy content. With the drought conditions of this past year, testing any annual forages for nitrates is a good idea.
Then use this information to feed your cattle as profitably as possible.
— Jerry Volesky, Nebraska Extension
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