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The key to successful forage analysis is taking a good, representative forage sample on the farm. Laboratory analysis can determine the quality of a submitted forage sample, but this will not help you balance rations if the submitted sample does not represent forage actually being fed to your animals. The largest error in forage analysis is improper sampling methods on the farm. You need to take a representative sample of forage from every hay or silage lot. These samples will reflect the variation in forage quality that occurs across your fields and during harvesting.
The following sampling procedures are recommended:
- Submit samples of at least 1/2 pound of material. Haylage or silage samples can be sealed in plastic bags and stored in a freezer until time of delivery to the lab is convenient. Do not mail frozen samples late in the week or just before holidays to avoid having them delayed at the USPS or UPS transfer locations.
- Samples from baled hay must be taken with a core sampler to be meaningful. A minimum of 12 cores of hay should be taken from the ends of random bales or at random areas in the mow.
- Samples of cob corn should be ground in order to obtain a good representative sample.
- Samples of chopped forages can best be collected when filling the silo. Take three to five handfuls at random from several loads about midway through the harvest of each filed that differs from the next field.
- Good representative samples from stored silage are difficult to obtain. A fairly representative sample may be obtained by digging down two or three feet in several places and taking a handful of silage from each location. If the silage stored was fairly uniform and is being fed, collect several handfuls from the morning and evening feedings for the sample.
Analysis and Reporting
It is our mission to teach and demonstrate the latest research base in forage testing. Research based feed and forage analysis and reporting systems means we make every attempt to provide the dairy and livestock industry with the “real facts” concerning feed and forage testing. We use summative technology developed by researchers to more precisely predict feed energy contents and offer a UW-Recommended evaluation system which we believe is the best research based system to use. We do not microwave dry our samples prior to analytical evaluation because research has demonstrated the feed and forage protein fractions can be altered from the intense heat associated with microwave drying.
We promote wet chemistry mineral analytical systems because research suggest NIRS may not offer enough precision in today’s nutrient management programs. We promote and use NIRS technology where its utility has been fully researched. Finally, our Feed & Forage Testing Reports are designed to be educational by fully listing proper nutritional terms, abbreviations, units and the analytical methods used to determine them.
Additional References & Resources