Forage quality changes with maturity and storage. A forage test can supply useful information about the nutritive value of hay or pasture. This information can be used to adjust the amount of supplement fed. If forage quality is high, the producer can feed less supplement, resulting in savings. Conversely, if the forage quality is low, diet supplementation can improve animal performance, and increase profits.
Taking a Forage Sample: Forage test forms can be obtained from your OMAFRA office. These forms contain complete instructions on how to collect forage samples. Proper collection and identification of a sample is very important. A tool is needed to collect hay samples. Your local feed dealer or OMAFRA office has a Penn State Forage Sampler. This device consists of a long tube with a cutting edge on one end and a shank on the other that can be fastened to an electric drill or hand brace.
To correctly sample a rectangular bale, the bit is driven into the end of 15 to 20 bales from a particular lot of hay. Drill to the full depth of the sample tube on loose bales and half depth in tight bales. Mix the cores thoroughly and send the entire sample to the lab in a sealed plastic bag.
Large round bales should be sampled on the rounded side of the bale. Collect a single sample from each of 10 to 12 bales from the same lot, combining the core samples into one sample for analysis. If the outer layer of the round bale is weathered, pull away 1 to 2 inches and sample below. Drill to the full depth of the tube.
Each hay type and cutting should be sampled and analyzed separately. It is important that each cutting is stored separately and can be identified with its forage test.
Silage can also be analyzed. To sample silage, run the unloader and collect from the feed bunk in 5 to 6 places. Put four handfuls of silage into a plastic bag. Collect samples for two or three days, then mix thoroughly and subsample 1 to 2 pounds. Keep samples in the refrigerator during the collection period and store them in a plastic bag. Seal the bag, attach a completed tag and mail immediately or freeze and mail the frozen sample to the laboratory.
Bagged silage can be sampled by cutting slits along the side of the bag in 5 to 6 places. Collect handfuls and mix in a clean plastic bucket. Mix well and bag in plastic with a tag. Reseal the slit with heavy duty tape.
Silage can also be sampled while it is going into the silo. Collect representative samples from each wagon as it is unloaded and mail immediately or freeze the samples. Take the same number of samples from each wagon and keep them in a container. When all samples have been collected, mix the sample within each container, and collect a random 1 to 2 pound subsample for analysis. Seal in a plastic bag and send to the lab immediately or freeze if they can't be mailed promptly.