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Topics : Forage Quality & Testing

Forage Quality & Testing

Download the Forage Quality Testing or the Forage Quality in Perspective document in Adobe PDF format.

Additional Forage Quality Information via the Forage Information System (FIS)


How Should I Collect a Sample for Forage Quality Testing?

Collecting a sample to be submitted for quality analysis is the first step in obtaining accurate and useful results. Quality results will be useful only if the sample represents what the animals will eat. Therefore, take a good random sample from each lot (forage taken from the same cutting at the same stage of maturity, the same forage species and variety, from the same field at the same time). Remember that the small sample collected may represent several tons of forage. Note the location of each lot in the barn or silo for easy reference when feeding.

Collecting Samples of Baled Hay

  1. Take a separate sample from each field and cutting.
  2. Always sample with a bale corer such as a Penn State Forage Sampler. It is impossible to get a representative sample by using bale slices!
  3. Insert the sampler to full depth into the end of each bale sampled. This will insure getting an accurate sample
  4. Take at least 20 widely separated sample cores from each lot.
  5. Mix the 20 cores in a clean pail and place in a tight, clean, plastic bag.
  6. Label each bag clearly with your name, address, the sample number, forage mixture, stage of maturity, and date harvested.

Collecting Samples of Haylage and Silage at Harvest

  1. Take sample as the silage is placed in the silo. Silos with excessive seepage should be resampled upon feeding.
  2. Collect three to five handfuls of haylage or silage from the first load of the day in a plastic bag and place in refrigerator or freezer immediately.
  3. Follow the same procedure for several loads of forage throughout the day. Combine samples and mix well to obtain a representative sample.
  4. Repeat for each field if more than one field is harvested in any one day.
  5. Throw different colored styrofoam egg cartons into the blower at the end of each lot. This, will aid you in identifying the lots later as the feed is unloaded.
  6. Label the bag clearly with your name, address, the sample number, forage mixture, stage of maturity, and date harvested.

Collecting Samples of Haylage and Silage from Storage

  1. Collect a one to two pound sample from the silo as it is discharged from the unloader.
  2. Do not collect the samples from the spoiled material on top of the silo. In upright silos, wait until two to three feet of silage has been removed.
  3. Collect samples from the morning and evening feedings over a two day period.
  4. Mix the samples thoroughly, place in a clean plastic bag, and seal.
  5. Store immediately in a cold place, preferably in a freezer, until analyzed.
  6. Label the bag clearly with your name, address, the sample number, forage mixture, stage of maturity, and date harvested.

Preparing and storing collected samples.

Hay samples should be kept in a cool place while haylage and silage samples should be kept frozen in an airtight container until sent and then should be mailed in insulated bags - preferably early in the week - to prevent bacterial decay which might change the results. Remember that the results will only be as good as the sample taken. Follow the above steps to collect a representative sample for quality analysis.