A hay analysis will help you determine a fair price for your hay this year, says Tracy Renelt, South Dakota State University Extension dairy specialist.
Sample the hay close to the time of sale. Hay probes should be placed on the curved side of a large round at a 90 degree angle, and at the butt end of square bales, and pushed in to the center of the bale. Don't get net wrap or twine included in the core sample.
Collect at least 20 cores in a lot of hay, combine the sample and place the cores in a gallon size plastic bag or other container and seal it. A total of one-half pound of dry hay from the 20 cores is adequate.
"Samples should represent a cutting of hay from a particular field that has been put up under similar conditions, which is also referred to as a hay lot," Renelt says
Be sure to label sample bags adequately with your contact information, including phone number and type of sample you are sending (alfalfa, grass hay, mixed hay, etc) and the type of analysis desired. You request a wet chemistry analysis or a Near Infrared Reflectance Spectroscopy analysis. NIRS is most common, quickest and costs less. It produces results for RFV (relative feed value), RFQ (relative feed quality), percent dry matter, crude protein, ADF(acid detergent fiber, NDF (neutral detergent fiber) digestible NDF, lignin, crude fat, ash, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, total digestible nutrients; net energy for gain, lactation and maintenance, NDF digestibility and NFC (non-fiber carbohydrate).
To find a lab to do the analysis, contact the local SDSU Regional Extension Center or visit the National Forage Testing Association website, www.foragetesting.org.
For an SDSU podcast showing proper hay sampling methods, see www.youtube.com/sdsuigrow.