It's hay season! Quality sampling yields quality results

Posted on
May 24, 2023
Buffy Uglow    buffy_uglow@rockriverlab.com

By: Scott Fleming

While many folks are finalizing their Memorial Day plans, alfalfa growers have something very different on their minds. Accurately timing the harvest of an alfalfa crop is critical, especially first crop. Most forage producers know the key to timing harvest appropriately is by accurately sampling your crop prior to or at harvest. It’s been a while since harvesting - now is a good time to brush up on accurate sampling methodology. 

Samples should be pulled from the same representative area each time. The University of Wisconsin recommends sticking to a half-acre area each time you sample. They also recommend that two sub samples be pulled from each field.

Mimicking cutting height is the next step to achieving a top-quality sample. Hand-clipped samples should be harvested at a height similar to that of the mechanical harvester that will soon follow. This is generally two to three inches above the soil surface.

Many people have the misconception that submitting a large sample to the forage analysis laboratory will get them more accurate results. When in actuality, a large sample can not be handled by the laboratory, and therefore must be sub sampled. Instead, collect an accurate, appropriately sized sample in the field. The best size sample for submitting to the laboratory is about a half pound of fresh material. This is approximately six half plants or a softball-sized ball of material.

Samples should be placed in a paper or vented Tyvek bag. Samples should NEVER be placed in a plastic bag. This will lead to near immediate sample decay and an inaccurate analysis value. Ship or deliver samples to the forage testing laboratory efficiently, and avoid shipping samples over holidays or weekends when sample delivery could be delayed.

We wish everyone a successful first crop and beyond!

Posted in:
Agronomy, Animal Nutrition