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Eight steps to better hay sampling

Hay sampling is an important part of quality control for growers and customers. A pinky-sized ground sample analyzed by the lab must represent tons and tons of alfalfa hay from the field. Because a lab technician can only test what is presented, growers must assure the hay sample accurately represents the stack.

A hay sample must fairly represent the leaf-to-stem ratio as well as weed composition. Protein and fiber can vary considerably from bale to bale and even within a bale. Therefore, it is very important to follow a definite protocol in hay sampling. The goal is to obtain a representative and randomly chosen sample. Each core should represent the bale with enough cores taken to represent the stack. Here are some important guidelines for taking samples.

  1. Identify a single lot of hay to sample. Lots must be from the same cutting, variety, field, stage of maturity and all must be harvested within 48 hours. Do not mix lots, and a lot should not exceed 200 tons.
  2. Choose a good, sharp coring device. It should have an inside cutting-edge diameter of at least d inch and no more than 5/8 inch. The cutting edge should be sharp. Dull probes cause material to be pushed out of the core, altering the composition of the sample. Do not use an auger or corkscrew-type device which selectively samples leaves.
  3. Sample at random. Walk around the entire stack and sample bales at various heights. Do not bias the sample by avoiding some bales or choosing others.
  4. Take enough cores. Per lot, sample a minimum of 20 bales (one core per bale).
  5. Use good technique. Probe the end of the bales near the center and at least 12 to 18 inches into the bale, being careful not to slant the probe.
  6. Handle samples correctly. Combine cored samples into a single sample and then store them in a sealed polyethylene freezer bag. Do not expose to heat or direct sun, and send to the lab quickly.
  7. Get the right sized sample. The sample should weigh between 1 and 2 pounds.
  8. Split samples correctly. If you want to test the performance of a lab, send a fully ground and mixed sample to another lab. Never split an unground sample.

Source - California Alfalfa and Forage Review


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