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
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
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.
Sample at random. Walk around the entire stack and sample bales
at various heights. Do not bias the sample by avoiding some bales or
Take enough cores. Per lot, sample a minimum of 20 bales (one
core per bale).
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
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.
Get the right sized sample. The sample should weigh between 1
and 2 pounds.
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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