Just like we do soil sampling to check pH and other basic plant needs, we need to think about hay sampling to check the quality of our hay. In one case where a cow has died, the veterinarian may want to check nitrates. Nitrates can be a problem especially when we end the season in a drought. This was something we worried about last season. So far, we have seen moderate nitrates this year, but not high. We’ve done a few samples the last three weeks. Here is one from yesterday. It’s time for me to have a picture since I take pictures of everything else. If it looks like I’m trying hard, I am. I may need to sharpen this probe.
We want to pay attention to how we do our sample. One of the first things I ask is where the hay is from. We want to make sure to take samples by “lots” of hay or silage. This is hay from the same cutting, field or stage of maturity. Most cattleman purchase hay, and it is more difficult to differentiate “lots” in these samples. We separate it as best we can, and not represent more than 200 tons of dry matter.
Another important procedure is bale sampling. We need to get as much from the middle or core of the bale that we can. A hollow probe is best to use for this. I have a probe here in the office with a drill I can bring out to help sample. Here is a more detailed write up of Taking a Good Forage Sample.