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Forage Testing Program

by Kimberly Field, Program Coordinator

KENTUCKY DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture is the only Department of Agriculture in the United States that supports its producers and consumers in this exceptionally important capacity: We only test Kentucky produced hay or hay purchased by a Kentucky producer.


We know that, “Forages are the foundation upon which a balanced ration is built.” Quality forages can help you minimize feed costs, while maintaining healthy livestock. The only way to know if your have is a quality forage, is to get it tested!


Minimizing Cost and Maintaining Healthy Livestock

You cannot judge a bale of hay by looking at it. Looks can be deceiving! Green is not always good and brown is not always bad. Your hay can be as green as can be but not have enough leaf content, while your neighbor’s is all bleached but tests higher in crude protein. Which of you is going to minimize feed costs and still have healthy livestock?


Knowing what you are feeding can save you money and produce profitable healthy livestock. Since your forages are the base of your feeding program, you need to know how much nutrient value your dried forage will provide. Then, grain is supplemented to reach the required nutrient level an animal needs during different production stages like early/late gestation, lactation, and maintenance. Without knowing your forage’s nutrient value, it is possible to ruin your profit margin by:

  1. not feeding enough supplements thus resulting in lower lactation production, less females breeding back, weight loss, or even the reduced life expectancy of an animal, or

  2. feeding too much supplements, causing health issues and wasted nutrient intake.

Take this scenario with fictional numbers for an alfalfa grass mix. Your livestock’s nutrient requirements include 9% protein and 45% TDN for a maintenance stage of production. Your forage tested at 10.19 % protein and 54.53% TDN. At this point you are good just feeding this forage. Additional supplementation would be an unnecessary expense.


On the other hand, if your livestock were in late gestation and needed 13-15% protein and 60% TDN, you would now need to supplement the forage with a ration that meets the nutrient requirements.


Maximizing Production

For those of you producing your own forage, a tip to increase forage production is to keep a forage journal which helps in comparing forage quality year-to-year. In the journal, record results of your soil tests for each field. Then, record the results of the hays tests from the same field. Over time, you should be able to determine the management practices necessary to produce a quality forage.


Getting Your Hay Tested

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture charges a $10 fee per lot (same field, same cutting) for testing. Your local Cooperative Extension Agent can help you take and submit the samples. Once tested, both you and the extension agent will receive an analysis of the forage’s nutritional value and an “Interpreting Forage Quality Report” guide. Then, work with your Extension Agent to develop a balanced ration using your forage and supplements to meet your livestock’s nutrient requirements.


Purchasing Tested Hay

Livestock farmers who need hay can find it right here in Kentucky. Listings of farms with hay for sale can be found on The Forage Program page of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s website, www.kyagr.com. The For Sale program supports both our state’s producers and consumers in saving costs otherwise spent out of state.


Producers who have their forage tested can at no charge, list their forage on the Forage Sales Directory page. Listings on the Forage Sales Directory page brings the consumer and producer together. The listings can be sorted by any combination of county, relative feed value (RFV), bale size and type of hay. Each listing describes a lot’s type, cutting date, cutting number, bale size and weight, color, odor, CP, RFV and other characteristics.


Additional resources on the Forage Testing page are the Hay Sample Request Form and How to Pull a Sample to Send.


Please make sure if you are submitting a sample that you submit an adequate amount of forage; a sandwich size baggie is perfect. Please label the bagged sample to match the Sample Request Form. Please write legibly. We do not test corn silage, minerals, toxins or nitrates. If you need this information; you can search “forage testing wet chemical labs” and it will bring up a list of labs. Also, if you want to purchase your own probe, search “forage probe sampler”.


For more information on the Forage Testing Program, contact your local Extension Agent or visit our website at https://www.kyagr.com/Marketing/Forage-Program.html

 

Kimberly Field / kimberly.field@ky.gov. 502-782-9210



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