Taking Forage Samples

Forage samples are based on a small sample, which is selected to represent a larger sample.  It is very important to obtain a representative sample so that the analysis has the maximum use and is as accurate as possible.  By this we mean that you should try to obtain a sample which does not just come from one bale or one part of a field.

Please make sure you FILL the sample bag, bags which are not filled may have insufficient sample for the lab to test which will result in you being required to provide a second sample and your results being delayed.  If you are sending samples to us for nutritional analysis then approximately 100 grams of sample is needed.

Large bales

hay probe

When sampling large bales, if possible, locate a hay probe or corer so that you can core the centre of the bale.  This approach will give more accuracy than a hand grab approach.  Corers or probes can often be sourced from local agricultural colleges.

Small bale hay or haylage

  • You should aim to sample at least 12 – 20 different bales if you are sampling small bale hay or haylage.
  • If you are sampling grass make sure you collect grass from all over the field or fields.
  • Collect all the samples mix thoroughly in a large clean plastic bag and then take a sample of this mix and fill the sample bag provided.
  • Squeeze out the air before sealing and then post immediately to preserve freshness.

If you are an international customer you will need to dry the grass as per our email instructions.  If you want to calculate the dry matter content of your grass then please email us for further instructions.

All samples for nutritional anlaysis should be sent to us, Forageplus, as per our email instructions.  For full mineral analysis UK customers will receive a kit with all they need to sample and send straight to our lab.  International customers will need to ship all samples to us as per our email instructions

If the haylage you are sending is very wet then drying the forage in a very low temperature oven is recommended.  If we have sent you a full mineral analysis kit don’t forget to include the information label. The boxes will have been ticked for you.

All samples for nutritional anlaysis should be sent to us, Forageplus, as per our email instructions.  For full mineral analysis UK customers will receive a kit with all they need to sample and send straight to our lab.  International customers will need to ship all samples to us as per our email instructions.

Try to sample and post all samples on a Monday or early in the week so the sample reaches the lab or us before Friday and then does not sit in a post box all weekend.

Hay/haylage

Small square bales

  • Take a core sample through the centre of one end of the bale  20 – 30 cm deep or open the bale up and take a sample from the centre.
  • Reseal using patches if the bale is haylage.
  • Remember for the analysis to be as accurate as possible you will need to sample at least 6 – 10 different bales.

Large round bales

  • Take a core sample at waist height on the round side of the bale 20 – 30 cm deep or try to burrow into the bale on the round side to obtain a sample.
  • Reseal using patches if the bale is haylage.
  • Remember for the analysis to be as accurate as possible you will need to sample at least 6 – 10 different bales.

Large square bales

  • Take a core sample through the centre of one end of the bale 20 – 30cm deep or try burrowing into the bale at one end to obtain a sample.
  • Reseal using patches if the bale is haylage.
  • Remember for the analysis to be as accurate as possible you will need to sample at least 6 – 10 different bales.

Grass

  • Walk the fields to be sampled in a w shape.  Each time you reach a point of the w take a sample.  In fields that are being grazed selecting the areas grazed by the horses will give a truer sample.
  • Ensure this sample is cut with stainless steel scissors 2 cm above the soil.  Failure to do this may result in contamination of your sample, which will then mean it is inaccurate.  Remember for the analysis to be as accurate as possible you will need to collect a sample that is greater than the amount you send as the sample itself.
  • Collect your sample in a supermarket carrier bag, mix thoroughly (further cutting the forage into 2 – 3 inch (5 – 8 cm) pieces aids in blending) and then take a sample from this bag and place in the sample bag to be sent to the analytical company.
  • Make sure you send the sample in the next post preferably Monday to Wednesday so that the sample reaches the lab quickly and does not degrade.
  • Please make sure you FILL the sample bag, bags which are not filled may have insufficient sample for the lab to test which will result in you being required to provide a second sample and your results being delayed.

Taking a Good Sample

An analysis is only as good as the sample submitted. Taking a good representative sample of your feed is the first and most critical step of the analysis process, yet it is often the step that is the most taken for granted.

The key to submitting a good sample is to collect several subsamples to form a composite. Remember, the sample that you submit for analysis is going to represent several tons of forage eaten. Thus, you want to be sure that it represents a good cross-section of the feed, not just one bale.

Following good sampling procedures will help insure that your analytical results truly reflect the nutrient composition of your sample and will be useful in developing your feeding program. Poorly taken samples can result in decisions that lead to either over or under feeding.

Both of these can be costly in terms of money and/or lost performance.

Table 1. below is from a study displaying the importance of collecting a representative sample. Twenty individual bales from the same stack of hay were probed and analyzed.

The table shows the variability between bales and the implications that can be drawn from analysing only one bale. For example, if you sampled the worst bale in the stack, feeding recommendations based on this information would result in overfeeding and increased feed cost.

Bale No.DM%CP%ADF%NDF%RFV
187.918.235.344.6128
286.718.435.848.7117
386.618.436.144.3128
487.318.932.539152
588.419.831.438.3156
687.119.832.741.5142
785.920.332.740148
88820.331.538.5156
985.620.336.954.1103
1085.520.432.140.6146
1187.420.53239.2152
1286.920.532.539.1151
1386.420.831.541.2145
1486.220.833.442139
158821.230.335.7170
1684.721.331.438.5156
1786.821.429.333.9181
1889.921.528.633.7184
1985.221.832.140.3148
2087.822.429.437166
Minimum84.718.228.633.7103
Maximum89.922.436.954.1184
Average86.920.432.440.5148
Composite88.120.731.540.7147

At the end of the study, all of the individual samples were combined to form a bulk composite sample. The results of the composite are equivalent to the arithmetic average of all the samples demonstrating that compositing multiple subsamples is the best way to get an accurate picture of the forage in question.