Taking forage samples for horse grass, hay and haylage analysis accurately are very important. 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 forage sample that does not just come from just one bale, or one part of a field.
What size should the sample be?
Please make sure you FILL the sample bag, which should be at least an A5 envelope size, full.
Bags that are not filled may have insufficient samples for the lab to test, which will result in you being required to provide a second sample and your results being delayed. You should aim for at least a full A5 envelope size.
Sampling Horse Hay or Haylage for Analysis
When sampling large bales, if possible, locate a hay probe or corer so that you can core the centre of the bale. Forageplus sell and hire corer probes. This approach will give more accuracy than a hand-grab approach.
We also have a hay corer available to rent if being used for a short period.
- Collect all the samples, mix them thoroughly in a large clean plastic bag and then take a sample of this mix and fill your sample bag.
- Sometimes cutting the hay or grass into smaller pieces helps with mixing.
- Always use stainless steel scissors to avoid contaminating your sample with iron.
- Squeeze out the air before sealing well and then post immediately to preserve freshness.
Sampling 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. The haylage will seal without spoiling as long as the wrapping is dry. You can buy patches and haylage tape at a farm supply.
- For the analysis to be as accurate as possible, you will ideally want to sample at least 6 – 10 different bales.
Sampling 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. The bale will be fine once sealed again as long as the wrapping is dry.
- For the analysis to be as accurate as possible you will need to sample at least 6 – 10 different bales.
Small square bales
If using a corer take a core sample through the centre of one end of the bale 20 – 30 cm deep or open the bale up and hand grab a sample from the centre.
Reseal using patches if the bale is haylage.
For the analysis to be as accurate as possible you will need to sample at least 12 – 20 different bales.
Sampling Small Square Bales
- If using a corer take a core sample through the centre of one end of the bale 20 – 30 cm deep or open the bale up and hand grab a sample from the centre.
- Reseal using patches if the bale is haylage. The bale will be fine once sealed again as long as the wrapping is dry. You can buy patches and haylage tape at a farm supply.
- For the analysis to be as accurate as possible you will need to sample at least 12 – 20 different bales.
- Walk the fields to be sampled in a W shape. Each time you reach a point of the w cut 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 5 – 8 cm pieces aids in blending). 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.
- 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 in an oven (see below). If you want to calculate the dry matter content of your grass then please ask for further instructions.
Nutritional Analysis for Horses
All samples for nutritional analysis are sent to Forageplus. This is so we can process the customs requirements for sending to our lab in the USA. If you are sending samples to us for nutritional analysis then approximately 150 grams of sample is needed.
You can view our nutritional analysis for hay by clicking here.
Our nutritional analysis for haylage can be found here.
Full Mineral Analysis for Horses
Like our nutritional analysis, we no longer send out a physical kit for the mineral analysis. This is to simply speed up the process. You will receive an email shortly after placing your order, detailing how to best take the sample and how to return it to ourselves.
International customers will also need to ship all samples to us at Forageplus in Mold.
If you are sending samples to us for mineral analysis then approximately 150 grams of sample is needed.
Take a look at our mineral analysis for forage by selecting your forage type below:
- Grass Mineral Analysis for Horses
- Hay Mineral Analysis for Horses
- Haylage Mineral Analysis for Horses
Drying the Sample
If the haylage you are sending is very wet then drying the forage in a very low-temperature oven is recommended.
Sending the Sample
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 does not sit in a warm warehouse all weekend.
Taking a Good Sample for Analysis of Horse Forage
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.
It is much better for us to have too much sample, rather than too little.
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 ensure 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 analysed.
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.
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 sub-samples is the best way to get an accurate picture of the forage in question.