Wide variations occur in the nutritional value of stored forages like hay, silage and baleage. In order to accurately balance feed rations for livestock it is essential to test the forage in order to know more accurately what is being fed. This will help ensure livestock nutritional needs are being met, without spending more for livestock feed than necessary.

Separate samples should be collected for each “lot” of forage. The goal is to remove the variability in forage quality within the sample. A lot is a group of bales that are similar in the location they were harvested, the forage and weed species in the bales, and the date they were mowed and baled, wrapped or ensiled. One lot of forage should be similar in stage of forage maturity at harvest and whether or not the forage had rain damage.

The best way to sample hay or baleage is by using a hay probe. A probe is a hollow cylinder, 12 to 18 inches long, that pulls a core from the bale. Collect a minimum of 20 cores from each forage lot. Randomly select the 20 bales to be sampled to ensure all of the forage is represented by the sample being submitted. Sample round bales from the side of the bale and square bales from the end of the bale. Thoroughly mix the cores together and put the sample in a clean, airtight plastic bag.

After forage quality results are obtained, and livestock nutritional requirements are known, forage can be allocated based on the nutritional needs of the livestock. University of Missouri Extension livestock specialist can assist you in balancing rations.

For more information contact Valerie Tate, field specialist in agronomy for MU Extension at tatev@missouri.eud or call 660-895-5123. University of Missouri Extension programs are open to all.

Valerie Tate is a field specialist in agronomy for MU Extension.