California experts are getting more calls than usual on discrepancies in forage-analysis results between dairy producers and hay sellers.

“I think that’s partly because the price has been so high that the dairies want to make sure they are getting value for their feed dollar,” says Dan Putnam, University of California Extension forage specialist.

Seth Hoyt, based in Ione, CA, and author of The Hoyt Report, a hay market newsletter, has heard of the same buyer-seller squabbles.

Hay tested by a commercial lab for the dealer and shipped to a dairy may not test the same at the dairy producer’s lab of choice, Hoyt says. But, as in the case of one call he took lately, that difference isn’t usually much. “It was two points difference, based on 90% dry matter. It was sold as 55% TDN and came in two points under that at 53%.”

Putnam suggests the problem may not just be lab variation, but how the hay is sampled.

“We can easily see a few points difference based upon sampling. People don’t realize how much variation there is in a haystack,” he points out. “It’s important that samplers use the same protocol. A standardized protocol, along with an opportunity to certify your sampling method, is available from the National Forage Testing Association (NFTA).”

Hoyt thinks there would be fewer buyer-seller disputes if a system could be worked out where the same hay sample sent to the seller’s lab was sent on to the buyer’s lab of choice. NFTA recommends sending a ground split sample to compare laboratories, not two unground samples, since that confuses sampling with lab performance, Putnam adds.

For more on forage testing, visit the National Forage Testing Association Web site.