Still need convincing that forage analysis can be a good investment? Mark McCann, animal science specialist with Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE), offers these reasons:

• Test results provide quick feedback as to how successful you were in making quality hay. “Many times the weather and other uncontrollable factors (equipment breakdowns, etc.) spoil the best intentions,” says McCann. “Forage testing indicates how far from the goal the hay quality is and provides some perspective on how much rain or maturity impacted forage quality. Many times the results exceed expectations.”

• Identifying high-quality hay early can help you make storage decisions. If limited shelter is available, the best hay needs to be in the driest spot, he says.

• Correctly matching hay and cow needs is the most efficient and least costly method of feeding cows through the winter. Without forage analysis, additional feed can be provided needlessly.

For more information on submitting hay samples to a testing laboratory and comparing test results, McCann recommends VCE’s The Basics of Forage Testing.

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