The National Forage Testing Association (NFTA) is putting a constructive spin on a recent brouhaha over blind-sample testing of selected laboratories.

The organization, made up of laboratory representatives with the object of policing themselves, is creating standard operating procedures to continue the practice of blind-sampling labs, says NFTA president Don Meyer of Rock River Labs, Watertown, WI.

In the past, NFTA sent participating labs ground samples that were easily recognized and tempting to be treated differently from the hay samples growers send in. The purpose of those NFTA tests, which were graded, was to check lab accuracy and performance. Labs that didn't pass muster didn't receive NFTA certification.

But hay growers have been dissatisfied with the amount of variability within and among labs, saying it has caused disputes between hay buyers and sellers.

So, last year, National Hay Association and Nebraska Alfalfa Marketing Association members sent like samples to labs they frequent. Blind-sample results were analyzed by university experts, who found that those results varied too much within and among labs. (See “Insight From Blind Samples,” p. 6, May issue, Hay & Forage Grower.)

Procedures will be laid out for collecting samples, sample handling, sample splitting and determining the statistics to be used to provide accurate results. Lab representatives will be able to comment on the procedures and the board will then decide how results will be used and if they'll be reported. Meyer expects the procedures will be put together before the NFTA annual meeting early next year.