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Test forage for nutrients: energy, protein, fiber and minerals

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By Levi Berg

Hay season is almost here, and the sunlight we recently received is finally giving the grass a little push to grow. Hopefully, soon we can actually start baling hay and harvesting hay. One aspect usually overlooked by producers is forage testing. Forage testing is having samples tested for nutritional values such as energy, protein, fiber content, certain minerals and such. A forage test is the only way to prove you have a high-quality forage whether for sale or for personal use. Yes, you can use your own judgment for certain quality factors such as mold and weeds, but only a forage test can tell you the ultimate quality of your forage. A forage test can be done on anything from dry-cured hay, haylages, silages or pasture. For those feeding their own forages, a forage test could be your best friend. Some hay or harvested forages can be deceiving because the forage may look great, but could be lacking in energy or another nutrient. Frankly, if you are feeding a forage that lacks nutritional value, you are losing money, because your animals will not perform nearly as well. For those selling hay, a forage sample could be the difference between selling your hay for a premium or selling it for the same price as a low-quality hay. Forage samples prove how good your forage is to buyers, and if it is high quality, you will be able to prove to buyers that your forage is worth the cost. There are many labs across the country that will test samples, but make sure that lab is National Forage Testing Association certified. The most common lab used here in Kentucky is the Kentucky Department of Agriculture forage lab. The KDA lab charges $10 per sample and will have sample results returned within a month. If you need samples tested quickly, you might have to send it to a private lab such as DairyOne, but you will pay more to have the testing done. I know this was an extremely quick explanation why forage testing is necessary and beneficial, but if you have further questions about forage sample procedures, please contact the Henry County Extension Office at (502) 845-2811. Also, the Henry County Extension Office has a hay probe for loan for those wanting to take forage samples. Information for this article was obtained from the University of Kentucky Master Grazer Educational Program. Henry County Farmers’ Market Are you looking for fresh, local fruits, vegetables and meats? Come to the Henry County Farmers’ Market. Local vendors only sell produce and meats raised in Henry County. The Henry County Farmers’ Market is open Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon in the front lawn of the Henry County Courthouse and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. during peak season. In addition, most vendors accept senior and WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program coupons. Do not hesitate and make your way to the Henry County Farmers’ Market! Lunch & Learn: Gardening Series The Henry County Extension Office and the Henry County Public Library came together to host a gardening series, “Lunch & Learn: Gardening Series.” All sessions will be held at the Henry County Public Library on May 10, May 11 and May 18. This series will cover many topics from types of produce, disease management and harvesting. If you have further questions, please visit www.henrylibrary.org.