As producers finish harvesting their second cutting of alfalfa or first cutting of grass hay some may be looking to market the hay they don't need. To maximize profits, there are a few things Tracey Renelt, SDSU Extension Dairy Field Specialist encourages hay producers to consider.
"First, have you taken an analysis of the forage to determine the quality? This can be done by coring the bales via a hay probe," Renelt said.
Hay probes should be placed on the side and coring towards the center in round bales or on the butt ends when coring square bales. Renelt said it is important to core several random bales per lot - approximately 20 cores per 8 to 10 large round bales - and combine the sample and place the cores into gallon size plastic bag or other container and seal.
"Samples should represent a cutting of hay from a particular field or lot," she said.
To watch and learn about the proper methods of hay sampling you may want to watch a short "how to" video at the iGrow Youtube site or simply go to iGrow and click on "Visit our You Tube Channel."
There are several labs which then can perform an analysis on the sample to determine the feed quality. For lab contact information, contact an SDSU Extension Regional Center, contact information can be found at iGrow.
"You can either perform a wet chemistry analysis or what is most commonly done is a Near Infrared Reflectance Spectroscopy (NIRS) analysis which is the quickest and cheapest method," Renelt said.
The NIRS analysis provides results for relative feed value (RFV), relative feed quality (RFQ), percent dry matter, crude protein, acid detergent fiber (ADF), neutral detergent fiber (NDF), digestible NDF, lignin, crude fat, ash, Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Potassium, Total Digestible Nutrients, Net Energy for gain, lactation and maintenance, NDF digestibility, and non-fiber carbohydrate (NFC).
"So why is this important? As we know alfalfa and grass quality will vary greatly based on maturity at the time of harvest, conditions it was put up under, and storage methods," she said. "Thus, it has given you a way to value the product based upon its quality."
The second item Renelt encourages growers to consider when determining a fair price is the method it was put up under.
"Was the hay put up as a large round bale or small or large square bale? Was it net wrapped or not? Is it plastic twine or sisal twine? Has it sat out and been rained on since harvest or has it been stored in the shed? All these things should be considered when pricing your commodity or purchasing it as a feedstuff," she said.