Forage testing is critical to understanding the quality and nutrient content of your corn silage, but human error can influence the accuracy of results. Phil Krueger, Mycogen Seeds dairy nutritionist, advises producers to avoid these common mistakes when collecting and sending corn silage samples for testing:
1. One-stop sampling. It’s important to test a representative sample of the entire feeding surface of the pile, bunker or silo, not just one area. Collect multiple subsamples from the silage surface and thoroughly mix them. Then take a representative sample from the mixed subsamples to submit to the lab. Or consider submitting two or three representative samples from the mixed subsamples and average the test results.
2. Hands down. If you collect handfuls of silage with your palm down, kernels and other small silage particles might fall out. Keep your palm up and avoid shaking. Even better: Use a scoop or pail to collect silage samples.
3. Garbage bagging. Save samples in zip-type plastic bags, not garbage bags. Squeeze as much air from the bag as possible before sealing. “Some dairy producers use a vacuum sealer made for sealing food in order to create an air-tight package,” Krueger says. “Keep cool or freeze a fermented sample prior to mailing to maintain its integrity in transit.”
4. Snail mail. A silage sample sent via the postal service may degrade enroute to the lab, especially if mailed late in the week. Mail samples to arrive by Friday. “Overnight or second-day delivery is costly, but when making a major forage change it may be worth the added expense to ensure a timely report,” Krueger says.
5. Mystery silage. Clearly identify your shipped sample with your farm name, contact information and sample identification. Be sure to specify the analyses desired, so the lab doesn’t need to contact you with questions that could delay results.
6. Unsafe sampling. Safety is foremost when gathering corn silage samples. “Never stand next to a silage face more than 10 feet high or get into a loader bucket,” Krueger says. “Have the feeder mechanically remove silage and pull it away from the face before attempting to gather samples.”