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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Farmers Encouraged to Get Hay Tested

LAS CRUCES -- Alfalfa growers should test the quality of their hay to get the best selling price, said a New Mexico State University agronomist.

"Right now, the market is basically determined by the buyer," said Shane Ball with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service.

High-quality and low-quality hay often are offered at the same price, he said. In many sales, buyers evaluate hay only by what they can see -- condition, color, leafiness, odor, foreign material and stage of maturity.

"A standard alfalfa hay test gives a chemical analysis of dry matter, crude protein and acid detergent fiber," Ball said. "The quality of the hay is then determined by total digestible nutrients -- proteins, fiber, fat and nitrogen-free extract -- and the relative feed value."

Hay testing is an important marketing tool for both the producer and the buyer, he said. It gives growers more power to market high-quality products, and it reduces the risk of dairy producers buying hay that's not as good for animals. New Mexico has one nationally certified hay testing laboratory in Farmington. There are also labs in Colorado, Arizona, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah.

Before having hay tested, growers need to make sure the sample truly represents the stack or lot of hay, Ball said. Samples should be taken randomly or from every fourth or fifth bale going around the stack. At least five random samples should be taken from each side of a stack.

"The idea is to get a consistent accurate sample, and then the buyer and seller can agree upon a price," he said.

For more information on hay testing, contact your local county Extension office.