How Do I Take a Hay Sample?

— Written By N.C. Cooperative Extension
en Español

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The quality of your analysis report is only as good as the sample that was tested. So if you send a poor quality sample, your hay will be poorly represented in the analysis report.
In order to receive an accurate report on the quality of your hay, you’ll need to send a “representative sample” from each lot of hay. This sample will represent the average quality of the hay. A lot of hay can be defined as hay that was cut from one field within a 5 to 7 day period of time.
The most accurate way to take a hay sample is using a core sampler. This equipment is available at most Cooperative Extension offices in the area. Using this method, you will need to gather enough samples to fill a pint sized plastic bag. This will usually amount to sampling 10 or more bales of hay.
If you are unable to obtain a core sampler, grab samples can also be tested. The best way to do this is to open several bales and take samples from the center of the bale. Take enough samples to tightly pack a gallon sized plastic bag. This method is not going to give you results that are as accurate as if you’d used a core sampler but can be helpful if you need to test the hay and don’t have the right equipment available.
Test results are usually available within 7 to 10 business days. A complete nutrient analysis will cost $10 per sample. If the sample is tested only for nitrates, there is no charge.