UGA Extension – Franklin County

Unless You Test, It’s Just A Guess

Hay season is in full swing and people are busy trying to restock the barns form last year’s drought. We have had better rainfall through the spring and many of our famers and producers are taking full advantage of the good rain, and have had some good hay cuttings. I have had people tell me that they are cutting some of the best hay they have cut in years, and we have had the weather patterns that have allowed for a good season.  However, the issue is that you don’t really know how good the hay that you have put up is unless you have it tested. We can look at hay and tell if it has weeds mixed in but to really determine the quality of the forage the only way is though forage testing. A forage test will tell you several things about the hay including its nutrient value, as well as giving you the RFQ (relative forage quality) which allows you to compare your hay crops to other varieties of grass. Another important factor that can be determined from the forage testing is the nitrate level in the hay. As most farmers know when nitrate levels are too high they can be toxic to cattle. The only way to know for sure what these levels are is with a forage test. Some individuals are now wrapping hay into haylage and think that because they are doing this there is not the danger from nitrate toxicity, when in fact they are still in danger just like the dry hay producers. Once the level of nitrates is determined a plan can be constructed to help reduce the risk and still feed the hay. Also through forage testing producers are able to highlight their high quality hay production through the southeastern hay contest held in conjunction with the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, GA. Prizes are awarded and the top individuals in their categories are recognized. For questions on hay testing please contact the UGA Extension office in Franklin County.