Ministry of Agriculture

Taking a Feed Sample

  1. The purpose of a feed sample is to use it to make livestock rations. Feed samples should be a sample for each feed type not based on number of stacks. Purchased feed should have a feed test with it. Ideally hay from separate fields should be sampled separately. However, first cut hay from various fields can be sampled and the samples combined and then sub-sampled. The field should be sampled in proportion to the volume of hay and the sub-sample should then be a good average of all your first cut. If you have averaged(sub-sampled) your fist cut, you will not be able to make rations using individual fields. Traditionally wet chemistry was used to analysis forages, However, NIR (Near Infa-Red Spectroscopy) is commonly used today. NIR is faster and less expensive to run and gives the same results when compared to wet chemistry.
  2. Silage, Hay or Haylage will be sampled with different probes, but the handling of the samples is the same.
  3. Silage
    1. Fresh – a set of samples can be taken during filling of the silo, these samples should be marked and put directly into the freezer. These samples will have the correct TDN and Protein, but the pH will be too high and not show the fermentation that takes place after filling and sealing the silo. Your nose will tell you if the silage ensiled correctly. Grab samples at the time of filling the silo will not give an accurate picture if the silo heats excessively or if liquid seeps from the silo.
    2. Bagged or tubed silage – This silage can be sampled with a “hay corer”. (See below for a picture of a hay corer) Samples should be taken every 15’ along the side of the bag or tube. Remember to reseal all your holes. Put your sample in a marked zip-lock bag or the bag provided and put in the freezer.
    3. Bunker silos – The Ministry has bunker silage probes (1 ¼” x 108”), which can be borrowed. The probe will take a core of 1 ¼ “ in diameter by nine feet long from the top of the bunker to the bottom. A couple of cores will yield a litre of material to make up a sample. Put your sample in a marked zip-lock bag or the bag provided and put in the freezer.
  4. Hay – Hay should be sampled with a hay corer. Grab samples either over estimate the stems or the fines of your hay, whereas, a corer cuts the hay giving an accurate picture of the stems and leaves from the outside of the bale to the center. The corer consists: the handle, the shaft, the cutting tip and the cleaning rod. See below for a picture of the hay probe. Hay probes can be borrowed from most BC Agriculture Offices.
    Hay Probe Photo Cutting Tip photo
    Photograph courtesy of Star Quality Samplers. Photograph courtesy of Star Quality Samplers.
    1. The handle is used to turn the probe into the bale, if you push instead of turning you will not cut the hay and therefore not get a large or representative sample. After turning into the bale, the probe is then removed and the sample is recovered. The handle is attached to the shaft with a cotter pin, this is removed to take out the sample
    2. The shaft is hollow, the hollow tube holds the core each time the probe is turned into the bale.
    3. The cutting tip, cuts the hay as the probe is turned into the bale. For easiest cutting the probe should be perpendicular to the hay The probe should be turned into the side of a round bale not the end of it.
    4. The cleaning rod is used to push the sample back through the shaft into the sample bag.
    • A sub-sample (about one litre) should be kept and put in a marked zip-lock bag or the bag provided and put in the freezer
  5. Haylage – Sampled in a similar manner to hay, make sure that the holes are resealed. A sub-sample (about one litre) should be kept and put in a marked zip-lock bag or the bag provided and put in the freezer.

Interpreting the results, the lab will give you back the feed analysis. You can balance rations for your animals using the information found in Infobasket ( on the internet under the beef community at 1.3 Nutrition or specifically at 1.3.8 Balancing Rations. If you have any questions regarding your feed test phone the lab.

For More Information

BC Ministry of Agriculture
Williams Lake, B.C.

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