Forage testing probes are being distributed to county Extension offices and regional Extension agents on the Animal Science and Forage Team. Previously, agents on the team did have access to hay testing probes, but with 67 counties and 10 available agents, resources were stretched thin.
Extension Forage Specialist Dr. Jennifer Johnson, who is heading up the project alongside Extension Beef Specialist Dr. Kim Mullenix, said the new initiative will allow producers access to the probes without dependency on regional agent location and availability.
“Testing probes will be located in each County Extension Office, where producers can check them out,” Johnson said. “These particular probes are a ‘drill style’ probe and will require a cordless drill for use. Producers can also contact their regional Extension agent on the Animal Science and Forage Team for additional information, assistance and instruction on how to use the probe.”
Accuracy of results are highly dependent on successful sampling procedures. In most cases, the greatest error occurs at the sampling stage. Johnson and Mullenix have written a a guide to good sampling procedures, “Collecting Forage Samples for Laboratory Analysis,” which is included in every probe case. It can also be found online.
Johnson said she hopes providing probes across the state will encourage producers to utilize forage testing as a management tool in their production systems. She said many larger producers eventually purchase their own probes, but this initiative will provide access to producers who do not yet utilize this tool or want to try it out first before purchasing one for their operations.
Mullenix said resources purchased with check-off dollars support beef promotion, research, extension, product development and educational efforts.
“These are important resources used to help improve and promote beef production in the US, as well as global demand for beef products,” Mullenix said. “The use of forage testing enables producers to better understand the nutritional value of the forage they are feeding. By knowing the amount of nutrients associated with a given forage, this can be compared to animal requirements and a nutrition plan can be developed.”
Jimmy Holliman, former Alabama Cattlemen’s Association president and Black Belt Research and Experiment Center director, helped get the forage testing probe distribution initiative up and running.
Holliman, who uses forage testing probes on his own livestock operation, Circle H Cattle Farm, said “If you don’t test, it’s only a guess.”
“Forage testing takes the guess work out of formulating rations or supplementation for meeting the nutritional needs of my cattle,” Holliman said. “Producers will benefit from an accurate forage test that can be matched to the needs of their cattle, thus allowing them to be more efficient and more economical in their feeding program.”
For more information, or to check out a forage testing probe, contact your local Extension agent or visit your local Extension office.
Featured image by shutterstock.com/AnnaAzimi.