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Arkansas Hay Analysis Update for the Months of April through August

September 11, 2013

Shane Gadberry, Associate Professor – Animal Science


Forage testing is up 4% compared to 2012 for the 5 month period of April through August. Bermudagrass represented 25% of the samples submitted to the University of Arkansas, Diagnostics Laboratory during this period and mixed-grass samples represented 53%.  Ryegrass samples were up in 2012 and 2013 at 6% and 5%, respectively, compared to the previous 8 years which generally fell between 1 and 4% of samples submitted.  Wheat samples have also been higher the past 3 years, averaging just over 1% of samples submitted.  The increase in cool season annual grasses is likely attributed to carry-over forage from adoption of drought management practices.  Fescue samples from 2004 to 2010 during this 5 month evaluation period typically represented 5 to 8% of samples.  There was a year-over-year decline in the percentage of fescue samples submitted from 2011 to 2013 (6, 4, and 2% of submitted samples).  The reduction in fescue samples may be associated with reported losses of fescue stands and drought affected fields being over-seeded with ryegrass and wheat.  Compared to 2013, crude protein tested 7% higher with a normal range of 9 to 16% (averaging 12.4% dry matter).  Total digestible nutrients (TDN) for April through August, 2013, was similar to the samples submitted during the same period in 2012, having a normal range of 51 to 64% TDN (average 58% dry matter).  Nitrate testing was down 64%. This change doesn’t include the additional 2012 samples of non-traditional hays (grain crop residues) submitted for nitrate testing. Last year johnsongrass sample analysis and nitrate testing of regular forage crops were greater due to drought.  Across previous years, nitrate testing ranged from 56 to 109 samples for common hay types during this 5 month period.  Despite the reduction in samples, the samples submitted are testing 17% higher in nitrate-nitrogen content for common hay types, and the average nitrate-nitrogen level for the 2013 analysis period was 953 ppm.  Thus far, 88% have tested less than 1,400 ppm nitrate-nitrogen.  Crop residue samples are not making their way to the lab as they did in 2011 and 2012.  Hay appears to be in good supply; however, about one-half of the state is dealing with moderate to severe drought, so some livestock producers may be very close to feeding hay if weather systems don’t bring drought subsiding moisture soon.  To learn more about the nutritive value of hay, contact your local county Extension agent.  A routine hay test will cost approximately $18 per sample and is beneficial for managing winter supplementation and feed cost.

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