Hay & Pasture Sampling Basics

Learn about proper forage sampling.

A hay and/or pasture analysis forms the basis of a well-designed supplement and feeding program.


The lab’s analysis will be only as good as the sample that you send to the lab; the sample needs to be representative of the entire lot of hay that you will be feeding. Choose the hay bales from which you sample at random; do not purposefully choose some bales over others.


The most accurate way to sample hay is with a hay/forage probe or coring device. Some examples include the following:



In the absence of a hay probe, grab samples from the center of bales, making sure to preserve any fine leaves. Sample from as many bales as you would if using a hay probe.


For pasture testing, cut samples of fresh grass with a clean pair of scissors, at grazing height and in the areas your horses graze from the most. Allow the samples to dry on a rack (make hay out of your pasture sample).


After sampling, send the sample to your local agricultural university lab or a National Forage Testing Association certified lab such as Dairy One in Ithaca, NY. The test should include at a minimum all major and trace minerals (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, manganese, zinc, and copper).


Additional details may be found at the National Forage Testing Association’s article “Taking a Good Forage Sample” and Dairy One’s “Sample Taking” section.