Test Your Soil And Hay For Useful Information

   There are two very important tests that forage producers should perform consistently – a soil test and a forage test. The results of the tests will help you determine if you need to take any action to prevent poor performance.
Soil Test
   Soil test results will give information needed to correct any soil fertility issues that might be found in pastures and hayfields. Low pH, potash or phosphate levels might result in reduced yield, plant persistence and increased weed pressure. A soil test performed once every three years will help you monitor your soil fertility and give you the lime and fertilizer needed to grow the desired crop. If you plan on fertilizing next spring, go ahead and soil sample sometime over the next month or so. Then, in the spring you will know what fertilizer to order.
   Be sure to take about 10-15 samples per 10- to 15-acre field. Sample the soil to a depth of 6 inches. Cover the entire field when sampling. Your results won’t be as accurate if you only sample the area close to the gate.
   Forage Test
   A forage test will provide the information needed for the proper winter-feeding program for your livestock. A forage test will tell you the level of crude protein, energy and fiber in the hay or silage. It is important to remember that the most crucial factor influencing forage quality is not the forage species or fertilization, but the maturity of the plant when it is cut. Because of this factor, every year the quality of the hay will be different. If you have several different fields, there is a good chance that the hay from the fields could be diverse in protein or energy. If you take a forage test of each cutting, you will know if the nutrient content is good enough to meet the needs of the animals you are going to feed or whether you need to supplement with some corn (for energy) or soybean meal (for protein).
   The UT Soil, Plant and Pest Center can run both forage and soil tests. If you would like more information on either of these tests, you can contact your local Extension agent or go to the center’s website at∆
DR. GARY BATES: Director UT Beef and Forage Center, University of Tennessee

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