Sampling requirements for forage quality characterization of rectangular hay bales

Craig C Sheaffer, Neal P. Martin, Jane G Jewett, James Halgerson, Roger D Moon, Gregory J Cuomo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Commercial lots of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) hay are often bought and sold on the basis of forage quality. Proper sampling is essential to obtain accurate forage quality results for pricing of alfalfa hay, but information about sampling is limited to small, 20- to 40-kg rectangular bales. Our objectives were to determine the within-bale variation in 400-kg rectangular bales and to determine the number and distribution of core samples required to represent the crude protein (CP), acid detergent fiber (ADF), neutral detergent fiber (NDF), and dry matter (DM) concentration in commercial lots of alfalfa hay. Four bales were selected from each of three hay lots and core sampled nine times per side for a total of 54 cores per bale. There was no consistent pattern of forage quality variation within bales. Averaged across lots, any portion of a bale was highly correlated with bale grand means for CP, ADF, NDF, and DM. Three lots of hay were probed six times per bale, one core per bale side from 55, 14, and 14 bales per lot. For determination of CP, ADF, NDF, and DM concentration, total core numbers required to achieve an acceptable standard error (SE) were minimized by sampling once per bale. Bootstrap analysis of data from the most variable hay lot suggested that forage quality of any lot of 400-kg alfalfa hay bales should be adequately represented by 12 bales sampled once per bale.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-68
Number of pages5
JournalAgronomy Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000


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