Soil and Hay Test
There is no shortage of information that you can learn about your agricultural operation. With the right test and the right technology, the sky is the limit! However, there are two tests that I would recommend to any and all producers to pursue.
For both row crop and grass production for both hay and grazing, a soil test should be your first step in preparation for the coming year. Winter is a great time to pull a soil sample.
All you need to pull a soil sample is a soil probe (a shovel or spade will do the trick, too), a bucket and a resealable bag. Use your probe to pull a six-inch sample from the soil and place it in the bucket. Or, using the shovel/spade, dig down approximately six inches, and pull the full blade’s worth of soil to where you can collect an inch-wide portion of the blade width in your bucket. Leave any grass or other organic material out. Place the rest of your blade-full of material back in the hole so as not to leave a hole.
Repeat this procedure a good handful of times across your field or pasture. You will want to collect as good of representation of the land as possible. Don’t target only your good areas, and don’t focus only on the bad. Collect your samples in the bucket, and when you have a good representation of the field or pasture, mix everything together and then collect about two cups worth of soil and place it in the resealable bag.
You can split a field/pasture in two should you wish to compare treatment techniques, or if you’d like to identify why one side is doing better. Give me a call if you have questions about how to sample, or if you’d like to try something new!
Label the bag as to where it came from, and then bring it by our office. We can help you fill out the paper work and answer any questions you may have about the process. Johnson County residents are also eligible for 10 free soil tests on agricultural land within the county, which is Package #1 on the linked brochure. Check out this brochure from the K-State Soil Testing Lab for more detailed information on the process. https://www.bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/pubs/MF734.pdf
Forage testing is another test that I would highly recommend, especially with the wild summer weather that we had this year. Many folks had high production and lots of tonnage, while some people struggled to get their crop up if the timing was wrong with the rain that came through. Knowing the quality of the forage that you are planning to feed to your livestock or sell can be a critical piece of the puzzle.
A forage test is as simple as taking a soil test, especially if you have a forage probe. The probe fits on the end of a cordless drill and allows you to take core samples out of small square or big round bales. After you’ve taken several samples, mix them together in a bucket. From the mixture, pull out enough hay to fill a quart sized resealable bag, and send it to your favorite lab. If you need help with a lab suggestion, want to borrow a forage probe, or need help making sense of the results, give me a call or stop by the office for a visit. Also check out K-State’s publication on Forage Sampling Procedures and Equipment at http://www.bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/pubs/MF3177.pdf