Forage FAQ

Submitting a Sample

How much sample do I need to send?

What are the recommended sampling procedures?

Do I need to include paperwork with my sample submission?

Why do I need to have descriptions on submission forms or in the phone app as well as on the sample bags?

How do I pay for my sample analysis?

Do I need to include my credit card number on the submission form?

Should I freeze samples?

What criteria are used to distinguish between legume, mixed mainly (MML), mixed mainly grass (MMG), and grass hays and haylages?

How much water do I need to send for a water test?

Should I take any additional precaustions when shipping a manure sample?

When submitting a manure sample, why is it necessary to leave empty space in the container?

I don’t like placing manure samples in my freezer. Is it really necessary to freeze my manure sample?

Why can’t all samples be analyzed by NIR?

Why do I get the Ration Balancer (11) package when I request an NIR package?

If I select an inappropriate package or service for my sample, why doesn’t the laboratory contact the me prior to making any service amendments to my sample?

What services are assigned if no service is selected by the customer?

Receiving results

How soon can I expect results?

How will I receive my results?

Why is my sample called “damp” hay if I think it is dry?

Can I call in to change a description on my analytical report after the results have processed?

My e-mail result sometimes arrives in a crazy format. Can I fix it?

My results for a particular sample are unexpected, what should I do?

I requested a volatile fatty acid analysis but cannot find the results. Why?

Why is there a comment that indicates my sample was tested two times?

I sent four samples to the laboratory but only received results for three. What happened, was a sample lost?

I split my sample and sent it to two labs and received different results. How come?

How do I convert % Nitrate ion (NO3) to ppm Nitrate-Nitrogen (NO3-N)?

Other

What are the laboratory operating hours?

How do I get my samples to the lab?

Why is dry matter determined at the farm sometimes different from the lab dry matter?

How is energy determined?

At what temperature are samples oven dried?

What analytical methods were used to determine the components in my sample?

What quality control processes are in place at the laboratory?

FAQ Answers

Submitting a Sample


How much sample do I need to send? 

A good guide is to completely fill a one quart plastic Zip-Loc style bag with wet or dry sample.

Your typical one quart bag plus sample should weigh as follows: hay, 100g (3.5oz); haylage, 300g (11oz); corn silage, 450g (16oz); ground grain/grain byproducts, 450g (16oz); TMR, 400g (14oz).  Any samples exceeding a quart sized bag may be assessed a handling fee at our discretion and without notice.

If requesting services such as Mycotoxins and Grain Particle Size (GPS) ensure the bag is completely full.

For the Corn Silage Processing Score (CSPS) please submit two (2) quart sized sample bags.


What are the recommended sampling procedures?

Taking a representative sample of your feed is the first and most critical step of the analysis process, yet it is often the step that is taken for granted. For detailed instructions on taking a sample, refer to Collecting a Forage Sample.


Do I need to include any paperwork with my sample submission?

Yes, including complete submission forms ensures each sample is properly identified, receives the requested services, is properly billed, and that the intended parties receive a copy of the analytical report(s).  Incomplete paperwork will delay the processing of your samples, and submissions with insufficient paperwork will be charged an additional $2 fee.

For those that prefer paperless submissions, consider using our phone app.  An account is required to use the app and users must also request barcode labels prior to sending samples.  For more detailed information click here or contact the Forage Lab Customer Support Team.


Why do I need to have descriptions on submission forms or in the phone app as well as on the sample bags? 

Descriptions are used to match submission forms to the samples themselves and ultimately the final analytical report. For example, suppose Fred’s Feed Mill sends in two haylage samples, one for farmer Jones and the second for farmer Smith. The sample submission forms are clearly marked, but the bags are not. We would have no idea which sample belongs to who. Clearly marking the bag and the form would eliminate this problem.


How do I pay for my sample analysis? 

Personal check, money order, VISA, MasterCard or American Express. If you are planning on submitting samples on a routine basis, an agribusiness account can be created in your name. Account holders are billed on a monthly basis.

International customers generally prefer to pay by credit card. It is the simplest and most efficient means of payment as the currency exchange rates are automatically taken into account.


Do I need to include my credit card number on the submission form?

If you feel uncomfortable recording your credit card number on the submission form, please check the appropriate card type after “Bill my credit card” and write “Call for credit card number” in the blank space above the Card No. line. Include your phone number on the form.  A Forage Lab Customer Support Team member will call you to complete the transaction.


Should I freeze samples?

  • Hay – keep in a cool place, freezing is typically not required
  • Silages – if you anticipate that the sample will spend more than 5 days in transit, it would be wise to freeze the sample prior to shipping
  • Pasture – freeze prior to shipping, consider using an expedited overnight service
  • VFA – if you are submitting a sample for a fermentation analysis and it will spend more than 2 days in transit, freeze prior to shipping

If you have any doubts, freezing wet samples will help prevent any marked chemical changes that might occur during shipping. Ship samples early in the week to minimize additional days of transit over a weekend.


What criteria are used to distinguish between legume, mixed mainly legume (MML), mixed mainly grass (MMG) and grass hays and haylages?

  • Legume = greater than 85% legume.
  • MML = 50% – 85% legume.
  • MMG = 50% – 85% grass.
  • Grass = greater than 85% grass.

How much water do I need to send for a water test?

You should send at least 8 oz. (250 ml) to have enough sample to do all the requested testing. See Water Sampling.


Should I take any additional precautions when shipping a manure sample?

Always freeze the sample. Be sure the outside of the manure container is clean and securely fasten the lid. For additional security, further seal the lid with tape. Take all measures to prevent the container from spilling during transit. A spilled sample is ruined as well as damaging other packages in the shipment. It’s a sure fire way to earn the ire of a FedEx, UPS or Postal worker. See Manure Sampling for complete shipping information.


When submitting a manure sample, why is it necessary to leave empty space in the container?

Microbial activity in manure typically results in gas production. Placing manure in a closed container will result in an accumulation of gases. Leaving space in the container will allow for expansion due to gas production and minimizing the chance of the container bursting and spilling the contents while in transit to the lab. It will also allow for expansion of the sample during freezing.


I don’t like placing manure samples in my freezer. Is it really necessary to freeze my manure sample?

Yes, freezing will prevent marked changes in the composition of the manure. It will also decrease microbial activity in the sample and limit gas production, again minimizing potential problems during transit.


Why can’t all samples be analyzed by NIR?

NIR analysis is a calibration dependent technology. This means that it can only analyze samples for which it has been previously calibrated. A database of several hundred to several thousand representative samples must first be established. This information is used to develop the calibrations. For further information see also NIR Services and Applicability Chart.


Why do I get the Ration Balancer (11) package when I request the NIR package?

If an NIR analysis not applicable to your sample, the default wet chemistry analysis is the (11) Ration Balancer. 


If I select an inappropriate package or service for my sample, why doesn’t the laboratory contact the me prior to making any service amendments to my sample?

Our goal is to turn around accurate sample data to the customer as quickly as possible. Delays would be inevitable with the hundreds of samples handled daily if we were to attempt to contact customers submitting incomplete paperwork or marking inappropriate service selections.  With an experienced laboratory team, rest assured our staff always exercises their best judgment in assigning appropriate packages and services in these cases.


What services are assigned if no service is selected by the customer?

If NIR is applicable to the sample, the sample will be assigned the appropriate NIR Package for the sample type submitted and includes the (322) Grain NIR, (323) TMR NIR, (325) Forage NIR, or (326) Commodity NIR. If NIR is not applicable, the sample receives the (11) Ration Balancer.


Receiving results


How soon can I expect results?

Typically, NIR results are available in one business day and wet chemistry in two. Wet chemistry samples requiring time intensive or specialty analyses (e.g. lignin, TFA, fiber digestibility, gross energy, mold & yeast etc.) require at least 3 – 10 business days.  Some subcontracted analyses (e.g. mycotoxins, selenium, and iodine) may take up to 7-10 business days. 


How will I receive my results?

Results are available by e-mail. For account holders, sample results may also be accessed online using our Dairy One Forage Database. Contact our Customer Support team to obtain more information as well as a username and password.


Why is my sample called “damp” hay if I think it is dry?

Prior to analysis, samples must be ground. Dry samples can be ground directly upon arrival. Wet samples must be dried first. Hay that is less than 85% dry matter has to be dried first for proper grinding. These are identified as “damp hays” to signal the lab that they must be dried.


Can I call in to change a description on my analytical report after the results have processed?

No, after a sample has processed, our company policy is the results are now a matter of record and we are unable to make amendments.  Submitting samples with full and complete descriptions is strongly recommended.


My e-mail result sometimes arrives in a crazy format. Can I fix it?

First, check to ensure you’re using a PDF reader to open the PDF document.  If this doesn’t correct the issue, depending upon your software, highlight the whole document or select all under Edit. Then, change your font to Courier or another “fixed space” font and change the font size to 8, 9, or 10. This should put everything in line. You may also need to insert page breaks.


My results for a particular sample are unexpected, what should I do?

  • Many times, unexpected results are due to sampling error. To ensure you follow the good sampling procedures, refer to Taking a Good Sample.
  • We may agree. Check the comment section of the analysis report. It may indicate that certain components were analyzed twice to confirm the reported value(s).
  • Call or e-mail the lab to discuss the results. We will always try our best to resolve any issues or concerns you may have regarding the results of your sample.

I requested a volatile fatty acid analysis but cannot find the results. Why?

Check the sample type you submitted. A fermentation or VFA analysis is performed only on ensiled crops, fermented products, or rumen fluid. It is typically used to gauge degree of preservation, current management practices, and potential palatability. Lactic, acetic, propionic, and butyric are the end products of fermentation. You would not expect to find these acids on a non-fermented and/or dry feed or forage.


Why is there a comment that indicates my sample was tested two times?

The results of all customer samples are subject to a final review prior to release to the client using an internally developed Forage Lab Edit Program.  All results pass through a computerized edit system that identifies samples with results falling outside of expected ranges by sample type.  Results for these samples are reviewed by senior staff members, at which time the results are either flagged for reanalysis or released to the customer.  When samples are flagged for reanalysis, a comment automatically displays on reports indicating it was tested two times for the flagged components.


I sent four samples to the laboratory but only received results for three. What happened, was a sample lost?

There are many potential reasons for not receiving your results for all samples that were shipped to the laboratory at the same time.  Some of the common reasons include the following:

  • If the samples were shipped via individual (single sample) USPS mailers, one sample may not have arrived at the laboratory on the same day. 
  • If the samples were shipped in one package, it is possible the one sample may have requested additional analyses that require an extended amount of time to complete.
  • It is possible upon our final quality control review, we flagged the sample for reanalysis to verify component(s) that appeared atypical leading to a delay in the final processing of the sample.

I split my sample and sent it to two labs and received different results. How come?

It is very difficult to equitably split an unground sample. This is particularly true for hay samples. Leaves are small and very brittle and easily separate from the sample during the splitting process. The only way to get a true split is for a sample to be mixed, dried and finely ground. This homogenizes the sample and makes it easier to sub sample and split. Many laboratories participate in sample check programs. The same sample is sent to each participating lab. The results are then compared to one another. These samples are always dried and ground to be sure that each lab receives a representative subsample.


How do I convert % Nitrate ion (NO3) to ppm Nitrate-Nitrogen (NO3-N)?

Convert as follows:
% NO3 / 4.4 = % NO3-N
% NO3-N x 10,000 = ppm NO3-N

Other


What are the laboratory operating hours?

The Forage Laboratory is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 am – 4:30 pm EST. 


How do I get my samples to the lab?

Samples can be dropped off directly at the lab or submitted via USPS or using our UPS flat rate shipping program. Samples can also be sent to the lab using the Dairy One transportation system. For more information on how to take advantage of these options, see 4 Way to Get Your Samples to the Lab.


Why is the dry matter determined at the farm sometimes different from the lab dry matter?

  • Sometimes moisture will condense out of the sample during transit. The will cause the lab DM to be higher.
  • Often when a sample is dried at the farm, it is not dried down to 100% dry. In the lab, two dry matters are performed on wet samples. The dry matter is determined after drying the sample in an oven. At this point, the sample is generally 94 – 97% dry. A second dry matter analysis is then performed to determine the residual dry matter of the sample. The two dry matters are multiplied together to determine the actual dry matter. This would cause the lab DM to be lower than the farm DM.

How is energy determined?

Energy is estimated by the laboratory using a series of equations. At Dairy One, the multiple component summative approach that uses crude protein, NDF, fat, ash, lignin, ADICP, and NDICP forms the foundation for our ruminant energy prediction systems. 

For common forage samples (hay, haylage, corn silage, TMR’s), a package or service containing crude protein and NDF must be requested at minimum.  For the remaining components, average or book values are then used.  However, using all analyzed values will usually provide a more refined energy value.

Not all sample types may receive energy values.  This may be because the customer did not request the required components and average values are unavailable for a particular sample type, or, predictive equations are simply not applicable to your sample type.

See Fact sheet NRC 2001 Energy Values for more information.


What temperature are samples oven dried?

Samples are dried at 60 C (140 F). Drying at higher temperatures can cause “heat damaged protein”. This will artificially inflate the ADICP or bound protein value making the sample look worse than it is.


What analytical methods were used to determine the components in my sample?

Refer to Procedures on the web site for detailed information on the Dairy One Forage Lab Analytical Procedures.


What quality control processes are in place at the laboratory.

For more detailed information about the quality control practices and systems utilized at the laboratory, please click here.