By CAROL RYAN DUMAS
JEROME, Idaho -- A Jerome laboratory is again offering alfalfa growers free pre-harvest hay analysis to assist them in gauging the optimal time to harvest hay.
"Knowing just the right time to harvest hay can mean improved feed quality. The goal of this program is to give growers real-time hay sample analysis results to help them make the best decisions for harvest times on their operations," Laurie Lancaster, AgSource laboratory manager, said.
Fresh-cut hay samples from the field are taken weekly by AgSource staff or by growers and sent to the lab. The results are listed by geographic areas and posted on the company's Haywatch website.
The results benefit area hay growers, who can refer to the website to get an idea of when to cut their hay for optimum quality. Cutting at the right time is especially important in the Magic and Treasure valleys, where much of the hay is grown for the dairy industry, Katy Starr, AgSource marketing specialist, said.
The better the hay quality, the better cows are going to perform, she said.
Weekly samples are to be cut about 2 inches above the ground at the same place on the same day of the week at the same time of day. Early afternoons are best for sampling to get a good analysis of sugar content, she said.
The test results include values for crude protein, acid detergent fiber, neutral detergent fiber, relative feed value and relative feed quality. The website also tracks when growers commence swathing.
The testing runs just through first cutting, beginning shortly and running about seven weeks. Growers who want to participate should call AgSource as soon as possible, but any grower can log onto the website and see the results for his area.
Haywatch results for the 2013 season should be available beginning in mid-April. Updates can be found online at www.AgSource.com/Haywatch. To receive an email each time the Haywatch web page is updated, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (800) 284-7511.
AgSource Laboratories, formerly known as North West Labs, has been providing the free Haywatch service for eight years.
Located in Jerome, AgSource is a division of Cooperative Resources International, based in Shawano, Wis.