Tomlinson, P.1
1Livestock & Natural Resources Agent II, UF/IFAS Extension Columbia County, Lake City, FL, 32055


              The goal of this educational project was to start an educational conversation about hay quality that would be listened to by producers. The number of samples sent to the UF/IFAS Extension Forage Testing Laboratory for quality analysis was approximately 5 per year, yet Columbia County hay sales are $6 million plus per year.  Hay producers fall into three categories: 1 - produce for their own use; 2 - produce for their own use and sell the rest or; 3 - sell all they produce.  Hay in the southeast is sold by the bale or the roll no matter the size or weight and forget about the quality.  There are distinctions made about horse quality versus cow quality and barn kept versus outside for pricing purposes.  However, no one in this project was sampling their hay to have for their own use or share quality results from a laboratory.  Samples were taken after each cutting, either in the field or once it was picked up out of the field. Forage samples were sent to two separate laboratories depending on their assigned group. Bermudagrass hay tests ranged 8% - 16% CP and TDN 50% - 64% with bahia grass CP falling between 6% to 14% and TDN ranging from 43% to 59%.  Quantity data was taken but no weights were available, so measurements are not comparable.  However sampling was never about the data collection, it was about starting a conversation with one producer at a time and talking about their particular operation.  The measured results opened up new dialogue about more than CP and TDN in their hay. Two producers allowed soil moisture probes to be installed to just see what was going on and multiple weed calls, fertilization questions, cutting in the morning versus afternoon information. All data collection did was start the conversation.

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